Developer: Ubisoft Shanghai / Publisher: Ubisoft / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $39.99 / ESRB: Teen [Blood, Suggestive Themes, Violence]
There are a few reasons that NCIS The Game isn’t my game. I’ve never seen NCIS the show, for one. Also I have a mental capacity that outpaces an attention deficit squirrel, which means that the game is simplified to the point of insult. With terrible dialogue, a horrible story, and gameplay that’s equivalent to matching shapes and colors at its most complex, I can’t imagine the person that would be entertained by this game… but if he exists I hope I never meet him.
NCIS The Game is a collection of horrible minigames connected with annoying point-and-click investigation interludes. Each of the game’s four episodes opens with a TV-style intro movie, followed by stilted and crappy TV-caliber banter that tries and fails to introduce levity. Then a crime happens which tangentially involves the Navy. Then, you’re dropped at the crime scene to hunt and peck for evidence with an on-screen cursor. This is minimally involving, and several pieces of evidence are hard to see — especially bullet holes which are a recurring annoyance. From there you grind through basic minigames that each, in their own special way, find ways to bore and mystify you with their simplicity.
For instance, occasionally the NCIS leader guy (I didn’t bother to remember any of their names) will demand that one of his subordinates go to the “deduction board,” where you draw connections between pieces of evidence. Here, you select two pieces of evidence that are related and try and explain why from a list of four options. The options are littered with absurd answers that make the correct answer obvious, even if you haven’t been paying attention to the investigation at all. On top of that, the matching evidence can be so arbitrary that I resorted to just brute-forcing every match until one clicked.
Other minigames are just as pointless, such as the interrogation minigame that just requires you hit A at the right time to ask your subject more questions. There’s a minigame to hack an information database that you’d assume would be readily accessible to investigators. There’s a thumbprint-lifting minigame where all you have to do is hold right, press A, hold left, and then press the left trigger five times in a row. The process is as mechanically complex as folding laundry, only way easier and less interesting.
To make matters worse, the story and characters represented in the game are terrible. I haven’t seen the show, but if it’s anything like the game it must be the worst show in existence. There are generic terrorists in the show, but they spew laughable stereotypes like calling Americans “capitalist oppressors” and threaten to “rain fire on your heads.” There’s apparently some sort of foreigner in the show’s cast but all she does is over-enunciate all her words like a robot in place of any identifiable accent. The boss of the NCIS crew is just an asshole that tells everyone else to do his work for him. None of these characters are likable, nor are the stories they participate in enjoyable.
Even though the game is just a collection of basic minigames, it still manages to control extremely poorly. During investigations, the on-screen cursor is extremely hard to position on small objects in the environments, like the aforementioned bullet holes. Most of the minigames are obviously tuned around using a mouse, which makes them feel very awkward with a controller.
Visuals and Sound
As you might guess given the tone of this review, NCIS The Game looks and sounds awful. Character models of the cast have the same stiff, soulless look that I associate with early PlayStation 2 licensed games. To make matters worse, the voice-over performance delivered is so apathetic it becomes painful to hear these characters pretend to care about anything. The few actors that try to deliver any kind of performance are hamstrung by a terrible script full of platitudes and stereotypes.
NCIS The Game is pedestrian in every way, with its only conceivable virtue being that it has easy achievements. The perfect storm hit during one of my deduction sessions, in which I discovered the bank criminal had used his debit card a block from the scene of the crime.
Our criminal is stupid. And so is this game.