Law & Order II: Double or Nothing Preview

Actors Jerry Orbach, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Elisabeth Röhm will reprise their TV roles in this upcoming adventure-game sequel.

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Mystery-solving makes for good television and movies--if it's done right. It also lends itself well to graphical adventure games, since, just like solving a real-life case, adventure games often challenge you to solve puzzles and discuss the clues with various characters. Developer Legacy Interactive seized the opportunity to make a game based on the hit TV series Law & Order. While the original game had nice-looking graphics, it was criticized for having a restrictive time limit. For improved gameplay, the sequel will no longer have a time limit. New additions have also been made that should help make the game a bit easier to play for Law & Order beginners as well as experts.

It's a good thing that Lennie Briscoe is on your side.
It's a good thing that Lennie Briscoe is on your side.

The game stars three major characters from the TV show: Detective Lennie Briscoe, voiced by actor Jerry Orbach; Lieutenant Anita Van Buren, voiced by actress S. Epatha Merkerson; and Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn, voiced by actress Elisabeth Röhm. Like the first game, and like the TV show, Law & Order II will consist of two major parts: on-the-street investigation with Detective Briscoe and courtroom deliberation with ADA Southerlyn. As in the first game, you'll be able to choose two special skills that will aid you in your ability to solve cases. These skills include evidence collection, which helps you pick up clues from a crime scene, and the all-new collaboration skill, which will actually provide in-game hints for you based on your current cache of evidence and notes.

You'll begin the game just after the discovery of a brutal murder by an apparently innocent bystander, in much the same cinematic fashion as the opening of one of the TV episodes. As Detective Briscoe's partner, you must help him search the crime scene for clues as well as for any possible witnesses, suspects, and/or leads. If you've chosen the evidence collection skill, you'll be able to better comb the crime scene for evidence and can look for small items that may bear fingerprints. You may also discover written records that can give insight into the killer's identity. Evidence can be sent back to the boys at the lab, while witnesses can be questioned with the aid of the interview skill (which helpfully eliminates useless questions from your inquiry). As in the first game, witnesses can also be followed by surveillance officers, or they can be given background checks.

If you can acquire enough evidence to obtain a warrant, you can make your collar, and then you can follow up with preparations for a formal court hearing. This basically involves checking with the district attorney to discuss the case and its merits. If what you've got doesn't quite seem up to snuff, you'll be given the opportunity to go back over your notes so you can strengthen your case before you arrange your evidence and list of witnesses using the subpoena--a folder that organizes everything in one view.

Dick Wolf would be proud.
Dick Wolf would be proud.

After the trial begins, you can call witnesses and grill them for information--hopefully by means of questions that will help prove the accused's guilt. You'll also have to sit through opposing counsel Duncan's cross-examination and must object whenever his questions stray too far from the point. Once you've gone through your witnesses, you'll be able to rest your case and do a bit of last-minute sleuthing to fill in any gaps in your witnesses' testimonies. Then you prepare for the defense's case and must cross-examine Duncan's witnesses. If you can make a strong enough case, you'll be able to sway the jury's decision and get a conviction. Otherwise, you'll lose the case, the game, and bragging rights on Duncan.

Law & Order II's graphics look fairly good, though much of the game's basic interface and some characters seem to have been reused from the first game. Its voice work, especially from the TV show's actors, seems believable, and the game even uses the trademark black-screen transitions (accompanied by the two-note chord theme) from the TV show. The game is scheduled to ship later this year.

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