"Point and Laugh"
NCIS is a point-and-click adventure game that uses the CBS weekly series NCIS as an episodic backdrop to create unique cases and puzzles for gamers. I use the terms "adventure", "game", "unique", and "puzzle" loosely. What follows the poorly-rendered opening credits of each new episode (the cases are divided as such) is a flat, uninteresting, suspense-less slog through the worst clichés in gaming.
Presentation is the best thing about the game, despite its barely serviceable character models and noticeable lack of most of the series' distinctive voices; it's incredible, but true. The game does a good job of suggesting the feel of the show; from the fade outs at act breaks, the black and white (in this case sepia toned) sub-plot scenes between act breaks, and the signature comedic pacing of the TV series, fans of the show have a lot to look forward to when they first start a mission. Fans of the NCIS series will recall the buoyant score of the series almost immediately, all strings and synthesizers, and this adds to the apparent commercial thrust of Ubisoft's hasty adaptation. Unfortunately, the similarities stop there. The cases are predictable, and you will quickly grow tired of them, should you manage to make it through the first case without pitching your disk out the window.
Character models passively suggest their true life counter parts, with Abby and Ducky taking first place, but the voices eschew any connections you might make with your favorite characters in video game form, despite this licensed title's emphasis on dialogue and bickering popularized in its weekly network run. Sadly, without the real talents of Mark Harmon and crew, the kitschy slapstick just feels like a slap in the face.
As far as gameplay goes (should you be in the generous mood to call it that) police work is diluted down to mindless button prompts and controller motions to solve mini-puzzles with no particular flair or challenge. This laughable puzzle element is the bulk of the NCIS experience, including such brain twisters as being tasked with taking pictures of the bullet holes at a crime scene, discovering one is in a light fixture 4 inches above your head, and receiving the verbal hint to "get some elevation". Gamers can expect to keep their thinking caps safely in the storage closet. Get some elevation?! What will you do? What's that? Click on the glowing chair? GENIUS!
NCIS copies gameplay mechanics from more successful mystery / adventure titles like Rockstar's 1940's opus L.A. Noire, but none too successfully. Conversations feature a mechanic that allows you to interrupt characters during interviews, which suggests some bit of flexibility to the execution of your investigation, but missing these moments (letting timers tick down to nothing) simply prompts your character to say something like "Let's try this again" followed by a verbal repetition of the entire conversation so far until you reach that moment again. The same goes for "hacking", which amounts to figuring out password chains by clicking on icons in sequence and the like. Ultimately, this makes you feel less like you're solving the crime and more like you're watching some gimmicky audience participation episode where they ask you to pay 2.95 a minute, call in, and suggest what the hero should do next.
What's worse: gamers are often "rewarded" with condescending sound bites like "Great Job, Perfect" and the like for tasks as mind-bending as moving the cabinet to reveal the bullet hole behind it, as if it were the actual objective, almost as if to say, ‘Hey you found the thing you knew was there! Congratulations!' Nothing worse than a stupid game calling you stupid...
I suppose Ubisoft can be excused, they had a lot of big things on their plate, but this game sucks. Plainly put, NCIS is not worth your time or money. Any fun you have while playing will be purely coincidental. Better to save up for the inevitable boxed set.
GameDynamo's Score for NCIS (Wii)
|Leon Hendrix III
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