When people hear about a CSI video game, they generally know what to expect. This remains the case with CSI: Fatal Conspiracy but don't immediately write it off just because it's unoriginal. For fans of adventure gaming or CSI that simply want a quick fix, CSI certainly provides. Just don't expect a lot of bang for your buck.
Many people will be turned off right away, though, because all of the flaws are immediately apparent right from the start. Tell Tale's first sin was the atrocious graphics engine. Now, I'm a true believer that graphics are only secondary to good gameplay but this is inexcusable. CSI: Fatal Conspiracy was released in 2010 and looks significantly worse than the original Halo, a launch game for the Xbox. Characters look like poorly made wax figures of the actors on the TV show and even that is generous. Next, you'll either notice the poor lip-synching which usually just has the characters bottom jaw flap open and closed instead of even attempting a real lip sync. If not that, you'll hear the terrible voice acting. Now granted, the sound-alikes aren't bad and they do sound a lot like the actors on the show but their acting skills are not up to snuff. The other characters are the real crime though, some would have been better off using a computerized voice than the actual people. Laurence Fishburne stands out as the best of the lot and still sounds stiff compared to his appearances on TV. Finally, you'll notice that the game is essentially a bad PC port to the 360. You use your controller to move a mouse across the screen, start and back do nothing, and you have to play as if this were a point-and-click game from the 90's.
I realize this sounds quite negative but if you can get past these issues, the rest of the game is fairly good. Sure the five cases sometimes feel like rejected ideas for scripts but they aren't bad. In fact, most are genuinely interesting and the lack of creepy fetishist plots is actually a huge bonus. My only other issue is that evidence is commonly placed in places that make no sense. For example, in a stolen car, why would the one fingerprint be right smack in the middle and not on the wheel itself? These come up frequently but aren't game breaking by any means. They simply make you very aware you are playing a video game.
The gameplay itself gives you five cases to complete, each with one of the cast members of the show. These cases have you going to crime scenes, searching for and examining evidence, interrogating criminals and all that usual stuff. If you are veteran of L.A. Noire, expect a massively dumbed down, linear version of that. While there are completion points obtained for doing various things like looking around everywhere and never messing up the few mini-games available, it's mostly a linear romp through each case. Still, the mini-games aren't insanely boring like they are in some games and the steady flow of progress rarely leaves you feeling lost. Also, the overall storyline isn't epic but it does add a sense of purpose to the whole game and is definitely appreciated.
The reason most of you are reading this review though is because of the achievements. Like other crime show games, CSI: Fatal Conspiracy is a very easy 1000G. You have to get 100% on each of the three stats at least once, complete the game, and do a couple extra things on a few cases to get every achievement, 25 total. Easily doable in one playthrough.
Now, I'd never say that this is game of the year by any means or even a great adventure game. But if you feel like a cheap adventure gaming fix or love crime shows and don't want to wait for the next new CSI, this is a good choice. The plots are usually interesting, there are only five cases in the game but each is pretty meaty, usually lasting about 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on how thorough you are. For 15 US dollars, 8-10 hours of adventure gaming is pretty good and in this gaming climate, we need to enjoy every adventure game we can get our hands on.