Law and Order: Legacies Hands-On Preview

Although it doesn’t have a lot of shootouts, car chases, or fistfights, Law and Order is still one of the best crime dramas on TV. The show’s realistic, procedural detail and “ripped from the headlines” plots will soon be featured in a new adventure series from Telltale Games, launching on the App Store next week.

Unlike the games based on Back To The Future and Jurassic Park (Telltale’s most recent NBC/ Universal licenses), Law and Order: Legacies doesn’t seem to have a lot of exploration or frantic quick-time events. Instead, you’ll advance through the game by questioning witnesses one by one– first as an informal drop-in by the detectives, and then later in a courtroom, under oath.

When you interrogate a witness, they’ll offer you a bit of information about the case, which you have to choose whether to believe or not. While sometimes your witnesses will contradict themselves verbally, you’ll also have to keep an eye on their facial expressions and body language to decide if they’re telling the truth. This is where Telltale’s excellent character animation makes a big difference.

Beyond requiring you to make a “gut check” on whether or not to trust a witness, you’ll also have to piece together a larger mystery. In the first episode, a hotel maid is murdered after cleaning a room. After an initial scan of the room, which reveals DNA evidence, a driver’s license, and a cell phone, you’ll have to ask a fellow maid to give you the full details of the victim’s personal history. Doing so successfully will lead you to the next witness, and the next, all the way to the alleged perpetrator.

There are a few conversational “red herrings” that will distract you from your investigation, and if you stray too far from your line of questioning in the courtroom, you risk losing the support of the jury. According to Telltale, you’ll be able to reach different endings in each episode, based on how well you made your case to the jury, and whether or not you made a plea bargain in the judge’s quarters.

Law and Order: Legacies looks like it will offer varied and interesting cases, including a few based on current events, like the Occupy Wall Street protests. These twisting plots will require you to pay attention closely, and you’ll be ranked based on the quality of your investigation and denouement. Assisting you are the stylized likenesses (but not the voices) of several cast members from Law and Order, SVU, and Criminal Intent. There’s even a flashback starring Jerry Orbach’s character that makes up most of Episode 2.

Law and Order: Legacies felt to us like a more realistic, cinematic version of Capcom’s courtroom adventure series Phoenix Wright, and it’s thankfully devoid of the quick-time gimmicks that plagued Jurassic Park: The Game. The first episode will launch next Thursday, December 22, for $2.99 as a universal app, with the second episode available immediately and four more coming next year as separate in-app purchases.

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