Review: NCIS: The Game (X360)

Ubisoft returns with another hand at a game carved from the franchise of another TV crime show, this time with hit series NCIS. But while I’m not a fan of the show myself (I’m more of a CSI man), the game doesn’t do a lot to win fans over.

NCIS: The Game is a typical point-and-click graphic-adventure-style game, with what little adventure there would be. You hobble around the crime scene looking for clues about the crime and record your findings through photography. That’s generally it. Aside from some simple safe-breaking and clue-finding, you don’t dust for prints or cast moulds at the crime scene. You just make sure you get the shot of the corpses as clear as possible.

You can’t move the game’s camera around and the camera can’t zoom in for a better view, so players will mainly find themselves struggling to move the big cursor with the left-stick just to click on a unnoticeable bullethole on the far wall to photograph. Talking to your co-workers will give you information about the crime, but you somehow don’t feel part of the team.

The photos you collect somehow morph into evidence in the crime lab for goth girl Abby to analyse. This gets more of the player’s involvement, requiring their help to lift prints off physical evidence and match them off the database, which is also pretty much what you do with the rest of the evidence you handle, such as bullets or bootprints. The more technological evidence will be handed to Tim McGee for him to analyse through his own database, which he himself must hack into every time. McGee is also responsible for tracking suspects down, oftentimes leading to their arrest. The evidence you process goes to the Deduction Board, which I’m sure isn’t part of the show. It is here where you connect every thread of evidence you find to explain why person A is the man you want through the use of multiple choice answers.

You also speak to certain eyewitnesses during interviews and interrogations, but the game has you covered on that. It doesn’t want you to mess things up, so it’ll speak for itself, assuming you can hit quick-timed button in time when it flashes on screen. There are certain times where you do refute a suspect’s statement by showing the evidence you find, though, so you can’t leave everything for the game to do.

Perhaps the few merits it has is the fact that the game is laced with fully-voiced cutscenes from the actual cast, but the dialogue can get so monotone, you’d think the cast were robots. The stiff, no-nonsense attitude of main NCIS man Leroy Gibbs, can also turn players off, because the game assumes you are already comfortable with the full cast and their antics on the show.

The fact that everything is so simple and repetitive is what keeps this 4-chapter game so short and uninteresting. There is no challenge for adults since you essentially can’t fail should you do everything wrong but because this game is stained with blood, you can’t bring a younger audience to enjoy this game either. Fans of NCIS may get some form of gratification through the cutscenes that play outside of the crime scene, others, especially those unfamiliar to the series, may find themselves better off just watching the show.

Not Quite
Graphics 4.0
There isn’t much to see here. The character models and animation are just average.
Sound 5.0
Features the voice of the actual cast, but the voicework could use some life.
Gameplay 3.0
Repetitive tasks could actually be interesting if it wasn’t so dumbed-down.
Lasting Appeal 3.0
There isn’t much else to do when the game is done. Really.
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NCIS: The Game is a Ubisoft game developed by Ubisoft Shanghai for the Xbox 360. Also available for the PlayStation 3, Windows PCs, Wii and Nintendo 3DS.