CSI: Hard Evidence Page Two

FACT: Telltale bumped off some of Grossman's enemies in order to "research" this game.

From a technical perspective, you're looking at the same level of quality, maybe a scosh better, that you saw in 3 Dimensions of Murder, with the system requirements being no more demanding. The art direction is decidedly realistic but at the same time with a very artistic use of color and lighting, and the whole production oozes atmosphere. The environments have rich detail and I can't really complain, whereas the character models are more okayish, but they get the job done. You'll notice that some of the CSIs have gotten facelifts, most noticeably the now beardless Grissom, to match the characters' more recent look on TV. Much like Sam & Max (though certainly with a much different style), it's art, not graphics power, that drives the visuals here. The first person 3D exploration employed by Telltale's previous CSI is once again used to great effect, contributing to a very cinematic experience.

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In one case, the crime scene is a sound stage.

On another technical note, you will notice that Hard Evidence supports widescreen resolutions, the first Telltale game to do so. Incidentally, Sam & Max: Season 2 is confirmed to have this option as well, and presumably that goes for all future Telltale games, so woot on that front. And I must say that the loading times, easily the biggest drag of the last game, are much more reasonable here, thank goodness.

As we're coming to expect from a Telltale product, one of the most impressive aspects of the game is the sound. The voice acting is excellent, with the main cast getting voiced by their respective actors, the exceptions again being Catherine and Sarah, who are voiced by professional sound-alikes. But people like me won't find it distracting because I'm not familiar with the "real" voices and so have nothing to compare it to. The suspects, which make up the rest of the cast, are all exceptionally done, and Telltale fans who are astute listeners will have fun recognizing a voice actor or two from the company's other games. (Oh, and if you're looking for in-jokes, look no further than characters' laptop screens!) The sound design is extremely effective and moody, and the music, all originating from the show if I'm not mistaken, sets the tone of the environments perfectly. A well deserved kudos to the folks of Bay Area Sound for an unsurprisingly stellar job here.

CSI: Hard Evidence is a landmark release for Telltale in one sense: it's the first game that the company has developed for consoles, in this case the Xbox 360 and the Wii. While most of us were I'm sure hoping for Sam & Max to be the virginal voyage for Telltale's newly converted toolset, you can't react to Telltale's expansion to your living room negatively.

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The interrogation scenes fulfill our basic human need to vicariously behave like smug assholes.

So how do the ports play? Well, I don't know. I don't own a 360 and while I'd hoped to offer some thoughts on the Wii version, it is sadly not due out until later in the fall. Still, it's easy enough to speculate how the console incarnations will play, especially since we know that the gameplay itself will be virtually unchanged across all three platforms. The 360 version undoubtedly has the superior graphics but with the less than ideal controls of a gamepad, whereas the Wii version will have the extremely desirable pointer control with the obvious graphical tradeoff. With the PC version you get the best of both worlds, but unless the console releases turn out to be obscenely buggy or something I can't imagine going wrong with whatever version is most convenient for you to pick up. Perhaps once I get some hands-on time with one or both of the console ports I can update this space with some impressions.

(Update: I’ve since had an opportunity to play through the Wii version, and my impressions are positive. The controls work great, the admittedly low-end graphics haven’t suffered as far as I could see, and despite some expectedly (but not overly) longer loading times and some unfortunate choppiness, mostly when a location first loads, the game doesn’t seem to have lost anything in the conversion process. Overall a very solid port, which probably has a lot to do with Telltale itself handling it. If there’s one complaint it’s that absolutely no attempt was made to take advantage of the Wii’s unique features other than using the Wiimote to replicate the mouse. There is no use of motion sensing and not even the rumble feature is taken advantage of. Since this is Telltale’s very first product for the console, this is forgivable, but hopefully their future Wii endeavors, such as the rumored Sam & Max port, exhibit more invention.)

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The forensics labs allows you to indulge in the illusion of being smart.

Basically, Hard Evidence carries over everything that worked in its predecessor and eliminates or improves the few things that didn't, which is exactly what a sequel should do. It would be inaccurate to say that Hard Evidence makes drastic leaps in progress from the framework 3 Dimensions of Murder laid out, but hey, don't fix what ain't broke. You play these games for the stories and the thrills of the investigation, and it's in those areas that it focuses on delivering. You'll probably have more silly fun than you'll care to admit trying to guess the twists and turns of each murder mystery, all the while getting to feel like a CSI - as they're depicted on TV, anyway. To detail the stories would be to ruin the game - just know that they're on par with or of better quality than 3 Dimensions of Murder's cases, meaning they're very well done! They're also I think a touch longer, and on the whole the game offers at least the amount of story content that the previous one did.

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Telltale delivers another batch of five fun cases to solve.

With two CSI titles under its belt, one might surmise that Telltale's position as the series' developer is one with a future. I'll keep playing (and reviewing!) them as long as they keep putting them out, and I hope that you, the lovably discriminating Mojo reader, will consider doing the same. All I can tell you is that this is a really fun adventure game, and turning your nose something based on its popularity is as wrongheaded as one of those kids who refuses to play Monkey Island because "teh gr@fiks sux." In a recent IRC confrontation Gabez, The Tingler, and Benny have all admitted to passing over these games because they don't find the notion compelling, so if for nothing else you should add these games to your library just to deviate from the lives of, let's face it, some pretty troubled individuals.

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Pros: Retains everything that made 3 Dimension of Murder good and changes what didn't; really fun to play through.
Cons: If I hear one more line in the next game in which a character accidentally refers to a dead person in the present tense and subsequently corrects themselves in awkward self-rebuke, I'm going to murder an orphan.

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