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Law & Order Criminal Intent PC CD-ROM

Published by Mindscape
Developed by Legacy Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £19.99

Law & Order Criminal Intent, an introduction.

Adventure games have been thin on the ground for years now. Most of the ones that do arrive are usually below the standard we would hope for. Still, we live in hope that the next great adventure title is only around the corner. Law & Order Criminal Intent won't go down as anyone's idea of an adventure gaming classic though. In parts the game is quite enjoyable but there are some serious issues that will prevent all but the most patient from enjoying the game.

What's the game about?

Law & Order Criminal Intent places you in the shoes of Detective Robert Goren, an elite member of the NYPD Major Case Squad. The game challenges you with solving four cases, three of which are available for selection at the beginning of game with the fourth made available on completion of these three. The first three cases on offer include a washed up body, a woman that's been murdered in her hotel room and a divorced father who has been bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat. Goren's going to need all of his powers of deduction as he attempts to solve the murder cases that have been pushed before him.

What's good about the game?

This is the first Law & Order title I have played and I was surprised to see that the first three cases can be undertaken at any time. You can start the one case and when you hit a dead end you can go back to your office and begin work on another case. Whilst this has the potential to cause you quite a few headaches, it can prevent you from becoming too frustrated with the game should you hit a dead end with one case. There are several aspects of Criminal Intent that are quite unlike other adventure games. Conversations don't require you to select your preferred sentence. Instead you'll have a choice of five different attitudes to take. You can be confrontational, deceptive, flattering, straightforward or empathetic. Certain characters will only provide you with the info you need if you take the correct attitude. At times some of these choices can be downright amusing as Goren comes out with complete fabrications. When involved in dialogue you'll notice two rings next to the attitude selection icons. The inner ring will fill (in red) when you take the wrong approach whilst the outer ring will fill (in green) when you take the right approach. If you fill the inner ring in red the character you're talking to will refuse to be co-operative. However, if you walk away and then come back to the character they manage to open up again.

Your interaction with characters and objects allows you to look, use, collect, analyze and talk. Choosing the analyze option allows information to be gathered for you from the Research Lab, Surveillance Office, Crime Lab or Medical Examiner. When the relevant information has been gathered, Goren will receive a message from the relevant department and he can then visit that department to collect the information. The game uses a PDA to keep track of all your information and it's been done quite well. I also like the criminal profiler which you basically add evidence to and it builds up a profile of your likely suspect. The cases are actually quite enjoyable too however, as we'll discuss in a moment, most of this good work is undone by some annoying problems with the game.

What's not so good about the game?

Being a fan of adventure games I was really looking forward to getting my teeth into Law & Order Criminal Intent. On playing the game for the first time I was a little disappointed with the rather dated graphics, awkward camera angles and the fixed low screen resolution of the game. However, as most adventure gamers will tell you, adventure games are not usually about impressive visuals and glossy presentation so these are complaints that can easily be overlooked. There are other problems too such as strange graphical glitches and clipping issues that are rather more disappointing faults. You can't overwrite saves either meaning in no time at all you'll have loads of the things, with the only way to remove the old saves being to go into the game directory and manually remove them which is a risky business. The cursor could have been better too. You're given a circular cursor that ever so slightly glows when placed over an object you can interact with. I would have much preferred a normal arrow that changed shape completely when placed over an important object.

A rather more serious problem is the instability of the game. We've tried the game on numerous PCs (with Intel and AMD CPUs) and in all cases we have experienced random crashes to desktop problems. We even performed a clean install on one of our PCs to test the game (in case we had something else that was interfering with the game) and still we had the same instability problems. Looking around on the developer's website it appears we're not the only ones to be suffering and it has to be said this appears to render the game pretty much useless. We've tried everything such as different graphics card and sound card drivers and the aforementioned clean install of Windows XP to give the game as fair a chance as possible and in our several weeks with the game we just can't seem to prevent the random crashes from occurring.

How does it look?

As we hinted at in the above paragraph, the game doesn't look anything special. The screen resolution is fixed to 800x600 which is actually quite low by modern standards and it looks especially unpleasant if you're running the game on a 17" or above TFT screen. The character models don't look that great and their animations are awkward at best. In fact there are times when Goren appears to walk on the spot rather than walk forward. It's also not uncommon to see him walk into walls as the pathfinding is pretty atrocious. There's no way to change the camera angles so you're stuck with the fixed viewpoints that don't really cause any problems but nevertheless it does feel like you're playing a game from about 5 years ago. Of course the benefit of the game not being especially demanding is that you can run the game on quite an old PC without too many problems which I suppose will be good news for occasional gamers. There are plenty of clipping issues in the game and it's not uncommon for Goren's feet to disappear into the steps he's walking on. There are several glitches too, although it's worth mentioning that there is a patch for the US version that fixes this so hopefully a patch will arrive for the UK version too.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Law & Order Criminal Intent is fine for deaf gamers. The game is subtitled and you'll be able to follow all the dialogue in the game. The subtitles appear at the bottom of the screen and are placed on a darkened overlay for maximum clarity. You can use your PDA to check on your progress as the game keeps notes on what you've achieved so if you don't have chance to play the game for a while you can always check these notes to jog your memory. The game doesn't come with a manual but in fairness most of what you'll encounter in the game is pretty straightforward.

Final thoughts.

Simply taking a quick look at our overall rating for Law & Order Criminal Intent you'd get the impression that we didn't like the game. In actual fact this is not the case at all. Aside from the weird save system, graphical glitches and general ugliness in places, the game is actually quite enjoyable but the fact it's so unstable (and many reviews of the US version appear to confirm this so it's not some strange compatibility issue we've encountered) simply makes you want to pull your hair out. Crashes can happen at random and we've encountered them after being in the game for only a few minutes whilst at other times it's possible to get 20 minutes or so before you are thrown back to the desktop. In fact you'll become so untrusting of the game it could eventually deter you from even loading it. In its present state it's very difficult to recommend and we sincerely hope that a patch is released to cure these crash to desktop issues.

Overall Game Rating: 4.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

In it's present condition Law & Order Criminal Intent should be avoided. The game is in desperate need of patching to keep it from crashing to the desktop whenever it feels like it. Should the instability problems be cured with a patch we'll then have a game that's actually worth playing.