Cold Case Files
Release date: 09/2004
Developer: Gunnar Games
Game language and manual: English
ESRB: T - Teen
A review by slydos 13th November 2004
Slip-streaming the CSI series of US TV-station A&E, top producer Jerry Bruckheimer tried to make some more dollars with the creation of the Cold Case Files series. Although this crime investigation series has an interesting approach - unsolved criminal cases of the past are unrolled again with new evidence or new facilities of technology - it cannot bear comparison with CSI. I find it a little bit boring, although Cold Case brings good audience ratings for German TV-station Kabel. So from the first it's doubtful if a relatively undistinctive TV series can suddenly bear an exciting computer game as third or fourth extraction. But such things may happen of course, look at Wild, Wild West, where the game was a notch above the film.
Activision has published Cold Case Files, which was produced by garage company Gunnar Games, in its Activision Value series without particular confidence, because there was no noticeable ad spending for it. Why we even must be grateful for that, you'll get to know below.
During the automatic and nearly error free installation (an error message appeared that could be skipped) and also in many game areas there are quite big and inappropriate ads for A&E, the TV-home of Cold Case Files, and also for Virgin Mega Store. We first reach the main menu, that offers us 6 selectable cases by screen shots. You are free to choose whatever you want to play first, and you can also download a seventh free bonus case from the internet (47.4 MB). During the respective case intros we hear the voice of Bill Kurtis, known to the American public from his work as journalist and producer/host of some law/investigation series. He introduces us to the case file and then hands us over to our boss, who again briefly talks to us about the new facts, to open this 'Cold Case' again.
The cases are titled Murder Motel, Happy Hour, Tell the Truth, Friend or Foe, The Apartment and Death Benefit and take place in different cities of the USA. We unfold them again, because finger prints for example could nowadays be analysed more exactly by computer instead of comparison by hand and a possible suspect, not filed in the past, could show up now. Thus we identify fast as the wind new suspects during the first case, a shooting in a motel in the year 1979, where an employee was killed. In other cases investigations of a private eye open up new insights or new witnesses get in touch with us.
After the intro we can start in 1st-person-view. Cold Case Files is mouse-controlled. But there isn't so much to navigate, since we have maximal 3 possibilities per scene to click and move on. Hotspots are indicated by a change of the cursor.
But first we must leave the office of our boss to get to the laboratory e.g. or our own office. This can be done by clicking on one of the icons in the lower left corner of the screen (the short manual even mistakes here and specifies the lower right corner for this action). Always available is the laboratory with lab assistant, microscope and a computer, our office with exhibit room, the case file and a pin wall with relevant locations as well as our boss. In our own office we can study the case file even more clearly than in the similar Law&Order games. If we read here or somewhere else something interesting about a new location or a new witness, they are added automatically to the case file and/or on the pin wall in the office.
We must simply click all hotspots in our case file, then we gain insight to documents, evidence or testimonies. Old evidence can sometimes produce a new result today, since investigation technology is constantly improving. We then compare new information - also simply by clicking - in the lab computer. If there are matches with data bases, we can be sure that new witnesses/suspects or locations are added to our case file automatically.
And that's how it proceeds. Nearly everything is running automatically in Cold Case Files. We can rarely do a deeper search on a location and take objects with us to compare or analyse them. Or the telephone in our office, which we cannot use otherwise, suddenly changes into a hotspot and you can ask other authorities for assistance. But this already belongs to the very highlights of the game. Interrogations, which can be led from time to time, offer multiple choice texts, but finally all topics must be worked off anyway. One looks in vain for real tasks or puzzles.
If we are sure that we can detain the alleged criminal, we select the handcuff icon in the case file. If evidence is not sufficient, we get the proper scold and must select this case again or a new case in the case selection menu. If we have collected the right evidence and done everything alright we are congratulated and get a promotion. Players cannot save games on their own in Cold Case, but automatically enter at the current game position after interrupting the game. And that's barely necessary during such a short game (total game length approx. 2 hours!). The simple installation and handling are documented in a 2page jewel case insert.
You don't have to shed tears of happiness about graphics and sound. Rather average background graphics accommodate rather average character graphics, which remind me of Law&Order and particularly of Black Mirror with their rounded plasticine shoulders. The characters look stiff and have very unrealistic proportions, attaching to the actually seriously meant game more than a whiff of ridiculousness.
Body movements and mimic are very limited and a simply to large number of characters is squint-eyed. But speech is felicitous and belongs beside the video scenes to the better part of the game. However sometimes fast, indistinct slang is spoken, which makes the whole thing more difficult for foreign language players without subtitles and the possibility of direct repetition of dialogues. In the cutscenes you're confronted with some bloody murder scenes, earning Cold Case Files an ESRB rating for teens. As previously mentioned the mismatching ads of the TV-station and Virgin are disturbing. The background music is less remarkable, however not disturbing.
Even if Cold Case Files is geared to the CSI- and Law&Order adventure games, it's not a quarter as good. The placement of advertisement is a piece of impudence, considering that you've to pay around 20 dollars for the game. And 20 dollars are definitely too much for a product, which one could rather call an interactive case documentation. May be the law enforcement agencies in the USA have only waited to use Cold Case as tutorial stuff (which they actually do!), I cannot recommend it to adventure gamers, it is a sad memorabilia for fans of the series or collectors at the most.
Rating: 38 %
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for hardcore-adventure-freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- Windows 98/2000/Me/XP
- DirectX 9.0
- Pentium III 500 MHz
- 128 MB RAM
- 400 MB on hard disk
- 8x CDROM-drive
- Graphic card 16 MB DirectX compatible
- Sound card DirectX compatible
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Ultima Artec)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Soundkarte DirectX-compatible
To magnify click the screenshots