January 5, 2012

817 words 4 mins read

Review: NCIS (The Video Game)

For Christmas I got NCIS the video game. I had been curious about it, which is why it was on my Amazon wishlist, but I was not curious enough to actually fork out the $40 for it. The game doesn’t have very good reviews on Amazon, but I do love NCIS… so it’s worth a shot, right? No… no it’s not.

At the time of writing this, I’ve played through part of the first case. I’m not entirely sure I’ll even finish that case because the game is just that bad. In most of my reviews I lay out that which I like and don’t like and leave it to the reader to decide, but in the case of NCIS for Xbox… allow me to explain all the reasons why I think this game sucks and why you shouldn’t buy it.

#1 — They don’t use the real voices. I’ve got an ear for voices, but even if you don’t, it will be apparent the first time any character (other than Ducky) opens their pie hole, that they aren’t the real character voices. All of the NCIS characters have a distinctive sound to their voice. Gibbs is gruff, Tony is a little arrogant but very playful, McGee is a little boyish and Ziva is a bit sultry. None of the voice actors come anywhere REMOTELY near their characters actual voice. The fact of the matter is that basically no one who did voice acting in this game… is a regular voice actor. Basically, they’re just bad voice actors.

#2 — The writing sucks. Look, I’m not an English major and I’m easily entertained by even the simplest story lines (I mean, I do love Transformers — things go boom!), but the writing in this game is terrible on all fronts. The episode story is not even remotely engaging, unlike NCIS the TV show. More importantly the character dialogue is just trash. For example, Ziva regularly complements Tony on being so smart/so good at what he’s doing. Um… What? Additionally Gibbs is quite verbose. In the TV show they make jokes at Gibbs expense about him speaking monosyllabicly but in the game he talks more than Ducky.

#3 — The controls suck. There is a gorram cursor on screen and I’m freaking mousing around. THIS IS AN XBOX, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THERE ARE NO CURSORS ON THE XBOX. Let me be clear, I don’t mean this is in one screen, or just occasionally — the ENTIRE GAME is cursor based. If having a cursor wasn’t bad enough, you’ve got to mouse over little tiny things (like bullet holes) on screen and click on them — the Xbox controller simply doesn’t provide the precision you need for a task like that. Additionally, my cursor regularly creeped to the left making it even harder to click on anything. That’s probably because the game has no joystick dead-zone programming — unlike all other games that have ever been programmed to use a joystick since the N64.

#4 — Everything is a shitty mini-game. They made the entire game a series of mini-games. EVERYTHING is a mini-game. How best to convey this to you, the readers? Oh yes, in order to take a picture of evidence (which you have to do a LOT)… 1) You must click on the object to bring up the camera mini-game 2) You must get the reticle in position so it glows green 3) You must zoom in until that glows green 4) You must hold down A for roughly half a second or so for a new reticle to come on and glow green. Too short or too long on this last step and no picture. Shoot me. Everything is a mini-game. Want to find information in the computer? mini-game. Want to check some evidence? mini-game. Want to move a body? mini-game.

#5 — The camera sucks. This isn’t as bad as some of the items on the list (see how it’s numbered and stuff?), but the camera concept in this game is not well executed. Basically the camera in game acts like a film camera that is mounted in place. If you walk “off screen”, it switches to a new camera. So if you want to walk all around a decent sized crime scene you have to tell your character to walk to the edge, then walk to the next edge, then walk to the next edge, etc.

#6 — There are absolutely no redeeming features. I added the game to my wishlist because of the NCIS name, even though the reviews were terrible. I would play a shitty game simply because it is NCIS, but this is just too terrible. If they had used the real actors voices, or had great writing, or… anything… If this game had any redeeming features at all, I’d keep playing. But I can’t. I just can’t.