Law & Order: Dead on the Money Review
By Michael Richter |
Law & Order is one of the longest running television series ever and has spawned several spin-offs. It is a crime drama that allows viewers to first view an investigation of a crime from the detective's point of view and then switches to the lawyers for the trial. During the one hour show, there are usually several twists and turns as nothing is ever too easy. Vivendi Universal is hoping to capitalize on the huge success of this show by releasing the video game, Law & Order: Dead on the Money. In this title, players will be able to investigate a crime as a detective and then try it as an Assistant District Attorney.
Right off the bat, you notice that the graphics are very realistic. The cut-scenes give you a sense that you are in the show. Each model looks identical to the character. The three identifiable characters is slightly cynical in love Detective Lennie Briscoe, hard as nails Lieutenant Anita Van Buren and no nonsense Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn. Each actor lends his voice to the character, giving a sense of immersion into the Law & Order world. As the opening music players (da dum da da da da dum) and you hum along with it, the anticipation builds. Finally, you get to solve some gruesome murder and then send the evil killer off to rot in jail!
The crime at first seems exciting. It's not the most creative method of finding a body that I've seen on the show, but that doesn't really matter. A man collecting garbage in Central Park notices a woman's body in the bushes. You arrive at the crime scene, along with your partner, Lennie Briscoe. You collect evidence and interview witnesses. Both of these tasks can be made easier by selecting those as your strengths in the beginning, when you can choose 2 of 4 options. Evidence Collection gives you a hot spot icon when you can interact with an object (as opposed to no indication whatsoever if you don't choose it). Interviewing removes one of the three options for questions, giving you a better chance of finding the right questions to ask. The other two, Teamwork and Efficiency, are helpful as well. Teamwork gives you hints from the detectives or attorneys to help you find something you might miss. Efficiency slows down time so you can explore some. You are given an opportunity to choose again among the four after you complete the detective section.
This is a timed game. Every action you make uses time. You have seven 8-hour days at first to arrest someone and then two days in between parts of the trial to make your case airtight. Without using efficiency as an option, the game can be hard. You will find yourself ending the 7 days with almost nothing done. Efficiency slows the game down some, and a patch that can be applied to the game can make efficiency allow the game to last forever if you so choose, and you can explore every facet of the game. Without efficiency though, you need to complete certain tasks in a certain order within a certain time and not make very many sidetracks or mistakes. This basically means playing the game over and over and over again. The first few times, its not too bad, but after that it becomes incredibly annoying. Also, some things require you to waste time (by doing anything like visiting people or submitting tests you don't need) so that you can get to the next result, even when not running under efficiency mode.
There is a ton of evidence that can be collected, but very little that is actually useful. One of the things as a detective and later as an Assistant District Attorney you will need to do is figure out what might be important to your case. For example, at the initial crime scene, there is a lot of stuff just laying around on the ground, like a cigarette pack or a hat. Some of these things are just garbage, so you will have to make a decision as to what you actually want to collect and send to the lab. What did you think of Law & Order: Dead on the Money?
One of the most important things you will need to do is research the people and objects you find along the way. This is one of the tools at your disposal. You can also send items to the lab for tests like fingerprinting or even ask a surveillance expert to tail your suspect. A psychiatric evaluation is another form of investigatory tool, which may lead to clues. Finally, you can execute a search warrant if you can present enough evidence to convince Lieutenant Van Buren and a judge. This will open up a new place to collect evidence from.
The trial portion of the game doesn't require a lot of legwork. Instead, it's important to have a basic understanding of trial procedure. The game provides a computer database with information on the Exclusionary Rule and Objections, among other legalese. During trial, you will have to choose the questions you ask carefully so as to not violate a rule of procedure. Also, during cross-examination, the defense attorney will try to put one by you, so timely objections are important.
There are three sections to trial. When you are ready to start trial, you select all the witnesses and items relevant to proving the defendant's guilt. The appropriate expert witnesses will be available to call for the items you selected. You then will have a list of witnesses to select from and will question each of them. After you have exhausted all your witnesses, there will be a break in which you can accumulate more evidence. Then you will go back to trial for the defense attorney's witnesses. The final section to trial is your rebuttal witnesses, after which you will see closing arguments and await the jury's verdict. If you have successfully submitted the right amount of evidence and questioned witnesses properly, they will come back with a verdict of guilty.
One complaint I have is that, without the intentional timesinks (that of having to repeat over and over unless you download the patch and choose efficiency), the game is very short. I really would have liked to have seen a game with more than one case to investigate and try. I feel that because there is only one case in this game, they had to purposefully set the game up to have to be completed in a certain manner (instead of free form investigation) and if you mess up, you have to start from a save point or from the beginning, as often it isn't until much much later you realize you made a mistake.