& Order: Dead on the Money
Review by Old
In the criminal justice system, the people are represented
by two separate yet equally important groupsthe police who
investigate crimes, and the district attorneys who prosecute the
offenders. These are their stories.
Twenty-nine times per week, in the U.S., this calm, dulcet-toned
introduction can be heard at the outset of Law & Order episodesfrom
the current season's weekly offering on Wednesday evening to reruns
of the last eleven seasons scattered throughout the week on multiple
channels at different times of day. I must confess to watching at
least two or three shows per weekone of the joys of being
For those of you not familiar with the series and its approach
to crime dramatization, here is a very brief synopsis. Roughly the
first half of the hourlong show is spent with the criminal act being
discovered, evidence collection and witness interviewing by two
detectives supported by their sergeant, and, finally, the arrest
of the prime suspect. The second half of the show consists of the
trial of that suspect, again by a team of two, this time supported
by a sometimes difficult senior district attorney. Occasionally,
there are complications (like the wrong suspect!), and sometimes
members of the two teams (investigators, prosecutors) will get together.
Over the twelve years, cast faces have changed, but the writing
has remained consistently gripping, entertaining, often quite timely.
In terms of style, Law & Order often reminds me of the
original Dragnet series ("just the facts, ma'am,"
from Sergeant Joe Friday).
Rooster, We Are Talking About a Game Here, Aren't We?
Yes, we are; and it's a wonderful game! Not only has Dead on
the Money been modeled almost precisely on the format of the
T.V. show, but also one of the show's writers has helped with the
script, and three of the primary actors are present as your companionsin
terms of physical, dialogue and voice representations! It's even
very timely in its subject matter.
Throughout this review, I'll be careful not to give too much away
in terms of spoilers. I think it's initially safe to give a first
description of the crime, as shared by the developer: "Hotshot
investment broker Jenny Russ was found strangled in Central Park
and you must find her murderer. Was the killer an unhappy client,
a former lover, or a complete stranger? Step into the world of Law
& Order to apprehend and convict Jenny's murderer."
"Lemme Give You a Few Tips Before You Go out on this One"
You'll be hearing tips and sarcasm from your partner, Lennie (as
voiced by Jerry Orbach). Let's take his advice this time and look
at an overview of the game design. After a smooth 700 MB install,
DOTM gives an option of tutorials, which are recommended
even for the experienced adventurer. These carefully guide you through
elements of both detecting and prosecuting. For example, as a detective,
with Lennie beside you, you'll be:
- Examining and collecting evidence, often adding it to your case
- Deciding to request lab tests or research reports with some
- Sometimes having to solve a puzzle or type a password before
getting to the evidence;
- Interviewing witnesses and suspects, sometimes multiple times,
adding results to your case file;
- Deciding to request a research report, surveillance, and/or
- Requesting search and, when your act finally comes together,
If and when you are successful with the arrest, and Van Buren approves,
you'll be joined by Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn
(as voiced by the show's star). Here, in the second half prosecution
phase, you'll engage in such tasks as:
- Conducting research on relevant legal issues;
- Engaging in further investigation of areas explored in the first
half of the game;
- Presenting, at trial, witnesses and evidence that support your
- Cross-examining defense witnesses;
- Dealing with questions, objections and the general ebb and flow
of the trial; and
- Ultimately, after your closing argument, convincing the jury
that you're right!
Prior to beginning each phase (detecting and prosecuting) of the
game, you're given a choice of "skills," or helping strengths.
You may select zero, one or two, and these stick with you throughout
each half. To modify them, you'd have to restart, something you
really don't want to do! The skills or strengths include:
- Interviewhelps reduce unhelpful or irrelevant questions
- Evidence collectioncursor presents a magnifying glass
over viewable items;
- Teamworkyour supervisor gives hints via cell phone, precinct
chalkboard, and D.A. office fax machine;
- Efficiencyactions cost less game time.
"That's about It; We'd Better Get Going; Seems There's
Never Enough Time" Lennie
Ah ... the infamous "clock," about which you may have
heard. In brief, as Lennie might say: "don't sweat it."
As a detective, you have seven eight-hour days to make an arrest
and as an ADA two eight-hour days for investigation. However, the
"clock" doesn't literally tick away. Rather, actions taken
(evidence collection, interviewing, etc.) chip away, typically in
15-minute segments, at the time allowed. Just exploring, even looking
at things, or sitting idle costs nothing. It's when you take an
action, add an item to inventory, that the clock ticks. It can be
a problem if you get carried away with all of the stuff collectible
at the crime scene, much of which is irrelevant to the case, in
that this can give a bad, irrecoverable start to the game. However,
the developer, who is supporting the game very nicely, has offered
which effectively makes the clock a nonissue if you select the "efficiency"
I did restart the game several times in order to fiddle with the
various skills and see what was different when a particular one
or ones were chosen. They're interesting. For example, with the
"teamwork" skill, you may have a call from the sergeant
that you otherwise wouldn't have had, saying: "It's Van Buren;
you may have overlooked something at the crime scene; maybe you
two should take another look," or Lennie saying: "Looks
like we're missing something here." With the "interview"
skill, you'll not be encouraged to make such comments (which cost
"time") as: "Nice place; you own this?" I finally
selected the "efficiency" (couldn't resist that patch)
and "evidence collection" skills. With the patch, you
can really meander, take your time, pick up a lot of stuff and talk
with a lot of folks.
"Who Hasn't Got a Motive?" Lennie
Dead on the Money runs full-screen at 640x480 resolution,
and it looks great. I installed the QuickTime provided on the CD
(of which there are three) and had not a single crash, glitch or
other problem with the game during the entire enjoyable experience.
You play in the first person, with a full 360-degree viewpoint;
mouse is used for movement. A hot cursor depicts conversations and
evidence available. A small navigation bar at the bottom of the
screen is activated with the space bar. Icons are present for the
map, case file, cell phone and main menu. The "dreaded"
game clock is also shown with time left. The main menu allows up
to 15 saves, which can be activated anywhere in the game and overwritten
if needed. I only used nine.
The map allows for travel between places in the game, with the
number of sites increasing as your case builds. "Travel times"
are a bit slow in loading, but not seriously so.
The case file is beautifully done. Up to 52 items can be stored
in the inventory. One or more of the items can then be dragged and
dropped into sections of the case filelab test, surveillance,
psychiatric evaluation or research requests. Search and arrest warrants,
as well as subpoena sections, are also present.
Not only is the overall graphical presentation of DOTM very
satisfying, but there is special pleasure in the faces and expressions
of your associates, witnesses and suspects. Lennie, Van Buren and
Southerlyn look like their T.V. counterparts. Lennie will raise
an eyebrow at an appropriate time. Indeed, he'll occasionally look
over to you while you're questioning a suspect with clear facial
expressions suggesting such thoughts as: "Hey, that's a lie,
we got him/her;" or "Yeah, right, who does he/she think
they're kidding!" In that regard, while questioning, the responder
will sometimes look to you, then to Lennie, much as you might expect
in a real team situation. Your questions are unvoiced (script only),
while responses and Lennie's questions are voiced (no text, unfortunately).
As you might guess, the script and voice acting are outstanding.
One of the joys of the T.V. show is the small segment cameos (see
Dragnet, again), with varying actors. In the game, not only
are the primary leads exemplary, but also the secondary characters
are different, varied and consistently interesting. The musical
themes and transition notes from the T.V. show are fitting to the
situations, blending nicely.
Lennie's Life Observations
Lennie is a cynical New York City cop. He's seen it all and isn't
very cheered by his observations of life. Along the way in the game,
he'll make such comments to you as:
- "Hmm, this job ever make you feel like a scavenger?"
(while evidence collecting);
- "Some mornings it pays to stay in bed" (after viewing
the early morning jogger victim);
- "My ex said you should never mix your money issues with
your marriage problemstoo bad she didn't remember that at
our divorce hearing;"
- "Everybody wants to join the party, until they wake up
the next morning with a hangover;"
- "It's our job to bother people;"
- "Seems like you need a password to use the john these days;"
and my personal favorite:
- "I guess women are as temperamental as the stock market!"
And the Murderer Is ...
If you proceed carefully, methodically and with a decent degree
of intuition and intelligence, you should come to the point where
you can request an arrest warrant from the D.A. If you've fallen
short somehow, he'll make such a comment as: "You need to work
shrewder, not just longer; as far as I can tell, you don't have
a case yet." Once you have your act completely together, your
reward for Part One is the statement: "Alright, tell
we've got a reservation for her/him at Rikers." And, of course,
the closure/reward for part twothe trialis conviction,
or is it?
Law & Order: Dead on the Money is one of the finest
police procedural or detective adventure games ever created. Being
a fan of the series may give a positive bias toward the game but,
just as clearly, being a fan of the series would lead me to be very
critical if the game did not fairly represent the quality of the
show. Frankly, I wasn't expecting this fine an effort, cynically
worried that the game might just be a quickie spin-off from the
T.V. series. How wrong I was; how pleased I became; and how happy
you'll be with this game. There are virtually no nits I can pick,
especially with the "clock" patch now available. The writing
is superb, with suspense, misdirection, humor, careful mystery plotting.
The acting is outstanding, not only with the main characters who
clearly enjoyed themselves and gave their all, but also with the
bit players. Game construction in terms of how it's played and how
you progress is clear, efficient, logical. Graphics, particularly
facial expressions, are well above average.
I am pleased to award Dead on the Money a Gold Star. It's
the most enjoyable gaming experience of any type I've had in the
last couple of months and, whether a fan of the T.V. show or not,
the game is highly recommended. One truly hopes this is the first
of a series. Congratulations to all involved!
Rooster's Hints and Tips
- Get the patch, located here.
- Select "Efficiency" (patch related) and "evidence
collection" as your two skills.
- Save just before interviews in part one and just before witnesses
take the stand in part two.
- Don't pick up every little thing, especially at the crime scene,
and be careful what you kick out of your inventoryit's irretrievable
once you exit, whereas you can go back if you haven't yet acquired
- Len Green has a wonderful walkthrough here,
but don't use it unless really stuckas in, "I know
I've got my gal/guy; why won't they let me arrest him/her?"
(cf. supporting evidence and witnesses with the arrest
Release Date: October 2002
Four Fat Chicks Links
12X CD-ROM drive
8 MB video card
700 MB free hard drive space
Where to Find It
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