Version tested Xbox 360
Two years on and the Xbox 360 finally gets its first adventure game (of sorts). Pull the party poppers! Oh, but hang on, it's another CSI game. Aren't they the ones Ubisoft releases with a degree of stealth that would make Sam Fisher proud? To put it politely, these aren't games that the French publisher likes to shout about. Go on, try and find the reviews for the other three CSI games on Eurogamer. Oh.
But wait! This one's the first to hit the new wave of consoles and is also the first to benefit from the considerable development talents of Telltale Games - the team behind the much-admired Sam & Max Season 1. As point-and-click adventure aficionados will know all too well, it's a studio that knows a thing or two about making decent adventure games, not just from its recent episodic excursions, but also from its glorious days during LucasArts' golden age.
Based on the 'hit' CBS TV series, the title's a bit of a giveaway as far as the game is concerned. You, er, investigate crime scenes for the LVPD's CSI unit and try to nail the people responsible. In Hard Evidence there are five cases to solve one after the other, all set in Vegas, and all involving homicide.
Death becomes you
Given a quick briefing on the circumstances of the death, you and your partner find yourself at the scene of the crime. The initial premise is to poke around in the manner of an old school point-and-click adventure, trying to scan the screen with your cursor for a handful of pre-determined 'hot-spots' which may or may not reveal key evidence with which to build your case. When your cursor changes to a green arrow, you're able to zoom in on the item of interest and use your special toolkit, which contains a set of collection and detection tools.
Say, for example, you spy a footprint, or a piece of fabric snagged on a fence, or a discarded bottle nearby, you'll be able to collect that as evidence - but only in a very prescribed, lead-you-by-the-hand fashion. So, if you find a bottle, the only thing the game will let you do is the thing that is required - in this case, dust for prints, rather than swab for DNA traces or use an Adhesive Specimen Mount or whatever. It's less crime scene investigation and more crime scene do what we tell you. The only thing ever really holding you back in your ability to solve a case is how thorough you are with scanning the screen for little green arrows.
Once you're satisfied you've scooped up enough evidence, you can run it all through the lab. You can run fingerprint analysis and try and match them against those in various databases, or try and find a DNA match against a hair or fluid sample you may have discovered. You can even work out which brand of shoe fits the footprints seen at the crime scene, or perform a chemical analysis on a piece of clothing. It might sound very hi-tech, but it's quite simple once you put it into practice. If you've got something that needs looking at, the relevant computer screen has an exclamation mark on it, and if you've looked at your items of evidence closely enough, a little tick with appear in its box. It's a pretty friendly game from the word go, and even has a built-in hint system which details step-by-step what you need to do in order to progress at any given stage of your investigation - in fact, the score you get at your end evaluation even factors in how much help you asked for.