CSI: Crime City on Facebook: CSI goes social in new Ubisoft game

Although CSI: Crime City on Facebook is still officially in beta, it may well be one of the best uses of a licensed property in casual gaming. The game focuses on the original CSI series set in Las Vegas. Several characters make an appearance to help you along the way. Including Dr. Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne).

Crime City begins with a tutorial case, called "Sweet Revenge," that introduces you to the tools of your detective trade as well as the game's interface. Each case starts out with an animated scenario to set up the crime scene. The tutorial actually shows you who committed the crime, but leaves you without the motive. Later cases will be much more ambiguous, only introducing you to the characters before presenting the crime scene.

Each crime scene is laid out like a grid, with several squares that you can investigate. Typically, crime investigations like this would force your to click over every thing aimlessly. This grid system serves as an excellent guide, which helps to keep tedium down and fun levels up. Although squares may have blood, fibers or prints on them, they may not necessarily hold pieces of evidence. The game employs an energy meter. Depending on what kind of square you investigate, ranging from a blank square to a square with blood spatter, you will have to pay an energy cost. You only get 1 extra energy point every minute and thirty seconds so you will want to make your investigations count.

On a positive note, even if your search comes up empty, you will still gain experience points regardless of what square you click on. Gamers can uncover clues during their search, which are arrows pointing them in the direction of evidence. Each crime scene tells you just how much evidence there is to be found. However, it behooves you to search the entire area so that you can get more experience points and uncover special funding (extra cash) and energy boosts.

Energy boosts come in the way of focus challenges for special items like coffee. In these mini games you will have to match several patterns while racing against a clock. It's extremely difficult to make over four matches. If you get two matches, you will earn yourself a small coffee that gives you an extra 20 energy points. Four matches will earn you a medium coffee that gives you an extra thirty energy points.

Each location has milestones, like searching a certain percentage of the location for evidence. Every time you cover an additional 25% of the scene, you will get a bonus for added experience points.

Gamers have an array of investigative tools at their disposal including the luminol tool to investigate traces of blood and tweezers to pick up fibers. Once you find evidence you will need to take it back to the crime lab for analysis. Your crime lab starts off completely barren, except for a workbench manned by Dr. Langston. You have to save up funding to buy a Chemical, Light table, DNA, Ballistics and Microscope station. These can all be upgraded at a later time.

What's a very nice social tool in this game is the ability to travel to your friends' crime labs in order to use their investigation stations. Instead of doing all the work in your office, or exerting all of your funds at once, you and your friends can divide up different crime stations. That way you can work your way up the levels faster and marshal out the analysis work. Gamers can also purchase UbiCredits (Ubisoft money) for quick in game boosts.

At the end of every case, gamers will click "turn in case" when they have amassed enough evidence. You also get a speed rating so if you're doing this at work you probably wont earn as much. After you complete your first case you will open up the rest of the cases in Case Set 1. Gamers will also see at least three more case sets that can be unlocked. Now, you can work on multiple cases simultaneously as you wait for evidence to be analyzed in your crime lab.

Several options are still unavailable in this beta release. You can't customize your agent or view your collections yet. Also, game items coming soon include memorabilia, insects, supplies and cold cases.

CSI: Crime City is definitely one game worth checking out on Facebook. In each case, the story also gives you the occasional witty remark moments, as characters make light of the case. This added touch helps to bolster the overall experience of being an online CSI detective.

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