Review: NCIS

My fault, I'm misleading you.. not a shooter..

Note: This game was reviewed on the Playstation 3. It is also available on the X360 and Wii consoles.

It’s not uncommon for other forms of media to find their way into the gaming industry. Comics, movies and yes, even TV shows have become a staple in gaming and whether you like it or not it’s here to stay. With NCIS, you become one of the team members that is responsible for bringing Navy criminals to justice.

The game contains four episodes, all of which closely imitate the TV show it portrays. A short scene will open the episode, followed by a representation of the NCIS intro done using the in-game engine. Nope, no live-action splice work here. Afterwards, you wind up at a crime scene. This is one of four parts to the game.

You investigate the scene looking for clues to what happened and gathering evidence. Moving your character is done with an on-screen cursor rather than controlling with the analog stick. This makes sense if you factor in the Move controls. Gathering evidence is done by taking pictures, which (like everything else) involves a short mini-game style action. In this case, moving the camera, then zooming in and releasing the trigger at a certain point. It would get tedious, but the crime scenes are short and spaced out enough that it wasn’t too much of a problem.

After you find all the evidence, you will move on to the next part of the episode. We’ll swing by the lab in this case. Abby is quite a character, as she is in the show. NCIS (the game) does a great job with the writing, and while the voice acting matches the show as well, but it can get repetitive and isn’t spliced together to flow naturally; small pauses that shouldn’t be there are one instance of a sound issue I had.

Everyone's favorite goth is still awesome in the game

In the lab, again, you’ll partake in a series of puzzle-like mini-games dealing with the collected evidence – things such as matching chemical spikes, fingerprint patterns, and lines along a bullet. Once you’ve analyzed everything, which sometimes consists of moving back and forth between lab benches to re-analyze evidence,in a different area, you’ll usually find your way to the Deduction board. In short, the Deduction Board is where you match up and explain pieces of evidence.

If a dead body is involved, you’ll head to the autopsy room with Ducky. This works the same as a crime scene, finding highlighted parts and taking pictures to later analyze in the lab. In the event of any sort of electrical evidence being involved, you’ll take control of McGee. These little mini-events are more reflex-based, things like pressing a highlighted number, memorizing a sequence, or following a car on GPS by keeping the recticle over the moving car. The data is then at your fingertips to pick the relevant piece[s], and most likely take it to the Deduction Board.

Interviews are simple affair; simply press X when prompted to hear more. Some interviews have you using evidence against the person, in which case you pick the appropriate piece of evidence. You only have so many chances, otherwise you have to restart the interview. Luckily, you just have to watch it unfold, and don’t have to present evidence again.

Each episode is fomulaic in presentation: Opening, crime scene, McGee, Abbey, either interview or Ducky, crime scene, McGee, Abbey, and then on to catching the criminal. It only varies so much, but the pattern is obvious as you start playing the second episode. Without spoiling things, I did enjoy the plots to the episodes and they did a good job of feeling like the show. Each had a slow beginning but once things start to become clear, there was a definite “ah, I see” factor. Once you progress through the episodes, it gets better because you start to see how they correlate with one another, which really made me enjoy the final episode that much more. This is really the main redeeming factor to the game, and of course, mainly appeals to fans of the show or crime dramas in general.

If matching bullets is this easy, sign me up for a hefty pay raise!

I shouldn’t even mention the graphics because it seems to be customary for TV show/movie games to be lacking in the graphics department. It seems they rely too much on the liscense usage itself, and try to whip something together to appease the market. I personally didn’t mind the below-average graphics. The characters looked like who they were supposed to look like, so I didn’t care much that the textures looked almost ancient in comparison to the contemporary masterpieces in graphics.

The biggest downside to the NCIS game isn’t the graphics. It’s not the poorly spliced together sound. It’s  not even the simplistic nature of the game. Replay value in NCIS is non-existant. After I finished the game, there was absolutely no reason to go back and play the game again. And, being only four to six hours long, that’s a serious issue. Sure, I enjoyed the plots, but the path is so linear and there is nothing else to achieve by playing it again, not even trophies. I got the platinum trophy just playing the game. I love that fact, but there should have been a few more episodes in order for me to be okay with getting every trophy in a single playthrough. Nothing was even hidden, every trophy is gained just by playing. Nothing out of the ordinary needs to be done, and the replay value alone affected the score more than anything.

Fans of NCIS or other crime shows should at least look into this game. Again, had it not been for the short length and lack of replayability, I would have a much easier time recommending this title to people, even at $40 US. After five hours of gameplay and cleaning up every trophy, this game sadly won’t see my console again. The episodes are good, and follow the show’s flow with funny writing from time to time as well, so fans of the series are at least in for an interactive treat if nothing else.

Pros:

  • true-to-the-show storytelling and pacing
  • great plots across the episodes, with tie-ins later on
  • Platinum trophy in one playthrough

Cons:

  • no replay value
  • short, only four episodes
  • simplistic events

Score: 2/5

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Author: Don Parsons View all posts by
Starting out as a founding member of Gamingcore Podcast, Don ventured on to start Gameciety; which began as a podcast, and ended as a blog. Don now handles Vagary.tv's PR work, is part of the reviews staff and has various other little projects he does for the site.