Many here in the United States and Canada have seen the NBC series “Law and Order.” A wonderful, award winning drama that follows the diary of a crime from its investigation to its trial verdict. The original show was so popular that it has spun off two other Law and Order shows, LAO: Criminal Intent, and LAO: Special Victims Unit. Although I am not really impressed with Criminal Intent, I am quite a fan of the original and the SVU spin-off. Very thought provoking and realistic, you really get a feel for how the justice system in the United States works.
New from Legacy Interactive and Vivendi comes the game based on the series. Law and Order: Dead on the Money follows the case of a jogger found dead on the path of her morning run. Starting with the detectives, you find clues and interview witnesses and suspects, building a case that will survive judicial scrutiny. After your case is assembled, you follow the course of the Assistant District Attorney prosecutor as you gather further evidence and shore up your case for a trial by jury. A great premise, and as a true fan, I found myself anxious to get started. So let's get started!
Not being an action title, sounds are fairly limited. When interviewing witnesses and suspects, appropriate background noises are evident - from twittering birds to the muffled sounds of a go-go bar - sounds are good enough to give you the feel of being in the environment, but not so good that they stand out as anything special. This is actually not a bad thing, as you really need to be paying attention to the story. The music is very quiet, but good quality. Very unintrusive. Voice acting is where it's really at. Using the real voices of Detective Lennie Briscoe (actor Jerry Orbach), Lt Anita Van Buren (actress S. Epatha Merkerson) and ADA Serena Sotherlyn (actress Elisabeth RÃ¶hm), the voice acting is stellar. From Det Briscoe's side comments to ADA Sotherlyn's sharp intelligence, the actors and actresses really bring their characters through and into the gameplay.
I have one thing to say. Headache. Not that the graphics are bad, its just that the game's default resolution is 640x480, and cannot be set higher. On a Windows 2k or Windows XP, this is mindachingly horrible due to the refresh rate issue. I kept having to stop playing just to let my throbbing eyes calm down a bit. If you can get past this, the graphics are actually pretty good. The faces are well animated and well textured, looking like who they are supposed to look like. Movement of the characters is a bit wooden, but not unforgivably so. Crime scenes are well detailed, with lots of things to look at.
Well... Okay, I had issues with the way this game is played. It's very unforgiving. In the detective portion, you have 5 days to solve the case to the point that you can go to trial. This may seem like enough time, but runs out a lot quicker than you would think. Even checking your cell phone messages can waste at least 10 minutes, sometimes as much as 20. Considering how often you get messages, this can add up. Most time is used by travel, though. What the game does is give you a good feel for how much time a detective can blow just going from place to place. In the trial section, you have three separate 2 day sessions. Time is not nearly as much of an issue here, and I found myself waiting around more. A good switch from the fast pace of the detectives. Where the game really becomes an issue is the interviews. What I found is that there is a certain order of questions that must be asked in order to progress. The worst part about this is that you can't go back and ask more questions of a witness. This can be a real pain. If you buy this game, remember to save before talking to anyone! The trial portion is the worst, since the entire section is interview after interview, with no chance to save between them. You will many times need to set yourself back two whole days of investigation if one the questioning sessions goes wrong. Also, you must be able to understand when to hit the “Objection” icon during cross examinations by the defense. This wouldn't be such a big deal if you didn't have such a short time window to object. You must wait until the defense attorney asks most of his question and hit the button before the witness answers. Not being a lawyer, I really stumbled in this process a bit. My frustration level got a bit high at times.
The interface is very simple. You have several icons at the bottom, allowing you access to travel, your case file, your cell phone, and the menu. The case file can be a bit daunting at first, but is quite logical and easy once you realize what is going on. The case file portion of the interface is powerful, allowing you to examine objects, request lab tests, research people or things, and order surveillance on a suspect. When searching crime scenes, anything of interest is automatically highlighted as you pass your cursor over it. Interviews are also intuitive and easy to navigate with the interface. Questions that you can ask are listed on the right, with the witness or suspect showing on the left. Click a question and the witness or suspect will answer.
This game has no multiplayer function.
With good sound, great voice acting, and an interesting story line, the game is a decent title. If not for the frustrating interview process, the low resolution, and the seemingly artificial time constraints, I would recommend the title to any adventure fan. With these difficulties, I feel only a hardcore LAO fan will appreciate it.