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I'm a bit of a fan of cop shows on tv, from 70's (Kojak, Columbo, even Banacek!), through 80's (Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues) into the 90's (NYPD Blue).... Law & Order first appeared in 1990, and I watched it from the very first episode right through until it was cancelled in 2010. Thats a hefty old chunk of my life, and probably why I like the show so much.
It may surprise people to know that alongside the tv show, there have been several computer games produced as well; to date there have been 5, all prodeuced for the PC /Mac :-
Law & Order: Dead on the Money
Law & Order: Double or Nothing
Law & Order: Justice is Served
Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Law & Order: Legacies
The game I am reviewing now is the first of the games to appear, Law & Order: Dead on the Money, which came out in 2002. One thing this first game established, and all subsequent games followed, is that the current cast members at that time from the tv show all voice their own characters. So, for 'Dead on the Money' in 2002, we had:-
Jerry Orbach - Detective Lennie Briscoe
S. Epatha Merkerson - Lieutenant Anita Van Buren
Elizabeth Rohm - Serena Southerlyn (DA's Office)
Victor Brandt - DA Douglas Wade (District Attorney) (the only 'made up' non-show character)
The player plays the roles of the junior detective in the 'Law' segment, and the Assistant District Attorney in the 'Order' part
Trying very much to capture the flavour of the tv show, the story begins with the murder of a jogger in Central Park, New York, who turns out to be a high profile Wall Street broker. The player, as a junior detective alongside Det Brisco, then has to ask questions of a variety of suspects, ranging from the victims boss, to colleagues, relatives lawyer etc. Pretty much the same way an episode of the show would go. The object is obviously to try and find enough evidence to incriminate someone, who you will then arrest and take to trial....
...which takes you to part 2 of the game, exactly as an episode of the show plays out, when you move onto the legal side. You now become an ADA (Assistant District Attorney), working with ADA Southerlyn, and now must convince a jury that the suspect you previously arrested is indeed guilty.
I was surprised when I first played this, as so many of these tie-in games to films and tv are truly awful and I was prepared for the same here; however, the game, while nothing exceptional was a very decent fun waste of a few hours. It mimics the show very well, even down to the equal split between the police part and the legal part. I enjoyed the first part the most, as there is a bit more that your character does - suspect interviews, put people under surveillance, find items of relevance and send them to the lab, get search warrants issued etc. These 'leads' then start to guide you to your suspect, but expect a few wrong turns along the way; the wrong turns never feel forced, but just a consequence of you making errors. Observation and question asking are obviously the keys here. I found it fun, and really ended up weighing up the stories of each suspect, before making my decision.
The legal part was not quite as fun, though by no means awful. On the positive side, it was a relatively straightforward format; As the ADA, you question witnesses in court and sometimes get to throw in an objection to a question from the defence (the defence lawyer does deliberately ask some provocative questions, and the game does not prompt you to object, it is your decision when to do so). I did sometimes find myself objecting to everything and getting into trouble, especially when the judge wanted to know on what grounds...you are really supposed to know! As an ADA you do have access to a law library, but NOT during the trial itself, so do your homework!
The graphics are standard level PC graphics for a 2002 game, and still look reasonable today; the game, being so formal in structure, is very easy to pick up and play, and all you need do is some point and click and you are away!
Best compliment I could probably pay this is that it has the feel of an episode from the show, albeit a simplified one. Although the progress of the gameplay is linear, it is up to you to ask the right questions and find the right clues. There is a pretty tight 'against the clock' aspect of the game that many didn't like, finding it too tough, but the makers issued a patch for those who want it, slowing the game clock down by x10. I played it at that level and found it more enjoyable. The only real negatives for me were that, without that patch, the game was very difficult to complete, and that it is long for a linear game. The graphics have obviously dated, but the gameplay has not. On balance , it is a great game for anyone who enjoys solving a mystery, or just fans of the show itself.
Kept me amused for several hours while nursing a sick baby, so it has my eternal gratitude!