Law & Order III: Justice Is Served

Review by Old Rooster
October 2004

"Looks Like Somebody Broke Her Serve ... For Good" —Lennie

Ah, Lennie, we've missed you this season on the finest of all T.V. police drama shows. Your verbal "serves" and "returns" were always sure to make the point, even if they sometimes were a bit foul. Well, for the third consecutive year, the good folks at Legacy Interactive have included you in their game—from the colorful and "dead on" script given you by Suzanne Oshry, to your pretty accurate visage (without wrinkles), to your unique voice acting contribution. The show may not have Lennie this fall, but the game sure does!

Elena Kusarova seems to have it all. She's a young and attractive tennis pro who is popular with fans, sought after by advertisers. A major tournament is upcoming, and Elena has been seriously preparing. Unfortunately, there's a bit of a problem; because although she's beautiful, rich and athletic ... she's also dead!

Thus begins this third in the series of Law & Order games. More people watch the 30+ original Law & Order episodes, reruns and spin-offs each week than watched any of the presidential debates! Legacy has found a market of thoughtful, intelligent and loyal series fans (cough, cough).

Improvements are significant with this third iteration of what I hope will be an annual event. Fortunately, Legacy has realized that the writing and storyline are of paramount importance and has brought back Ms. Oshry, the author of Dead on the Money, to create the longest and most involved drama of the three. Indeed, in addition to a 500-page script (versus the 300 pages of Episode II), we also find 30 locations versus 22, 40 speaking characters versus 30, twice as many puzzles, an improved interface, and greatly improved graphics.

"Jersey—My Favorite Place Not to Visit" —Lennie

As with the previous games and the show, your center of activity is New York City. Accordingly, you'll have a map that will initially show basic locations—scene of the crime, your precinct, M.E.'s office—and increasingly fill up with other needed visitations, even off the map to such dreadful places as New Jersey!

Your job, as the player, is to assist Lennie (voiced wonderfully by Jerry Orbach) and Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin), working from the initial visit to the crime scene, all the way to the point where you have enough evidence to get an arrest warrant that will stick. You'll collect items for inspection and analysis, organize them into folders—Lab, Research, Surveillance, Psych Evaluation—and make the occasional submission of a blood sample or DNA swab, as examples, to your lab technician. As a nice twist in this regard, you have to travel to your office for the submission and then wait a bit, while performing other tasks and travels (interviews, etc.), for the results, returning back to pick them up. This adds realism, suggesting the often-pedestrian and routinized way in which detectives must really function. You do have a cell phone, with voice mail, and the option of getting some basic advice from your lieutenant.

Movement is point-and-click, with a "live arrow" showing your transport potential to the next scene. Within that view, you can rotate 360 degrees, with the cursor changing to show hot spots or conversational opportunities. Pixel-hunting is at a minimum, with objects to be examined or acquired readily viewable. The interface is more logical and less obtrusive than before, and it works very efficiently, being accessed with a right click of the mouse. Saves can be done at any point.

As to advice and guidance, there is no difficulty setting. Also, unlike the previous titles in the series, you don't choose particular helping skills, such as "investigation" or "interviewing," to give you an edge. Rather, you'll find you don't even need the manual on the CD, but can move along very nicely with the ongoing hint system and the essential linearity of the game.

Stiffed at the Morgue

I'd rather be a detective than a prosecutor. You spend about half the game with each area, much like the T.V. show. D.A. Serena Southerlyn (voiced flatly by Elisabeth Rohm) gives you guidance, as does a law guide on the CD. It's an okay experience, done well, with preparations, objections, sharp questions, and the need to get things exactly right. But the real fun and entertainment comes with meeting all of the characters and potential suspects in the initial investigative process. You'll find an overbearing mother, an agent of questionable character, an arrogant competitor, a sleazy security person, and even the deceased's famous coach—Patrick McEnroe.

Speaking of McEnroe reminds of the need to accumulate certain items or conversational exchanges in order to access the next step—in this case, the McEnroe interview. I kept thinking that I should be meeting him, finding out more regarding Elena, but didn't see his "flag" on the map. It was a bit frustrating, until I returned to one of the characters, engaged in more dialogue, and had him say: "Her coach is Patrick McEnroe." Ta da, or as the show's beat would say: "Da dum!" Suddenly, his name appeared on the map and the interview could proceed. This kind of hang-up can occur, but we adventure gamers are used to the need for certain things to happen in order to unlock other areas. And, I didn't find these instances a serious impediment—only a bit of a nuisance at times.

There are also puzzles, about twice as many as in Law & Order II. They're essentially logical, not at all "Myst-like," with clues available for the observant. There's also a novel and rather fun box-moving affair involving Lennie.

Elena's agent comments that the girl "had everything, except pity for her opponents." Perhaps the greatest joy of the game, besides the challenge of putting together clues and procedures, is the very colorful cast of characters. They are numerous and voiced very professionally. I especially enjoyed the wicked mother, almost as much as Lennie. In addition to the fine acting, ambient sounds (desk paper shuffling, phones ringing, other room activity) add nicely to the atmosphere and your sense of game immersion.

Serving up an Ace!

Justice is Served is, by far, the best in this illustrious series. It's excellently written, bigger in scope, longer, better looking. It gets my highest recommendation as a must-buy for any fan of the show and really any adventure gamer looking for an involving and entertaining mystery to be solved. Thank you, Legacy Interactive, for not only continuing the series (with Lennie!), but also for your marked improvements. And thank you, as well, on behalf of those new to these titles, for including in the package the first Law & Order game: Dead on the Money—a very thoughtful touch! The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Legacy Interactive
Publisher: Legacy Interactive
Release Date: October 2004

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
Pentium III 600 GHz
128 MB RAM
16 MB 3D video card
1.5 GB free hard disk space

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