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Law & Order 3 - Justice is Served


Release date: 10/2004
Developer: Legacy Interactive
Publisher: Vivendi Universal

Test version: Original in English language

 

ESRB-rating: T = Teen

Boxshots

 

A review by  MaryScots   20th December 2004

 

Legacy Interactive seems to be working on the assembly line. While the fully localised German version of "Law & Order 2 – Double or Nothing" has only been released in July this year the developers are already working on the fourth and fifth adventure game accompanying the popular TV series.

The pre-release information sounded promising so let’s have a look at if and how they implemented the announced improvements.

Story

Elena Kusarova, young professional tennis shooting star is found dead in the changing rooms after her morning workout just before the start of the U.S. Open. As there are more than enough grudgers in this hard and relentless business, there is an equal number of motives and suspects for a crime. Could Elena’s competitors, trainers or manager have something to do with her death, does her private life reveal secrets which could have led to the early end of her young life and promising career, or was it – as simple as that – only an accident?

Of course, nobody has seen or heard anything, helpful evidence is rare and so Detective Lennie Briscoe and his partner Ed Green have to follow every track they can possibly find. As always, the forensic medicine, the crime lab, the research and surveillance departments as well as a competent psychiatrist support their search for valid evidence. They have to arrest a suspect and hand the case over to Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn who then must go to court and take care that the defendant will be proven guilty and convicted.

Installation/beginning

"Law & Order – Justice is Served" comes on two CD’s in a minibox with foldout cover. The manual is located on disc 1 as html-document which I find quite unhandy because disc 2 has to remain in the drive while playing. So I recommend copying the file manually to your system as this is not done during the installation process. The box also contains the first game of the series "Law & Order – Dead on the Money" as bonus - a nice idea, I think!

The installation ran quick and without problems. Afterwards the launcher menu provides direct access to the game.

Controls/menus

In the main menu we find buttons to save, load, quit the game or access the options menu. Under options we may turn subtitles, background animation and background sounds on or off and we can choose between a 32 bit and 16 bit colour depth.

From 1st person perspective we act within the 360° environment exclusively by mouse control. The changing cursor indicates whether objects can be examined (magnifying glass), collected/interacted with (hand), manipulated with an inventory item (hand with question mark) or if we can move to another area of the location (arrow). Later while at court the cursor appears in the shape of an upheld hand, which means we can object if we deem it necessary.

As the option to request help in finding evidence has been dropped, hotspots will always be brought to attention by the magnifying glass as soon as we move our cursor over them.

By right click we switch between game mode and inventory, which is constantly visible at the bottom of the screen. When we move our cursor to the bottom left of the screen during inventory mode, a tablet appears automatically containing the map, the mobile phone, the journal (log) and a disk icon for access to the main menu.

Besides only answering calls we now are also allowed to make outward calls. We can for example call the Lieutenant who provides help now and then.

The journal has been put on a diet. We don't have to browse umpteen pages anymore to find an entry, as only the most important notes about interrogations and actions will be recorded. Unfortunately less information than I myself would wish for, though.

Also the number of inventory compartments has been raised again from 84 to 196! Four panels contain 49 compartments each, one for suspects and witnesses, one for evidence, one for documents and one collecting all reports received from the crime lab, the research and surveillance departments and the psychiatrist. The examined objects will be labelled with a symbol indicating the respective authority.

Unlike the inventory space the number of save games is now limited to only 11 which I find way too few. We still can name the save games but that didn’t help me, really. Especially during trial I needed several attempts to correct mistakes I made earlier and discovered that I did not save as often as I should have and even then I saved at the wrong point.

Graphics/Sound

"Justice is Served" is only playable in full screen mode, which is another innovation since the preceding game. Details are relatively well discernable even if we chose 16 bit colour depth from the options menu. Only the patterns of e.g. clothes or carpets look a little blurry on close up, also regardless of the colour depth.

The characters faces seemed somewhat waxen to me although it is obvious that the developers have put quite some effort into bodily animations. We will find an occasional shake of the head, hands raised in a helpless manner and frequent sneezing fits with full impact on the body by Patrick McEnroe who appears in a cameo role as Elena’s trainer. These animations run in a very short loop though and I sometimes just got tired of looking at the screen while thinking about my next move. Then again a lot of characters hardly move at all which made me wonder whether those individuals might have less importance to the case and therefore have been animated rather carelessly. Faces and bodies only move realistically in the cut scenes or pan shots during interrogations. I particularly liked Briscoe’s ironic facial expression triggered by a very arrogant answer from one of the suspects.

Similar loops as in animations I noticed in background sounds, which are repeated often and along with the graphics, are a bit too sterile.

All in all I could not detect any groundbreaking improvements compared to the second game and at this point I have to say that the two CSI games came across much better in terms of atmosphere, at least as far as I am concerned.

Voice acting

As I played the original version in English I can’t complain about the voice acting at all. Once more the actors of the TV series have been signed. Authenticity is written with a capital ‘A’ regarding foreign accents and slang.

Sometimes the sound stuttered when reading data from the CD didn’t run quick enough. This could have been avoided by providing an optional full installation of the program.

Puzzles

Again, there aren’t any big changes in puzzles compared to the other two games either. In the first part of the game we do police work by collecting evidence, questioning witnesses, suspects and experts. The case file is always found on our desk at the police station and therefore is not an actual part of our inventory anymore. It contains several folders for the crime lab to have objects examined, for research to get information on a person’s background or the significance of documents, for surveillance to find out about a suspect’s doings and for the psychiatrist whose evaluation of the various persons helps us to assess their characters but not all of them will cooperate. When we have gathered enough evidence we can relate them to a suspect in another folder and file a search warrant. Whether that is yet possible or not can be found out by asking our lieutenant or Detective Briscoe will give us a clear hint. The same goes for the folder in which we put all information to file an arrest warrant.

The case will be handed over to the DA as soon as we have arrested a suspect. Now, the case file is located on the DA’s desk, the folders remain the same with the exception of those for search and arrest warrant which are replaced by folders for subpoena and rebuttal. Before we can go to trial we still have to corroborate the evidence collected. We should also pay the computer on that desk some attention in order to learn something about the American law system and court practice, as it is necessary to object as soon as the defence counsel asks an illicit question.

The tutorials on police and DA work known from the first two games have been replaced by information windows, which pop up at the beginning of both parts of the game.

Although the number of interactive puzzles has been doubled, still their level of difficulty is easy and does not increase in the course of the game. We have to solve decoding-, sound-, combination- and anagram-puzzles but one has to be very absent minded not to find the solution within minutes as it is literally placed under your nose.

One of the new features is that we can now ask witnesses about items by drag & drop, which certainly is quite helpful, but (yes, it’s "but" time again) the increased number of characters, locations and more or less relevant evidence soon results in a boring trial & error. Therefore it wasn’t that difficult to get the required 90%+ rating to begin the second part of the game. I sometimes just didn’t understand why for example a witness wouldn’t comment on the test result of a blood sample but gave me a detailed answer when I held up the sample itself. Such inconsistencies also occurred while questioning characters about others. In one conversation they knew the person and gave us some facts about him or her and in the next they claimed never having seen them before. One more problem I had with interrogations was that the choice of questions changed totally after having selected one of them and I was given a complete new list of topics. I think this is very unrealistic. As a police detective I should be allowed to ask as many questions as I think are necessary and even as long and often as I want. In the end there is always the journal/log, which only preserves the relevant answers.

Finally, compiling the evidence to obtain an arrest warrant and later for going to trial became truly complicated. At the game’s start we are informed that objects, which aren’t needed anymore, will be automatically removed from our inventory. Contrary to that lab results and objects which were needed exclusively to obtain a search warrant and have no further significance will remain in our possession until the end. This can result in filing them into the limited number of compartments of the court file instead of the relevant pieces of evidence. Only during trial we will notice that we can’t ask the important questions leading to the conviction of the defendant. We also don't receive any useful hints to help prevent such mistakes. That’s why I only reached 75% in this part of the game along with the unwanted acquittal of the defendant. In case we succeed in convincing the jury a bonus starring the actors of the TV series will be unlocked.

Summary

I was really excited about getting the chance to test the original version - especially because a German release date hasn’t been announced yet – as I very much enjoyed playing similar adventures based on a TV series – yes, I am referring to "CSI". Unfortunately my excitement wore off rather quickly. The developers corrected almost all of the predecessor’s flaws and stay also true to their announcement of presenting more characters, locations and puzzles. Then again some of these changes I can only comment by saying: "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!" I feel that once more the captivating story with all its thrills and twists takes the back seat. Due to the increasing number of possibilities to question people about all the items and the almost non-existent hints I was mainly occupied with showing each and every inventory item to each and every character only to find some way of moving on.

I should perhaps mention that I played without using a walkthrough like I always do when testing a game and that this is the only reason why I needed approximately 15 hours to finish this one. The trial & error I mentioned before simply served to artificially prolong the playtime in my case. It would be advisable to spend more time on development instead of going for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records by rushing the release dates – the release of part 4 is planned for spring 2005 already. Even though I have to compliment Legacy Interactive on taking the criticism regarding the second game to heart I also ask them to keep going as there is still a lot to be done. Until then the adventure series remains a recommendation for the fans of the TV show only.

 

Rating: 68 %

 

Adventure-Archiv rating system:

  • 80% - 100%  excellent game, very recommendable
  • 70% - 79%    good game, recommendable
  • 60% - 69%    satisfactory, restricted recommendable
  • 50% - 59%    sufficient (not very recommendable)
  • 40% - 49%    rather deficient (not to be recommended - for hardcore-adventure-freaks and collectors only)
  • 0%  -  39%    worst (don't put your fingers on it)

 

Minimal system requirements:

  • Windows 98/2000//ME/XP
  • Pentium III 600 MHz or equivalent
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 12x CD-ROM-drive
  • DirectX 7
  • 16 MB DirectX 7 compatible graphic card
  • DirectX 7 compatible sound card
  • 1,5 GB free disk space

Played on:

  • Windows XP
  • Pentium IV 2,6 Ghz
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 16x DVD-ROM SD-616 Samsung
  • Sapphire Radeon Atlantis 256 MB graphic card
  • Creative Soundblaster Live! 5.1 sound card

 

Copyright © MaryScots for Adventure-Archiv, 20th December 2004

 

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The main menu
The main menu


„Looks like someone broke her serve for good." Lennie Briscoe never misses out on a suitable comment
„Looks like someone broke her serve for good." Lennie Briscoe never misses out on a suitable comment

 

Elena Kusarova, beautiful but dead...
Elena Kusarova, beautiful but dead ...

Never forget to collect everything
Never forget to collect everything


Patrick McEnroe in a cameo role
Patrick McEnroe in a cameo role

 

Briscoe und Green aka Jerry Orbach und Jesse L. Martin talk the case over
Briscoe und Green aka Jerry Orbach und Jesse L. Martin talk the case over



We hear news at the forensics
We hear news at the forensics

 

The case file
The case file

 

Jefferson announces new results
Jefferson announces new results

Will this little bird sing?
Will this little bird sing?

 

Piecing together a letter
Piecing together a letter

 

The victim’s bedroom
The victim’s bedroom

 

You don’t have to be Chopin to solve this puzzle
You don’t have to be Chopin to solve this puzzle

 

The map
The map

 

A safe has to be cracked, or rather opened by solving the anagram-puzzle
A safe has to be cracked, or rather opened by solving the anagram-puzzle

 

What the heck? It’s so dark!
What the heck? It’s so dark!

 

ADA Serena Southerlyn aka Elisabeth Röhm
ADA Serena Southerlyn aka Elisabeth Röhm

 

The DA gives us a piece of his mind
The DA gives us a piece of his mind


Seeing this headline we know we have lost the case
Seeing this headline we know we have lost the case

 

More screenshots