It’s a week before the start of the U.S. Open, and star tennis player Elena Kusarova is found dead in the locker room after a practice. Law & Order: Justice is Served by Legacy Interactive plunges you deep into the investigation and persecution of the murder of this young rising sports starlet.
Having made two previous Law & Order games, (Dead on the Money, and Double or Nothing), as well as an interesting assortment of other simulation games, Legacy Interactive now has a firm grasp on what it takes to make a good investigation sim.
The game is split into two phases. The first half is an investigatory game, in which you take on the role of a detective searching for clues starting from the murder scene. After an interview with the person who found the body, combined with evidence on the crime scene, you are quickly immersed into the story, following leads and pounding the pavement.
You have many resources at your disposal, and they are simple to dispense. Heading to the precinct office, it’s there you’ll fill out a request form for any tests, surveillance, research, or psychological exams you want done by simply dragging the acquired item or icon from your inventory to the paperwork. Your product-placed Nokia celly allows you to ring up the Lieutenant to ask her how you’re doing. The phone also gives you access to any other people you are able to interview over the phone.
After a short while, your previously filed requests are completed and you are informed of the results, which usually are insubstantial. You do get the occasional bite which sends you on your way to gather more evidence. This can threaten to be a bit tedious at times, having to go back and forth from surveillance to research to the crime lab to the psychologist, but alas, this is how it works it works in the real world. As a result, it ends up ultimately giving you a greater appreciation for when you do get a lead on another person to interview or a bit of useful information.
Once you gather enough evidence against a suspect, you can file for a warrant for an arrest. When this happens, the suspect is taken into custody, and the second phase beings. The second half of the game is spent in court, working with the legal heartthrob, Assistant D.A. Serena Southerlyn, voiced by Elisabeth Röhm.
Standard courtroom procedure applies, in which you call people to the stand, interrogate them, and provide evidence; All the good courtroom drama components. The defense gets a shot, of course, and you are fully able to object to anything they say that might be inappropriate to proper proceedings. You are able to subpoena people, too. If all goes well, you convince the jury your suspect is guilty as charged.
Technically, the game does everything it needs to do. The graphics are an improvement over the previous versions of the game, taking on more realistic models and textures. All of the main actors in the show do their own voices in the game, and the models are very well rendered. Jerry Orbach’s character, Lennie Briscoe comes fully equipped, stocked with his characteristic cheesy sarcastic quips and puns. When finding a button with the letter "E" on it near the body, Briscoe says, "This should be ‘D’ for Dead." I was waiting patiently for detective Briscoe to burst into song, but unfortunately, he made no appearances as his living-candelabra counterpart he voiced in a famous animated musical.
The ambient noises and music in the game color a totally immersive experience. There is a great attention to audio detail in every scene you are in. The background sounds of an interview at the tennis courts (featuring a cameo of tennis pro Patrick McEnroe) is peppered with the thunks of a ball being volleyed intermingled with grunts of backhand smashes. The precinct office soundscape is colored with ringing phones and general paper shuffling noises. When relevant, background music adds tension and piques interest.
The game play is tightly knit, but if you don’t follow the investigation carefully, it can get confusing as you become overwhelmed with clues and information. The log that the game keeps for you seems to only record major events and points, and I found my mindless scribbling on a notepad quickly became disorganized.
Like games of its kind, Justice is Served comes with a potential hangup. Players who aren’t thorough and careful might find themselves completely and totally stuck. During my first run of the game, while playing through, I found the murder victim’s locker in the locker room had a combination lock on it. I couldn’t find the option to call in a bolt cutter and snap that puppy open, so alas, I was stuck, and will have to play through again to hopefully find the missed clue that lets me in that locker!
Fans of the television show, as well as anyone who enjoys entertainment derived from crime investigation or prosecution will love this game to pixels. Justice is Served creates an incredibly unique experience, with its strengths of deep immersion and its ability to inject you into the plot. In the heat of the game, you really do feel like you are uncovering clues and helping along with an episode of the TV show. With the result of every test and every interview, you are drawn deeper into the story, which makes you hungry to find out and prove guilty the person who killed the poor girl.