& Order II: Double or Nothing
Review by Old
It's deja vu, all over again. There is no greater fan of the Law
& Order series, its two spin-offs, and these wonderful games
than this Old Rooster. Indeed, I even wondered if another team member
should have done this review, in that my bias is so positive going
in. So I'll try my best to be objective and even critical, if called
for; but be forewarned, I believe this second effort from Legacy
is even better than the first and goes right to my special shelf
of favorite games!
"I'm Detective Briscoe; My Partner and I Have a Few Questions"
Much like the T.V. series, the Law & Order games consist
of two parts: (1) working with Lennie (voiced nicely in the game
by Jerry Orbach) to collect clues from the crime scene, interview
witnesses and those who knew the victim, submit evidence for analysis,
engage in searches, and, finally, submit an arrest warrant; then
(2) teaming with ADA Serena Southerlyn (acted by Elisabeth Rohm)
to try the case, which involves more research, further evidence
analysis, and the actual drama of the courtroom, leading to, hopefully,
a jury conviction.
For more detailed elaborations of these and other features, which
essentially are the same from Game I to Game II, please see my
review of the first Law & Order game.
Double or Nothing installs easily, taking a little over
600 MB of hard drive space. Although screen resolution is 640×480,
not up to contemporary standards by any means, the resulting images
seem very satisfactory. There is an option for "slower machines."
The entire game is played with mouse and space key, which brings
up the navigation bar. This very effective device includes the following.
- Video cell phone, which blinks when a new message arrives, such
as those from Lt. Van Buren (voiced by S. Epatha Merkerson, from
the T.V. show).
- A map of all locations you need to visit, increasing in number
as new suspects and interview needs open up ("travel time"
- Case fileyour basic investigative organizing tool, and
a great one at that! This includes the inventory (storing up to
84 items) and a series of requests you can make regarding items
and suspects. These include lab tests, research and surveillance
requests, and search and arrest warrants. Subpoena requests are
also optional for the trial part of your experience.
- Case logthis exhaustively complete record lets you review
all you've done.
"This Job Ever Make You Feel like a Scavenger?" Lennie
Double or Nothing uses 360-degree panning of static scenes,
which number in the hundreds. Although this may seem limiting to
those of us increasingly used to third-person navigation of 3D worlds,
I found this implementation appropriate and successful. The "hot
cursor" allows you to pick up, examine, sometimes store objects
of interest. It also enables conversations, clearly one of the highlights
of the game. The scripts are well and professionally written, with
acting of a high standard. Dick Wolf, the creator of the T.V. series,
once said that he tries to pack much more in the way of content
into his one hour show than typically is seen. In other words, there
are more interviews and other stops along the way to final arrest
and conviction. This theme carries over to the game, where there
are a large number of memorable characters, some not very nice.
New this year is very effective lip-synching, which, together with
other facial expressions and eye contact, gives even more personality
to the many folks you'll meet along the way.
When you have an object to be examined in the lab, Paul Kim, the
technician, needs a bit of time for the process. This occasionally
leads to the realistic event of not getting an immediate response,
but having to bide time a bit for the outcome. He'll let you know,
on the cell phone, when he's ready!
"This Job Isn't a Popularity Contest; You Gotta Ask the
Tough Questions." Lennie
Working as Lennie's sidekick is a real hoot. He has a lot of observations
(some rather off-color compared with the first game) and is there
to nudge and sometimes direct you, his rookie partner. At the outset
of the game, you are allowed to select two of four skills:
- Interview skillwitnesses will be more direct and not beat
around the bush as much;
- Teamworkyou'll receive more supervision hints than usual,
both as detective and A.D.A.;
- Case organizationmore hints and help in securing search
and arrest warrants;
- Evidence collectioncursor changes to magnifying glass
over relevant "hot spots."
Two fine tutorials, one for each game aspect, are also available
and highly recommended.
Once the two skill areas are selected, there is no "unselecting"
unless you begin a new game. You may, however, choose different
areas for the two portions of Double or NothingDetective
and Prosecutor. Presumably, choosing different skills in different
games may offer some replay value, but since you now know the identity
of the culprit, that exercise would be of intellectual interest
"Somebody Sure Was Pissed Off" Lennie
I warned you there was some change to more adult language. This
may bother a few. However, all other changes in the game, although
subtle, are very positive. I find nothing to get "pissed off"
about. Indeed, the story/plot is even more intriguing and complex;
the game seems larger, with more locations to visit; the script
is more "mature;" the save/load time is faster; redoing
interviews is now an option; the graphics are improved, as evidenced
by the required 16 MB 3D card, compared to 8 MB for Dead on the
Money; and the dreaded time clock has been removed.
Some may criticize the linearity of the game. That's a tough one
for the developers to handle, I'm sure, and I think they've struck
a good balance. Basically, a new location to visit, for example,
doesn't open up on the map until you've completed the steps that
would logically lead you to want to make that next interview or
search. You can't wander off the track too much, although some meandering
is possible. I would rather have that approach than a complete open-endedness
where extensive backtracking is often required.
"So, Who Wanted Him Dead?" Lennie
Dead on the Money joins Double or Nothing on my shelf
of Top Games. I simply can't understand some of the critical and
negative reviews I've seen. Admittedly, as revealed up front, I'm
a fan of the series and have become a fan of the games. Both Dead
on the Money and Double or Nothing are much better as
police procedural games than C.S.I.:
Crime Scene Investigation, for example. They remind
me of Activision's Spycraft, which is a very good thing.
Although linear, there are dead ends and red herrings, along with
puzzles, that can lead you to be stuck. Some may find Double
or Nothing rather easy, given the skill selections you make
(mine were evidence collection and case organization). If really
stuck, though, Len Green has developed a fine walkthrough, which
can be found here.
With music and actors from the show creating a realistic crime
solving and prosecuting atmosphere, coupled with a tight and satisfying
script, involving and smooth gameplay, and a very effective interface,
I am pleased to award Double or Nothing a Gold Star. What
nits there are to pick are minor (graphics some may call dated,
sometimes difficult searching, the static screen approach, relative
linearity) and do not detract from an excellent production. Legacy
Interactive is to be praised for listening and responding to the
few criticisms of Dead on the Money and creating for us one
of the very best police procedural adventure games. Let's hope these
productions become an annual event. If you love the T.V. show and/or
have any interest in this kind of detective game, Law & Order:
Dead on the Money is a must-purchase.
Release Date: September 2003
Four Fat Chicks Links
96 MB RAM
12x CD-ROM drive
16 MB video card
650 MB free hard disk space
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