I’m a huge Law & Order fan. If I don’t know what I want to watch at any given moment I flip over to Hulu or Netflix and pop on an episode of any one of the three different shows. Doesn’t matter to me if it’s Criminal Intent, SVU or the OG L&O. I’m all about that DUN DUN sound and Lenny Briscoe shooting off quips over bodies and at bad guys. When I heard that Tell Tale Games would be doing an episodic Law & Order game I got excited. I figured it’d have the production value of something like Sam and Max or Back to the Future. I was wrong. Law & Order Legacies is a ho-hum middle of the road point and click game with horrible graphics, bad voice acting and almost no effort put in to making it a fully realized world.
At $20 Law and Order Legacies doesn’t appear to be a bad buy. The promise of seven cases featuring some of the best characters from Law & Orders more than 20 years of history seems like a great idea. Sadly what you’re getting is a poor imitation of Law & Order but with an official title and likenesses of the characters. There isn’t a single actor from the show in this game and it shows almost immediately if you’re familiar with them. Blending shows together to give characters screen time feels more like poorly written fan fiction than an actual episode. The first case is the murder of a house maid and because there appears to be signs of sexual assault SVU’s Olivia Benson joins the case. Of course this isn’t Mariska Hargitay who has played the role for more than a decade, but an actress who kind of sounds like her. Here Benson is a wise cracker who threatens to taser a hacker who sets the protester/anonymous movement back a decade.
If there’s one thing that can be said about the game it’s that it follows the ideas of the show pretty well. Each episode starts with some one stumbling on a body, you look for clues, interrogate people, find the guilty party and then moves into a court system. Looking for evidence involves drawing circles around things to look at them. It’s lazy, unimaginative and boring. When interviewing a suspect or witness you’re given topics to talk about. Veering off topic gives you a red herring, penalty at the end of each segment. Asking the right questions and matching them up with evidence or statements gets you stars and promotes your rank, an idea taken right out of L.A. Noire, a far superior game.
Once you find your guilty party the game switches over to courtroom mode which I found far more interesting than the detective segments. You call a witness, interview them, try to stay on topic and get the right answers out of them. Then when the defense starts their interview you get to call out objections after answers or let them slide. the better you do the more points you get in your SCALES OF JUSTICE! Who ever has the most points in their side of the scales at the end wins the case. Depending on how well you do at the end of the trial you can either make a plea deal with the defendant or say no deal and watch them go away forever. We are talking about murderers here.
If it wasn’t for this courtroom mechanics I’d say this game is a total loss. I actually had fun watching my scales fill with green points every time I called objection and then clearly stated why. Everything that came before it though… that was a chore.
The biggest shame about L&O Legacies is that the production value is so low. Most o the scenes take place against a flat image of a room rather than in a fully rendered out room. It’s understandable on the iphone/ipad version of the game, but the PC/Mac version highlights every single flaw in the characters, animation, rendering techniques and models. Voice acting while subpar on some characters is only worsened by horrible lip synching, something Telltale has never been good at. Character models themselves have a strange cell shaded look and have stiff animation. Combine the poor looks with the poor character work, bad bad grounds and horrible voice acting and you have a game that is tedious to play at times.
What’s worse than all that is that the cases aren’t exactly fun. It’e interesting to see Rey Curtis miss Lenny Briscoe so much, we all miss Jerry Orbach’s character, but to then bring in a bad voice actor to try and play Lenny in flash backs feels like a cheap cash in on fans love of the character. You spend over a decade watching some one become one of TVs best loved characters and then they die. As John Mulaney said “I miss Jerry Orbach more than I miss some relatives”. Bringing out Lenny Briscoe is not a way to make some fans happy.
What’s worse is this… The game isn’t finished. At the time of this writing you’re not getting every case. You’re getting 3 out of seven cases with the promise that the other four are on the way. Now as those four come out, I’ll be sure to review them. I have a feeling that they’re not going to increase my over all opinion of the game unless the revamp the engine, add in the actual cast from the show and actual render a set rather than slapping a picture of a set behind the characters.
Bottom Line is this… slapping together a game with Law & Order in the title, having characters that kinda sound, but act nothing like their TV counterparts and then torturing me with a bad Lenny Briscoe impression isn’t going to win me over. Bad sets, terrible models, boring cases, and a pick and choose the correct answer mechanic doesn’t do anything for you either.