Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments PS4 Review
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Developer: Frogwares Genre: Adventure Players: 1
Age Rating: 16+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
Sherlock Holmes is a fascinating character. As developer Frogwares have been making games based on the famous detective since early last decade, they obviously know the character inside and out by now. Years of experience with the character and adventure games has resulted in the pleasing result that is Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments; Frogware’s latest game to feature the eccentric detective and his admiring sidekick, Dr. John Watson.
Unlike previous games in Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes series, Crimes & Punishments actually features six different cases as opposed to a single larger story. The voice acting and writing is excellent, and it’s evident that Holmes is in good and experienced hands, with the eccentric, genius and occasional arrogance of the character well captured.
It has to be said that many of the supporting characters are lacking in depth, which is certainly disappointing. More time could have been used to better flesh their personalities out, as such crime stories are also often character studies, after all. Some characters don’t even have enough screen time to get a true feel as to whom they are and to what makes them tick.
The six cases are full of mystery and intrigue, and include gruesome murders, thefts and even a disappearing train. It’s possible to play through one of the cases, and then return to the game weeks and weeks down the line to begin a fresh case, as the stories are completely separate. There is a recurring theme that is mentioned in the story and is revisited from time to time, although, like previously mentioned, it’s not present enough to force you to play the game right through in a few weeks or so.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is an adventure game that made me feel like a detective, but not only did it make me feel like a detective, it made me feel like the world’s greatest detective, which is high praise indeed for a Sherlock Holmes game. Yes, Crimes & Punishments is the very definition of a detective procedural if ever there was one, and it certainly does things better than the likes of L.A. Noire before it.
At the start of each case, you obviously receive some knowledge as to what crime has been committed, and then you head to the scene of the crime to put your investigative prowess to good use. You’ll comb different environments for clues, question family members, witnesses and suspects, solve puzzles, and draw your own conclusions as to who you think the culprit of the crime is.
Yes, as suggested above, the story isn’t completely linear, and using the deduction board to link clues together based on what you think is the correct line of inquiry to follow, you’ll then eventually be able to accuse someone of the crime in question once you have gathered enough evidence, and as long as none of your deductions are contradictory. At the end of the case, it’s then up to you if you want to absolve or condemn the culprit, which is a nice way to close the book on the case. It’s even possible to get things entirely wrong if you aren’t thorough enough in your investigating, although it’s left entirely up to you if you want the game to let you know if you have got things right or not.
During investigations, the game’s Sherlock Vision mechanic proves helpful from time to time, as when you turn the feature on it allows you to spot certain things during investigations that are invisible to everyone but the keen eye of the famous detective. There’s also an ‘imagination’ mechanic, and this allows you to create timelines of different events by getting the actions of specific characters in order.
The game also has puzzles from time to time, which includes everything from lock picking to chemical testing in Holmes’ lab. If you find the puzzles too tricky, it’s possible to skip them, which cuts down on the frustration or having to pause the game to hunt down a walkthrough.
Pauses do come in the form of rather lengthy loading screens though. The majority of the environments are relatively small, and you’ll be going back and forth to different environments during each case, which may annoy some. Still, at least you are able to refer to your case files and your deductions while you are waiting for the loading cycle to finish.
Visually, the move to the Unreal engine means that Crimes & Punishments is a huge leap forward for the series, with the characters in particular being worthy of a mention. Each character has staggering detail, and when you use Holmes’ quick thinking brain to profile different characters, it not only shows off his genius, but it’s also a brilliant way for Frogwares to showcase their wonderful character models.
It’s not all good though, as the characters are mostly expressionless in their faces, which spoils how amazing they otherwise look. With this said, while characters do look wonderful, they also more resemble puppets in motion as opposed to living and breathing human beings. Budget constraints are perhaps to blame, although it’s still bothersome all the same. The same can be said of the rather unsteady framerate.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is a game that makes excellent use of the character, and it will make many want to hunt for as many of the clues as possible in order to make the correct decisions. Long loading times and issues with the framerate and characters does knock a point off, although as an adventure and detective procedural, this comes highly recommended.