In the videogame world there are some detective games that provide amazing amounts of enjoyment and fun, and then there's everything else. What I mean by everything else is "something that should be avoided unless you are completely bored and with nothing else to do in your life". I love a good detective game, which is why I love L.A. Noire, so when NCIS arrived I thought that the people of Ubisoft would have taken their cue from the previously mentioned blockbuster, and apply it with the NCIS writing staff to create a celebratory smash hit. Then I started playing and that is when this whole thing went down in a fiery crash.
As we decipher why this game is so bad, I'll just give you one quick sentence to save you the time of reading this, then you can go and do something more entertaining, like watching paint dry; or you can read on. This game is mini game madness. A very few different mini games and massive amounts of repetition. Thats it folks, review is done, enjoy the rest of your day. But for those who wish to read on (what a brave soul you are), get ready because this is going to be like a crime scene, not very pretty.
For starters let me just clear something up, and that is I have never watched one episode of NCIS, I'm more of a 24 fan. For some reason it never struck me as a must watch show. None of the cases looked interesting and Im not a big fan at the entire cast, so naturally I passed on it. I don't know if that makes this review a tad biased, but right now I don't care because this game is bad on a good day. NCIS delivers four independently written episodes to play through. All the cast is in the game and you go from crime to crime investigating murder scenes and gathering evidence for examination latter. After all the hard work of almost doing nothing is completed, you get to close the case and move on to the next one. While this description already sounds boring to me as I'm typing this, it's the truth, thats all you do.
NCIS delivers a show like performance, but unfortunately falls short in doing this well. The cutscenes feel like you are watching more of a storyboard with different images in semi animation and do very little to make you feel like you are watching a television show. Now I'm no technology expert here, but isn't the technology out there to do something like this? Why would Ubisoft cut corners and deliberately deliver a game that is supposed to be like an interactive television show? Now we turn to the game itself and find that things haven't taken a turn for the better. Maneuvering you character around the crime scene is not only boring but extremely cumbersome at best. You do not get any camera controls, instead it is a "point and click" system of movement which is absolute rubbish when you think of all the faults of the gameplay could easily be helped if you got to actually control the camera movement.
Now that the fact that the gameplay is only slightly more fun than getting kicked in gentleman area has been confirmed, lets move on to the mini games that you will be playing over and over, and over again. All the mini games are mindlessly easy and unless you have the mental capacity of a tree, then everything should be very simplistic and straight forward. There will be games where you match fingerprints and ballistics; as well there will be games that require you to trace cell phones via taking a circle and making sure that you stay on the red dot. Let me explain that a bit more. When you have to trace a cell phone, you see a red dot on your computer screen. Then using the control stick, you maneuver your intercept circle to be in contact with the red dot, then follow it while the progress meter fills up and after a few rounds of that, you're done. Sounds simple right? You wish.
When you have to control your circle, you will find that following the red dot becomes more of a frustration than anything. Upon completion, the only satisfaction you will receive is the fact that you won't have to do that for a few more minutes, when you'll have to repeat that same action again. To say getting through this game is a struggle is a fair representation. While this is only a 5 hour story, that doesn't mean that any of it is good. But we've talked long enough about the undeniable train wreck of gameplay, let's move on and see how this game is graphically.
The character models are made to look like the characters in NCIS, and thankfully they come close. I'm not saying they're stupendous, but they do at least look like the people from the show. And yep, that about does it for what is good about the graphics. Honestly, there isn't much innovation, enjoyment, or quality when it comes to the graphics. The crime scenes differ sure, but when you actually are in the crime scenes, none of them stand out and make you think oh wow, something big happened here. Instead you get to deal with mediocrity when it comes to every other aspect of the graphics, outside the character models. You get the feeling that the majority of the budget was used on getting the NCIS characters to look and sound like they should in the show and everything else was just thrown in there to make a game. The same can be said for the sounds of NCIS. There isn't some dramatic musical score that echoes in our minds and takes hold of our souls. Instead theres the intro tune for the episodes, but other than that there's absolutely nothing of interest musically in this game. While the characters sound the way they should, thats about the only audio accomplishment that can give some credit to this game.
So lets see shall we, the plus sides of the game are that the NCIS TV characters look right, sound right, and act right. The bad..... Well everything else actually. I actually feel sorry for taking your time to read this; it's minutes of your life that you can't get back. The control scheme needs a complete overhaul, and the non-existent camera controls make playing the game about as enjoyable as getting in a high speed car accident. This is unfortunately not a good detective game, nor is it a good game period. But there is a good side to this; hopefully studios will pay attention and learn a lot from this game by learning what not to do.
Suggestions: In the name of everything that is holy and sacred, please give us at least some camera control and a different character movment system. If that small thing can't be agreed upon, then please don't make another NCIS game.