Playing Ubisoft's CSI games has always felt more like taking part in a truncated version of one of those cheesy murder mystery getaway weekends than actually solving a realistic crime. At every turn, these games find ways to clue you in on and push you toward exactly what you need to do next to proceed. You don't so much investigate as you go through a number of mundane motions to get to the predetermined conclusion. There's no threat of failure, nothing even remotely resembling a challenge to be found. They are less games and more mediocre episodes of the TV show that require button presses to unfold. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Hard Evidence is the fourth game in the series, and it doesn't diverge one bit from the formula laid down by its predecessors.
Hard Evidence is a mildly ironic subtitle given how stupid easy this game is.
There are five cases to solve in Hard Evidence, with victims ranging from an immolated racist cab driver to an electrocuted '80s rock group on a reality show that more than closely resembles Rock Star: INXS from a couple of years ago. As always, it's up to you to solve the crimes using the scientific tools of the trade you've likely seen on the CSI TV show. You'll be plucking bullets out of walls and matching them to various guns, dusting for finger prints, taking casts of footprints and tire treads, and even swabbing semen stains off of used condoms. No one ever said the life of a CSI was a glamorous one.
The main problem with Hard Evidence--and it's the same problem that every CSI game has ever had--is that it's so unbelievably easy. Every ounce of thought or legitimate investigation is separated from the mix, creating a sort of paint-by-numbers murder mystery. All you have to do is poke around each location, wait for your cursor to turn green to dictate that, yes, there's something for you to look at there, and then click on it. The game even decides exactly how you should collect every piece of evidence, and the most thought you have to put into it is something along the lines of "should I use ninhydrin or luminol to detect blood on this particular surface?"
If for some reason you ever do get stuck, it usually doesn't take long to figure out which scene you missed something at, since a big green checkbox goes over every piece of evidence and every scene you've investigated completely. If it doesn't have the checkbox, you missed something. Beyond that, all you have to do is make sure you've asked every question to every suspect. And if you're still somehow stuck, you can just ask any of the tagalong CSI characters for a hint. It "counts against your evaluation" at the very end, but that evaluation doesn't really mean anything.