Developer: French Crime
Release Date: November 25, 2021
Note: Up until a few days ago, this game was called PCI: Public Crime Investigation. Earlier this month, it was temporarily made unavailable for purchase on Steam, but purchasing was re-enabled with the game’s title changed to French Crime. I was unable to find any information about the reason for the change after the game had been out for most of a year.
Choosing to cover French Crime for this project was a no-brainer, and was one of the more expensive titles I picked up with that in mind. Sure, I probably would have grabbed it eventually anyway, but I’ve been a pretty big fan of crime-solving FMV titles in the past, and this one includes six different cases at two difficulty levels.
Well, I guess technically it includes four cases, as the first two cases can be played for free via their website or their app, but if you want to be able to save your progress and have your score appear on the rankings board, you’ll need to create an account to do so.
I’ve now played through the first case – Phantasm – which is estimated to take about 90 minutes, but I finished it in just over an hour with only a single error towards the end of the game. Unfortunately, mistakes – especially in the later parts of a case – will drastically impact your score. The first question you answer correctly nets you 5 points, and the second 10, and so on. However, missing a question will not only cause you to lose points for a wrong answer, but will reset your cumulative answer score to 5 points again. It seems like getting right answers is the only thing that effects your score – if there’s a component related to time, or the questions you ask in interrogations, it’s not clear.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
Although all the text of the game is in English (and there does not seem to be anywhere to change that), all of the dialogue in the FMV segments is in French, with English subtitles. Now, my French is super rusty but – at least as far as words I recognized – the translation seemed to be very solid.
The concept, of course, is borderline absurd. Budget cuts have led to police understaffing, so they are just letting anyone sign up to solve crimes. I honestly would probably have preferred if they didn’t go for the easy excuse and just let the game be a game. You’ll be dropped right into Phantasm via text message.
A few notes: there is realistic gore when you’re looking at crime scene photos, and again, there doesn’t seem to be any way to avoid it. I suppose they figure it’s to be expected if you’re trying to solve a murder. The first case has some fairly explicit elements to it – at the risk of being spoilery, the woman whose murder you’re investigating worked for an escort service, and while there’s certainly nothing here that’s pornographic, there’s definitely some images and evidence that is very sexual in nature.
What was a bit disappointed, however, is that you really don’t have to figure anything out for yourself. At least in the first case, the game gives you all of the information you need, right up until it’s time to send the file to court for sentencing. Then you have an abundance of evidence, some of which is critical to making your case, but most of which is extraneous. Choose your culprit, make sure to include the evidence that implicates them, and request a sentence that fits the crime.
If this sounds like something you might enjoy, I would highly recommend trying out the first case (provided you’re ok with a bit of blood & that it gets a bit racy). It is an appealing package for me, as a big fan of crime fiction & police procedural media, but if you’re looking for something that’s really going to strain your brain, you’re likely to find it a bit dull, and it does require an online connection at all times.
SteamDB estimates that French Crime has sold between 620 and 1,700 copies on Steam. Reviews have been almost entirely positive, with the few negative reviews mostly complaining about the third party account requirement, which is no longer true of the steam release. Still, those dire sales means that it is ranked 2603 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.