CSI: Dark Motives Review

CSI: Dark Motives gives players the chance to work with the Las Vegas CSI unit to solve crimes through the use of technology and careful investigative techniques. While crimes on the show are solved with a careful application of forensic techniques and a lot of deductive reasoning, crimes in Dark Motives are primarily solved via the careful pixel hunting technique that is standard for many adventure games. As a result, Dark Motives will primarily appeal to fans of the TV series while other gamers will find it too simple and non-interactive.

Dark Motives presents you with five cases that each play out like an episode of the show. You begin the case at the crime scene and must investigate the area and interrogate any witnesses or suspects at the scene. This is accomplished with a simple point and click interface. The cursor turns into an arrow when moved over an area or object that you can examine more closely for evidence. When in the close up view, you can make use of your CSI toolkit to, among other things, test for prints, look for blood, and collect evidence. If you watch the show then you know that a CSI has to be very careful not to disturb or taint any possible evidence. As a player in Dark Motives though, this is not your concern at all. In fact, trial and error is the primary method of evidence collection. When the first tool or two don’t yield results, it becomes a matter of clicking through the evidence gathering tools one by one and then clicking all over the screen until you find what the game wants you to locate. If you click on the right place with the wrong tool you are told something along the lines of “try something else”, but there is no penalty for doing the wrong thing. You’ll be able to lift a perfect print every time, even if you just sprayed the whole area with luminal. It would certainly be more challenging if you actually had to think about which tool to use and there were consequences for selecting the wrong one, but instead you’re left with a trial and error clickfest and pixel hunt.

Greg helps out with the evidence back at the lab.

Interrogating suspects and witnesses is an even more straightforward affair than evidence gathering. There are no branching conversations and as such no negative consequences for asking the wrong thing or tipping your hand too early. During conversations, you will be presented with a list of the questions that you can ask. Then it is a simple matter of clicking the questions and listening to the responses until you run out of questions to click. The order that you ask the questions doesn’t matter either; you just keep clicking questions until the game decides that you are done.

Collected evidence can be taken back to the CSI lab for analysis. This usually means dragging the evidence onto Greg so that he can tell you what you’ve got or scan it into the crime computer for you. The crime computer is used to look for fingerprint matches, decryption, tire tread analysis, and the like. Click on the icon for the evidence and then click on a search button and the computer will look up the results for you. To add a gameplay element to this process, the computer will return five potential matches and it is up to you to determine which is the correct one. This is a trivial process for things like tire tread patterns, but is near impossible for fingerprints. Believe me, it is not very much fun to strain your eyes looking for tiny differences in swirl patterns. Fortunately there’s no penalty if you make a mistake. Your partner will say something like “that’s not a match, look closer” and you’re free to guess again. All that you really need to do at this stage is click though the possible matches one by one until the game tells you that you are right. Are we having fun yet?

As you progress through a case and uncover new evidence, new locations will become available and new suspects will come to light. You can go to the new locations or revisit existing ones by simply clicking on the icon for the location. There’s no penalty for jumping back and forth between locations. Every time a new piece of evidence is identified or you interrogate a suspect, updates are made to your case file. The case file maintains a list of your suspects and their ties to the crime, victim, and evidence. Should you build a connection between a suspect and the crime scene and victim and uncover a possible motive, you can obtain a warrant to search a location or bring the suspect in for questioning. This basically opens up a new area of a location in which to hunt for evidence or gives you a new set of questions to ask.