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Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games
Developer: Legacy Interactive
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Law & Order: Criminal Intent looks great in some areas and only decent in others. Detective Goren and the many locations you’ll visit during investigations are the game’s best looking areas and show off a lot of polish. Everything else is a little rough around the edges, especially the rest of the game’s cast whose looks tend to blend into one another after awhile.

Criminal Intent differs from the past games in the series by offering 3D environments that can be navigated through a click of the mouse instead of static “pictures.” This adds a new dimension to the game and gives it a little more life. Basically, it’s the difference between your typical adventure game and something like Myst.

Sounds are as authentic as you could hope for in a TV-based game. Vincent D’Onofrio and Jamey Sheridan reprise their roles of Detective Goren and Captain James Deakins respectively (Kathryn Elbe doesn’t make an appearance), and do a decent job of conveying their characters. Music is just as good and sets up the mood wonderfully.


Law & Order: Criminal Intent is a little more freeform than previous games and, as a result, turns out to be a much better game than past titles. At the start of the game you, as Detective Goren, are given a case load of three cases that you must solve. You’re free to solve the cases in any order you choose, and sometimes they may even intersect with one another. As you solve cases, you’ll slowly begin to unravel a fourth crime that may tie into the three cases you’re already working on.

From the start, I loved Criminal Intent’s case system. The past two Law & Order games stuck to one case that didn’t allow for much, if any, replay value. While the four cases presented here aren’t that replayable, the added number of cases should keep you busy for a little longer than the past two games. The cases are also a little more brutal than the “cute” cases seen in past games. The game is rated M for a reason.

Since his partner isn’t around, Goren’s main lifeline in the game is his PDA. This allows him to travel between locations, store notes about the case, and even store evidence for when you want to show it to a suspect/witness. The PDA also serves as Goren’s main communication tool as he tries to get in touch with witnesses, suspects, and even the precinct. Another VERY useful tool is your profiler which, when evidence is dropped into it, will determine if the evidence is useful enough when profiling your suspect. Basically, think of the profiler as the other players in “Clue” who, as they make their guesses, help to narrow down the list of suspects to just one or two. Having played the past Law & Order games, I found the profiler to be a handy little tool that helped to take some of the frustrating guesswork out of the game.

In addition to solving cases, you’ll also have to solve a few puzzles, which range from easy to frustratingly hard. Having to solve puzzles added a new dimension to the game, though I was disappointed that more weren’t included.


Like any episode of the show, cases become engrossing very quickly. With every piece of evidence you collect, the case becomes that much more complicated. Three difficulty levels are available, which helps to reduce the hair-pulling that some aspects of cases will present you with. The number of locations available to visit is part of what makes Criminal Intent so hard. There are about 50 places you can go at any time, and if you’re not putting the pieces of the puzzle together, you can easily find yourself on a wild goose chase. Screwing up questioning can also introduce some frustration as you’ll have to either wait until they’re ready to talk again, or you have a piece of evidence that will jog their memory.

Game Mechanics:

Law & Order: Criminal Intent takes a different path than previous Law & Order games. Instead of presenting the entire game through static images that you can zoom over, it takes more of an adventure game approach that lets you move around areas – giving it a much more intuitive feel. If something looks out of place you simply walk over to it and investigate; no more clicking around the area and “pixel hunting” for hours. When you come across a piece of evidence, for example a body, all you have to do is point the mouse arrow over it, bringing up a menu. This will then produce a small selection of actions you can take, including examining the body and picking up clues for analysis back at the lab.

If you’ve watched the show, one of Goren’s trademark traits is his ability to get to the heart of the matter during interrogations (well, that and the uncanny ability to figure out EVERYTHING within a matter of seconds). This trait is represented in Criminal Intent via a new interrogation system. Instead of choosing from a list of dialogue, you choose the tone of the interrogation. You can go right for the gut and ask the tough questions first, or spend a little time and try to flatter a witness/suspect or use guile and outsmart them. Certain question types will illicit different responses; some good, some bad. The trick with the whole system is that if you ask too many bad questions, the witness/suspect will stop talking to you – killing your case. If this happens, the only way to usually get suspects talking again is to confront them with evidence, so pick up everything you can.

On the technical side of things, Criminal Intent does run up against some problems. The first of which is that Goren will sometimes ignore your mouse clicks and walk in completely different directions. In addition, I experienced at least 2-3 crashes at various times.

Even if Law & Order: Criminal Intent didn’t have the name of one of the most popular shows on TV behind it, it would still be a great game for adventure fans. It’s still a little ways away from being the perfect detective game, but the long, involving plot and multitude of things to do makes up for any minor flaws.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 2000/XP, Pentium III 800 MHz or equivalent, 128 MB RAM, 64 MB VRAM (video card), DirectX 9.0

Test System:

Windows XP, Pentium 4 1.8 GHz, Radeon 9250 256 MB, 40 Gig HD, 640 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0

Sony PlayStation Portable Frantix Sony PlayStation 2 Jak X: Combat Racing

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated