Law & Order: Dead on the Money
Developer: Legacy Interactive
ESRB Rating: Teen
Pentium II (or compatible) 400 MHz, 96 MB RAM, DirectX-compatible 8 MB Video Card, 12x CD-ROM Drive, 700 MB of Hard Drive Space, DirectX 8.1 or later (on CD).
Click HERE to download the patch from Legacy Interactive
Interview with S. Epatha Merkerson, Elisabeth Rohm and Jerry Orbach About Law & Order: Dead on the Money
Harriett Gurganis, JustAdventure.com
S. Epatha Merkerson plays Lt. Anita Van Buren on Law & Order. Her film credits include Terminator II and Jacob's Ladder, among many others. She has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Helen Hayes Award, for her Broadway and off-Broadway roles. Her television roles are too numerous to mention here, but the part she will always be most fondly remembered for is that of Reba the Mail Lady on the cult favorite, Pee Wee's Playhouse.
How do you want Law & Order fans to respond when they play the game?
Well, Law & Order has acquired an incredible array of fans and viewers, and I think that when they find that we're interactive, that will bring them all to it, especially those who tend to sit at their computer anyway. Because the one thing that our show does is make people think. And this game allows people to think through a case by playing one of the parts. So I think it will make them even bigger fans of show, because it will give them the opportunity to participate.
Having recorded Lt. Van Buren's dialog for the game, are you intrigued to play it yourself?
The idea of actually sitting down and playing the game really intrigues me, especially after having done the voice over. And knowing that I can be Van Buren and be a player. That's going to be really cool. [Laughs.] I'm really interested in playing the game.
You know the character of Lt. Van Buren inside and out. What are the challenges involved in bringing an established character from a television show from one medium to the next?
Transferring character to 3D animation is really going to be interesting for me to see. I'm not quite sure how different it will be, because as I was doing the VO session, it just seemed right, the things Van Buren was saying and all the situations that happened within the precinct. So I think it'll mostly be a visual thing, more so than it is anything else. Because I didn't see any difference. It'll be when I look at the game I'll see the difference, but for now, I'm still an actor playing a part.
How do you, as an actor, get ready and prepare for a project like this? How is it different than your work on the show?
Well, I don't think my preparation was any different. The lines are set up the same way as on the show. The guys come to her, they talk about the case, she tries to get search warrants for them, they have to bring her more evidence, she responds to that, when they're not moving quickly enough, she has to move them on, and when it looks like they're not getting anywhere, she threatens to take the case away from them. So there wasn't a lot of difference. The only difference will be me actually seeing a 3D animation of Van Buren. That'll be a trip. Because this is really who I look like, and then there's who I look like as Van Buren, because it's well-documented that I wear a wig for the character, and then it'll be interesting just to see that animated. I can't wait to see what this is going to look like; it's very exciting. Because this is sort of new. I mean I know of PlayStation, I know of all these other games, but this kind of thing, I don't know of. So it's very exciting to be apart of it. Plus to have such a great show be the new one, the first one.
There's a big trend toward computer animation and gaming--would you say doing these kinds of roles is the way of the future?
I think that wherever actors can get really good work, this is as valid as anything else we do. It's all part and parcel of the whole. There are things that people do just voice-overs for, there are things people just do camera work for. So I think it's absolutely a valid form of work. It's not that easy. You're also taking characters outside of their normal setting, meaning, you're making them 3D. It's different from what you'll see on television. I think it's valid work. If this is the look of the future, so be it. It's a great forum for actors to be involved with.
The show address very complex current affairs, both legal and social. Did you find that the game cases are consistent with the kind of cases you would see on Law & Order on television?
I believe that these two cases are very close to, if not dead on, the way things are done on the show. Because basically they're stories people may have read in the paper, and that's what we do. Ripped from the headlines. To be able to participate in that also is an added attraction to this being an interactive game. Because you do have some knowledge of the case, and being the player, I think it's going to be really interesting for the fans of the show to really participate, because when you think about it, that's the only thing that's missing now--that they actually don't physically participate. I know that's why our viewers watch, because mentally you are asked to function, to see how we're going to make the twist and make it different, but this will make the viewer active. And I think that's the fun of it for those diehard Law & Order people.
I've noticed when watching the show I have to pay really close attention, or I can get lost in the plot--there are so many pieces to the puzzle.
One of the things I love about the way the show runs is that I think it's the best of both worlds. It entertains, as well as teaches. It's very educational. So, it's true, you do have to sit and watch the show. I know so many people who say to me, when it comes on, no one interrupts me, I don't pick up the phone, because if you do, you're going to miss just that little thing. The great thing about the game is that you'll be able to turn it off, go about your business, answer the phone, do whatever you need to do, and then pick it up where you left off. That'll be fun. I think Law & Order fans are going to love this, I really do. Because I had so much fun doing it, and I think it's just going to work for them as well.
The people who play this game may be younger than the typical audience for the show. Does that appeal to you?
One thing I think might be interesting with this game, since children spend a lot of time in front of computers. I think that even though we have an older audience, it's going to be really interesting to see how children function with it. Because it is a thinking game. And anything that allows a child to think, I believe is important. Sometimes, the subject matter might be a little dicey, but I think at a certain age that children should be allowed to play the game, simply because they'll have to really think things out, powers of deduction, and things of that nature. I think it might be a lot of fun for them.
The game may appeal to teenagers.
Interestingly enough, we do have a lot of teenagers who watch the show. And I think it will be a great game for them, because they have the opportunity to really function as a character. And one of the things I love about the show is that not only does it entertain, but also it is an educational tool. And to put it in an interactive setting, I think that will be great for kids, especially teenagers. Because there are some smart kids. What kids have now, as opposed to when I was growing up, well, it's amazing how much information kids have, and I think this will be very positive, to have kids actually sit down and work this type of human problem out.
What are your thoughts about the new Assistant District Attorney (ADA) character joining the cast next season, Serena Southerlyn?
We'll have a new character replacing Angie Harmon. Elisabeth Rohm is coming in, and I think that this character is probably the youngest of all the ADAs we've had. So she's coming in a very different sort of mode, where Abby Carmichael was very strong and straight-ahead. And Jamie Ross was pretty bright and knew exactly what was going on. And Claire Kincaid was right there. This girl is still just out of college; she's very new to ADA's office. I think she'll be an interesting texture for our next season. Very different from the ladies we've seen in the past. Plus she's blonde, and all of the others have been very dark-haired, very dark. So it's going to be an interesting season. She's a sweetheart. She hasn't been around very long, but I've enjoyed working with her. It's been great.
Elisabeth Rohm, as Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn, is the newest cast member of Law & Order. She has previously appeared on the daytime soap opera One Life to Live, and she also starred the popular miniseries The '60s and the BBC miniseries Eureka Street.
How do you want the diehard Law & Order fans to react when they play Law & Order Interactive?
I want them to love it. What made me fall in love with acting, which is my life, was watching other people perform. It made me hunger to do that. And when people play these games, it's going to make them feel more included in watching the show, and I think that's great. It's something I've felt as a viewer of Law & Order, and now that I'm joining the cast, I hope that this will add to that.
How do you think it will be different for people to play the game versus watching an episode of Law & Order?
Because now they're going to actually really know what we're doing. They're really going to have a skill, they're going to get up on the stand, they're going to learn about the law in a different way. I think it's a great idea because it's not just going to be Sherlock Holmes and mystery, but it's going to be educational. I think it's going to take off.
The show is known for addressing complex social issues and subtleties in the law. Do you see that in the plots for the game cases?
Yeah, absolutely. I think that's a very important issue in regard to how we look at right and wrong, how we look at the world we're in. There has to be a fine line; otherwise, that finesse, that difficult place to put your finger on about the world--it needs to be illustrated, and it has been in these [game] episodes, and it is on our show, and I think you've upheld that.
Are you excited to play the game?
Of course I'm going to play it, it'll be helpful research for working on my part! [Laughs.] I actually learned a lot today just working in the sound room; I thought it was very interesting. It helped me to practice being in a court and doing everything that I do everyday. It was great.
Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe is a fan favorite. His film credits include Dirty Dancing, Prince of the City, and F/X, among many others. He has appeared on numerous television shows, including Golden Girls and Who's the Boss. He has won Tonys for his work on Broadway, been nominated for numerous Emmys for his television work, and was recently honored with the Crystal Apple Award from the New York City Mayor's Office of Film, Television, and Broadcasting for his contribution to the Arts.
You and your show have fanatical fans--fan web sites, online discussion boards. How do you want your fans to react when they play Law & Order Interactive?
I know that L&O has very loyal fans who've been watching it for a long time, and I would like it if the game reflects Law & Order the show, that it is very much like it, and they can feel like they're a part of a real Law & Order case when they play the game.
How do you think the game experience will compare to and differ from watching an episode of Law & Order?
I think that playing the game will be different for the fans of Law & Order in that they get to be one of the characters, basically. You get to be my partner in the first half and you sort of get to be Sam Waterson in the second half. I think it's a lot more exciting.
What key elements of the TV show did you see in the interactive game?
The key elements of the show Law & Order that are reflected in the game are the fact that it adheres to the case, it doesn't get into personal issues about the different characters, you go right down the line with the case. You get to be a sleuth, you get to be a Sherlock, you know. Also, one of the things that I like about the way the game is written is that the character of Lennie still maintains his kind of wise-guy attitude, his world weary reflection on everything.
Having done the voice-over, are you now intrigued to play this game?
Yes, I would like to try the game. But I probably know a little too much about it. [Laughs.] I think I know where the mistakes might be made. I've gotten to be a pretty good amateur detective over the years now, after all these cases. I think it's a very challenging game. This is a lot different than shooting space aliens, you know--this is something that you really have to use your head for. It's not going to be too easy to solve.
What was important to you as an actor in deciding to be a part of this project?
I think one of the most important things for me was to maintain the quality of Law & Order and the character of Lennie, and my own integrity, whatever that is, so that it's not a cheap commercial rip-off of something.
The show is noted as both a murder mystery and a morality play. Did you see that in the plots for the game cases?
Yeah, I think that Law & Order has a very specific structure; it's almost like a ritual. There's the solving of the case, or the bringing to justice of the perpetrator, and then there's a legal problem in the second half, whether it's a moral problem or a problem of law. Very often people will say, "Oh, this story from the newspaper would make a great case." And it might be a very interesting murder story, but then our writers would say, "Well, what's the legal problem in the second half?" And so, Law & Order has a double kind of complication. It doesn't end when we find out who did it. And that's what makes it interesting beyond the ordinary murder mystery.
Do you see that structure reflected in the cases for the game?
I think that structure is very well-reflected in this game. It gets the complications in the second half that you need.
The people who play this game may be younger than the typical audience for the show--does that appeal to you?
I think it's a great idea to bring a younger audience to Law & Order, although we have a pretty good demographic of audience. It's not just the Murder She Wrote or Diagnosis Murder, Dick Van Dyke audience; we get quite a few younger people. But if it can get even younger kids interested in the justice system, and in what happens, and in mysteries, that's great.
Having just gone through the threat of an actors' strike, would you say doing these kinds of projects, games and animation, is the way of the future?
I worry about the future of actors with animation and the digital things happening. Then we worry about that someday it'll go to high-definition tape and then it'll go to a hologram in your living room, in three-dimensional, and then eventually it'll go back to live actors coming to your living room to perform. So I don't know where the end of it will be. My dad said people always need to be entertained, and they always need to eat. So the restaurant business and the acting business, I don't think they will ever go anywhere.
What excites you the most about this project?
I think the most exciting thing about a project like this is that it can involve a whole new audience. People who might not turn it on on television, but they may find it this way. And that's very interesting to me to reach out to more people, to a wider group of people.
Do you think playing the game may change the way current fans watch the show?
Having played the game I think would give you a kind of a different take on watching the show--you'd be trying to get one step ahead of us. Which I think would be fun. Go buy it! [Laughs.]
With "Law & Order: Dead on the Money," Legacy Interactive has ventured into the rarely explored genre of the mystery game. The game sets players into the world of the television show "Law & Order" and presents them with a murderer to catch and convict. "Extended Play" brings the killer to justice, but is not so sure that it's worth the effort.
True to TV life
The game, like the show, is divided into two parts. The first has you teaming up with Detective Lennie Briscoe (voiced by Jerry Orbach) and hunting the killer of a jogger found dead in Central Park. Once your suspect is apprehended, the game shifts into the courtroom and sets you up in the DA's office alongside Serena Southerlyn (voiced by Elisabeth Rohm) where you'll pursue a murder one conviction.
As a licensed title, the game stays true to the television series. The pacing, plotting, and characters all represent the show's award-winning nature. Fans will appreciate the touches, like the black location screen and the plot twist that always seems to come forty minutes into the episode. The story and writing are both very good, and the game could easily have been in the series.
Crime scenes and interrogations
While the thought of playing a detective and solving a mystery is appealing, true mystery games or detective simulations are a rarity in game libraries. Legacy Interactive has made a valiant effort, but "Law & Order: Dead on the Money" still falls into the same traps as other titles in the genre. Gameplay is divided among searching Quicktime-VR locations, interrogating civilians through conversation trees, and managing the reams of evidence that crops up throughout the case.
The searches and interrogations are where the game (and the genre) is at its weakest. A good detective will spot clues at a crime scene that a normal observer might overlook. However, by making the clues responsive to mouse clicks, searching the crime scene for evidence just becomes an exercise in basic mouse controls. In addition, the way the clues tend to stand out from the backgrounds makes finding them serve no challenge at all.
Conversations and interrogations are also limited by the manner in which they are presented. The player is presented with three questions to choose from, only one of which will produce helpful information. This correct question is usually painfully obvious, with the others seeming like comic relief at times. These conversations are limited to a set number of questions, so that, if you do happen to ask the wrong one, you will most likely not have another chance to ask a better question. It seems New York detectives have better things to do than to get all the information they can out of a witness.
To create challenge and confusion, Legacy Interactive has peppered the game with a slew of useless clues and false leads. Most of the time, all these will do is cause the player to spend an extra five minutes at the crime lab hearing about how the used ketchup packet was nothing more than just trash. The ketchup packet is just thrown away, and the case resumed. The only limited resource in the game is time, and pursuing too many false leads will end the game prematurely. Again, this only means backing up and attempting a different path, creating a difficulty level just above that of breathing.
All evidence collected over the course of the investigation is stored in a case file, which can fill up quickly. The management of evidence is handled well, with the ability to send almost anything in the case file to the crime lab or to research through a simple point-and-drag interface. Suspects can be tailed, and many times research on them will produce some useful information. Once a suspect has been apprehended, this case file gets transferred to the DA's office and becomes accessible in the second half of the game.
In the second half of the game, players are set into the role of an assistant DA prosecuting the case, which is divided between segments in court and more investigation. The investigation is run identically to the first half of the game, but the story introduces new situations and characters. In place of interrogations, players will find the need to coerce reluctant individuals into testifying.
Action in the courtroom has the same conversation-tree approach as the interrogations, but with far more rewarding results. Most of the laws of a courtroom are in effect, and players should be familiar with what types of questions are not allowed. Luckily, the game provides a database that provides all pertinent information and proves to be very useful when objecting to the defense's questions. Prior to each day in court, evidence and witnesses must be arranged, and only those chosen may be presented that day. All of this makes the basis for a very good courtroom simulation, and expansion of the concept could easily become its own game.
Top-notch voice acting
Also strengthening the entire game is the voice acting. In addition to the talent from the "Law & Order" series, a group of professional actors were used. Their abilities make a story so reliant on discussions captivating. Lip-synching is done very well, and the character models are more than adequate. While the game only runs in 640x480 resolution, it never really requires anything more.
After catching and convicting the murderer and receiving a performance grade, there is nothing more to do. "Law & Order: Dead on the Money" is a single-play, seven-hour game in a genre that has never had a great title. This is primarily because the medium does not support the concept very well. Although it's an excellent representation of "Law & Order" in playable form, there just isn't much to play. "Extended Play" gives "Law & Order: Dead on the Money" a 2 out of 5.
-- AM Urbanek, TechTV
Buffy the Vampire Slayer for Xbox (Electronic Arts); Dark Angel for PlayStation 2 and Xbox (Vivendi Interactive); and Law & Order: Dead on the Money for PC (Legacy Interactive). If you want to be a playa in the virtual world, you can be Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy Summers, Jessica Alba's defunct heroine Max Guevera or Jerry Orbach's Det. Lennie Briscoe. Don't snicker at the last one--Orbach's Lennie is one of the coolest cops on the tube, and L&O: Dead on the Money (written by one of the show's scribes) is an addictive little adventure. Actually, the game player takes the role of partner to Briscoe (with real voice work by Orbach) and tries to build a case against a Central Park murder suspect. Once enough evidence is gathered to warrant a...warrant, the action shifts to the order side of things, as the gamer works with Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn (voiced by series star Elisabeth Röhm) to build a case against the killer and try to convince a jury of his guilt. Almost as much fun as those L&O marathons on A&E.
-- Kimberly Potts, E! Online
As soon as I heard about the imminent release of this Law & Order game I was interested. Not only did it sound intriguing but it also seemed to me that, based on a long running Television series, it might be a good candidate for attracting new adventure game players into the fold. I’ve just finished it, and with a couple of reservations, it gets my seal of approval on both the above counts. Firstly there’s lots to enjoy for adventure game players; it’s an entertaining game with a difference (more on this later) and, secondly, fans of the TV Law & Order series will feel right at home because it is just what the lawyer ordered.
Looks and Sounds
The game has some familiar faces and voices, and many of you will recognise Jerry Orbach, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Elisabeth Röhm from the TV series. I did, even though I’m too consumed with books and computer games to spare much time for the TV. I have to confess that I’ve only seen one episode of Law & Order but I recognised the characters. They really do look like their TV counterparts, they are very well animated and, of course, the voice acting is near perfect … they sound just like themselves as well J . Though it’s a pity that the game has no text captions for deaf or hard of hearing players. Occasionally I experienced sound distortion and missed snippets of conversation so I would have appreciated text back up, especially because conversation has such an important place in the game.
Overall though the sound is good and the graphics, especially those of the characters and the courtroom scenes in the latter part of the game, are very clear and work well to show what the characters are feeling in response to what is going on. Conversely I found the relatively small number of other scenes, including the crime scene itself and the victim’s apartment, to be a bit fuzzy. It didn’t worry me in the least but I’m mentioning it for the benefit of those who demand graphical perfection. Though I should point out that I did play with options set to maximum speed rather than premium good looks. Also I haven’t heard of other players complaining in this respect so it might have been a problem peculiar to my computer.
On your way
The game begins with a murder in Central Park, and that’s all of the plot you’re going to get from me. It is divided into two distinct sections, the murder investigation and the trial and you play an unidentified assistant in both scenarios. The play is fairly structured and negotiations are formalised (especially in the second part) to the point that the game has the slight feel of a simulation as well as an adventure. It works well, and although it cuts to the chase and doesn’t embellish the plot with peripheral details, there is still some leeway to do a bit of ambling around. By this I mean that you will have some choices about what to do next, though once this caused a bit of a problem for me when Lennie Briscoe expressed surprise at the existence of someone he already knew all about.
Not surprisingly a large proportion of the gameplay consists of talking to people … interrogations or interviews in the first part of the game and courtroom cross-examinations at the end. When in conversation you are presented with a short list of questions and the one you highlight will determine what you ask next and ultimately what information you gather. So it’s important to choose questions wisely to elicit useful information. If you talk about the weather it won’t help at all!
Other than conversation there are a limited number of places to search for clues. These include the locations noted above as well as a couple of suspects’ homes. There are plenty of things to pick up and you can send them off to the lab for testing, or to records for a bit of research. It’s very easy to fill your inventory (or your case file) so you might want to be judicious in what you collect. I confess I wasn’t, so periodically I had to purge my case file. You can easily ‘trash’ what you don’t want although I did a test and the game allows you to discard vital evidence … be warned!
As well as sending items for research you can also research people and, if you have enough to go on, order surveillance; get a search warrant; an arrest warrant, etc. Everything you collect including evidence and various reports is identified by a small graphic that you can click on to get specific information. To take the case to trial you’ll need to select which pieces of evidence and which witnesses are relevant, compile the paperwork and submit it. Make a mistake and you’ll be told you are not ready yet and given the chance to reconsider. When each section of the game is completed you are awarded a ‘score’ for your performance.
Ways and means
Law & Order: Dead on the Money is a fairly straightforward game and especially good for new players. Experienced adventurers might want to skip this part but there is help on hand in the form of four options to decrease the difficulty level. You can’t be too greedy, you can only choose two of them, but they do make a difference. First on the list is Interviewing. If you check this option you will streamline the conversations and eliminate irrelevant or inadmissible questions. Next is Evidence Collection. This one gives you a magnifying glass to make looking around easier. Teamwork follows and this gets you some advice from colleagues during the game and, finally, with Efficiency checked you do things more quickly and have more time to solve the case.
Anyone who knows my reviews will know that I checked ‘Efficiency’. And this brings me along to my major complaint about the game … it’s timed! I have no idea why, certainly not because it would be more ‘realistic’ because murder investigations are usually kept open. As it is so well known that many adventurers don’t like to be rushed I was surprised to find this 'feature'. It very nearly stopped me before I started but I made a conscious effort not to clock-watch so that I didn’t feel penalised rather than rewarded as I progressed. I played as I normally would, and tootled around enjoying my investigation. This strategy wasn’t totally successful, as nearer to the end of the investigative section I had to save and load too often as I worked out the most efficient route through.
Objection! (See below)
So even though the time was manageable I’m registering my strong objection to the clock feature that counts down the remaining time as you perform actions. This game would have been better without it. Except for a bit of slowness at the very beginning it ran well on my machine under Win 98. I cannot, however, speak for later Windows Operating Systems. I have heard of some players having problems in this respect.
I took up the challenge and had fun with this game. In the process I kept the records clerk and lab technician flat out filling in reports. I particularly enjoyed the trial part because I didn’t feel so pressured. I did my homework and read up on the optimum way to frame questions and was ultimately quite successful. I also got to shout ‘Objection’ a lot … and in the right places. I got better ‘marks’ for my legal work than I did for my investigation … I might have found my true vocation at long last!
Law & Order Patch now available
Good news for me and other players who don't like playing against the clock. Our Objections have been sustained! In their new Patch Legacy Interactive have tinkered with the clock to make it count down 10 times slower in 'Efficiency' mode. According to my estimation this should effectively cancel the clock. There should now be absolutely plenty of time to leisurely explore and get things done! Thank you to Legacy for a rapid and positive response to player feedback.
The patch also addresses mouse sensitivity issues experienced by some players.
-- Rosemary Young, Quandary Reviews
In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups—the police who investigate crimes, and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.
Twenty-nine times per week, in the U.S., this calm, dulcet-toned introduction can be heard at the outset of Law & Order episodes—from the current season's weekly offering on Wednesday evening to reruns of the last eleven seasons scattered throughout the week on multiple channels at different times of day. I must confess to watching at least two or three shows per week—one of the joys of being retired.
For those of you not familiar with the series and its approach to crime dramatization, here is a very brief synopsis. Roughly the first half of the hourlong show is spent with the criminal act being discovered, evidence collection and witness interviewing by two detectives supported by their sergeant, and, finally, the arrest of the prime suspect. The second half of the show consists of the trial of that suspect, again by a team of two, this time supported by a sometimes difficult senior district attorney. Occasionally, there are complications (like the wrong suspect!), and sometimes members of the two teams (investigators, prosecutors) will get together. Over the twelve years, cast faces have changed, but the writing has remained consistently gripping, entertaining, often quite timely. In terms of style, Law & Order often reminds me of the original Dragnet series ("just the facts, ma'am," from Sergeant Joe Friday).
Rooster, We Are Talking About a Game Here, Aren't We?
Yes, we are; and it's a wonderful game! Not only has Dead on the Money been modeled almost precisely on the format of the T.V. show, but also one of the show's writers has helped with the script, and three of the primary actors are present as your companions—in terms of physical, dialogue and voice representations! It's even very timely in its subject matter.
Throughout this review, I'll be careful not to give too much away in terms of spoilers. I think it's initially safe to give a first description of the crime, as shared by the developer: "Hotshot investment broker Jenny Russ was found strangled in Central Park and you must find her murderer. Was the killer an unhappy client, a former lover, or a complete stranger? Step into the world of Law & Order to apprehend and convict Jenny's murderer."
"Lemme Give You a Few Tips Before You Go out on this One" —Lennie
You'll be hearing tips and sarcasm from your partner, Lennie (as voiced by Jerry Orbach). Let's take his advice this time and look at an overview of the game design. After a smooth 700 MB install, DOTM gives an option of tutorials, which are recommended even for the experienced adventurer. These carefully guide you through elements of both detecting and prosecuting. For example, as a detective, with Lennie beside you, you'll be:
Examining and collecting evidence, often adding it to your case file;
Deciding to request lab tests or research reports with some evidence;
Sometimes having to solve a puzzle or type a password before getting to the evidence;
Interviewing witnesses and suspects, sometimes multiple times, adding results to your case file;
Deciding to request a research report, surveillance, and/or psychiatric evaluation;
Requesting search and, when your act finally comes together, arrest warrants.
If and when you are successful with the arrest, and Van Buren approves, you'll be joined by Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn (as voiced by the show's star). Here, in the second half prosecution phase, you'll engage in such tasks as:
Conducting research on relevant legal issues;
Engaging in further investigation of areas explored in the first half of the game;
Presenting, at trial, witnesses and evidence that support your case;
Cross-examining defense witnesses;
Dealing with questions, objections and the general ebb and flow of the trial; and
Ultimately, after your closing argument, convincing the jury that you're right!
Prior to beginning each phase (detecting and prosecuting) of the game, you're given a choice of "skills," or helping strengths. You may select zero, one or two, and these stick with you throughout each half. To modify them, you'd have to restart, something you really don't want to do! The skills or strengths include:
Interview—helps reduce unhelpful or irrelevant questions during interviews;
Evidence collection—cursor presents a magnifying glass over viewable items;
Teamwork—your supervisor gives hints via cell phone, precinct chalkboard, and D.A. office fax machine;
Efficiency—actions cost less game time.
"That's about It; We'd Better Get Going; Seems There's Never Enough Time" —Lennie
Ah ... the infamous "clock," about which you may have heard. In brief, as Lennie might say: "don't sweat it." As a detective, you have seven eight-hour days to make an arrest and as an ADA two eight-hour days for investigation. However, the "clock" doesn't literally tick away. Rather, actions taken (evidence collection, interviewing, etc.) chip away, typically in 15-minute segments, at the time allowed. Just exploring, even looking at things, or sitting idle costs nothing. It's when you take an action, add an item to inventory, that the clock ticks. It can be a problem if you get carried away with all of the stuff collectible at the crime scene, much of which is irrelevant to the case, in that this can give a bad, irrecoverable start to the game. However, the developer, who is supporting the game very nicely, has offered this patch, which effectively makes the clock a nonissue if you select the "efficiency" skill.
I did restart the game several times in order to fiddle with the various skills and see what was different when a particular one or ones were chosen. They're interesting. For example, with the "teamwork" skill, you may have a call from the sergeant that you otherwise wouldn't have had, saying: "It's Van Buren; you may have overlooked something at the crime scene; maybe you two should take another look," or Lennie saying: "Looks like we're missing something here." With the "interview" skill, you'll not be encouraged to make such comments (which cost "time") as: "Nice place; you own this?" I finally selected the "efficiency" (couldn't resist that patch) and "evidence collection" skills. With the patch, you can really meander, take your time, pick up a lot of stuff and talk with a lot of folks.
"Who Hasn't Got a Motive?" —Lennie
Dead on the Money runs full-screen at 640x480 resolution, and it looks great. I installed the QuickTime provided on the CD (of which there are three) and had not a single crash, glitch or other problem with the game during the entire enjoyable experience.
You play in the first person, with a full 360-degree viewpoint; mouse is used for movement. A hot cursor depicts conversations and evidence available. A small navigation bar at the bottom of the screen is activated with the space bar. Icons are present for the map, case file, cell phone and main menu. The "dreaded" game clock is also shown with time left. The main menu allows up to 15 saves, which can be activated anywhere in the game and overwritten if needed. I only used nine.
The map allows for travel between places in the game, with the number of sites increasing as your case builds. "Travel times" are a bit slow in loading, but not seriously so.
The case file is beautifully done. Up to 52 items can be stored in the inventory. One or more of the items can then be dragged and dropped into sections of the case file—lab test, surveillance, psychiatric evaluation or research requests. Search and arrest warrants, as well as subpoena sections, are also present.
Not only is the overall graphical presentation of DOTM very satisfying, but there is special pleasure in the faces and expressions of your associates, witnesses and suspects. Lennie, Van Buren and Southerlyn look like their T.V. counterparts. Lennie will raise an eyebrow at an appropriate time. Indeed, he'll occasionally look over to you while you're questioning a suspect with clear facial expressions suggesting such thoughts as: "Hey, that's a lie, we got him/her;" or "Yeah, right, who does he/she think they're kidding!" In that regard, while questioning, the responder will sometimes look to you, then to Lennie, much as you might expect in a real team situation. Your questions are unvoiced (script only), while responses and Lennie's questions are voiced (no text, unfortunately).
As you might guess, the script and voice acting are outstanding. One of the joys of the T.V. show is the small segment cameos (see Dragnet, again), with varying actors. In the game, not only are the primary leads exemplary, but also the secondary characters are different, varied and consistently interesting. The musical themes and transition notes from the T.V. show are fitting to the situations, blending nicely.
Lennie's Life Observations
Lennie is a cynical New York City cop. He's seen it all and isn't very cheered by his observations of life. Along the way in the game, he'll make such comments to you as:
"Hmm, this job ever make you feel like a scavenger?" (while evidence collecting);
"Some mornings it pays to stay in bed" (after viewing the early morning jogger victim);
"My ex said you should never mix your money issues with your marriage problems—too bad she didn't remember that at our divorce hearing;"
"Everybody wants to join the party, until they wake up the next morning with a hangover;"
"It's our job to bother people;"
"Seems like you need a password to use the john these days;" and my personal favorite:
"I guess women are as temperamental as the stock market!"
And the Murderer Is ...
If you proceed carefully, methodically and with a decent degree of intuition and intelligence, you should come to the point where you can request an arrest warrant from the D.A. If you've fallen short somehow, he'll make such a comment as: "You need to work shrewder, not just longer; as far as I can tell, you don't have a case yet." Once you have your act completely together, your reward for Part One is the statement: "Alright, tell — we've got a reservation for her/him at Rikers." And, of course, the closure/reward for part two—the trial—is conviction, or is it?
Law & Order: Dead on the Money is one of the finest police procedural or detective adventure games ever created. Being a fan of the series may give a positive bias toward the game but, just as clearly, being a fan of the series would lead me to be very critical if the game did not fairly represent the quality of the show. Frankly, I wasn't expecting this fine an effort, cynically worried that the game might just be a quickie spin-off from the T.V. series. How wrong I was; how pleased I became; and how happy you'll be with this game. There are virtually no nits I can pick, especially with the "clock" patch now available. The writing is superb, with suspense, misdirection, humor, careful mystery plotting. The acting is outstanding, not only with the main characters who clearly enjoyed themselves and gave their all, but also with the bit players. Game construction in terms of how it's played and how you progress is clear, efficient, logical. Graphics, particularly facial expressions, are well above average.
I am pleased to award Dead on the Money a Gold Star. It's the most enjoyable gaming experience of any type I've had in the last couple of months and, whether a fan of the T.V. show or not, the game is highly recommended. One truly hopes this is the first of a series. Congratulations to all involved!
Rooster's Hints and Tips
Get the patch.
Select "Efficiency" (patch related) and "evidence collection" as your two skills.
Save just before interviews in part one and just before witnesses take the stand in part two.
Don't pick up every little thing, especially at the crime scene, and be careful what you kick out of your inventory—it's irretrievable once you exit, whereas you can go back if you haven't yet acquired it.
Len Green has a wonderful walkthrough here, but don't use it unless really stuck—as in, "I know I've got my gal/guy; why won't they let me arrest him/her?" (cf. supporting evidence and witnesses with the arrest warrant).
-- "Old Rooster", Four Fat Chicks