Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments by Ukrainian-based developer, Frogwares Games
Rather than bowing to the popularity of the modern day setting, Frogwares have admirably continued their more traditionally historic take on the character for their latest release by keeping the game set in 19th century London in line with the original novels. There have been a few amendments to bring the series both technically and thematically up to date, but it’s nonetheless good to see the developer sticking to its guns and delivering a ‘classic’ Holmes experience.
In years gone by, you could see an investigation based adventure game finding its small niche in the market before inevitably disappearing without much of a trace, but thanks to the combined current popularity of the character and the re-emergence of the ‘adventure’ genre thanks largely to the likes of Telltale’s recent efforts, Frogwares latest has a much better chance of making a considerable impact in the market this time around…..something it unquestionably deserves.
It’s hardly the best looking game on current-gen consoles, but given the relatively small size of the team and the limited budget, Frogwares have done an admirable job of giving this latest release an element of triple-A sheen thanks in part to its use of Unreal Engine 3 and a commitment to current-gen consoles. Technical limitations, an array of invisible walls and a handful of visual kinks do eventually reveal its budget origins, but be it on PS3 / 360 or PS4 / Xbox One, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments delivers a largely striking recreation of Victorian-era London.
Even with its technical limitations though, Frogwares’ attention to detail, artistic design and clear love for the source material really does elevate this game above its station to create an experience that fans of the books, the recent show and adventure games in general, can all really enjoy.
Despite the games’ 6 cases not being linked, something that does rob the decisions that you make of any genuine lasting consequence, it does allow for a consistent shift in both tone and location, something that helps to keep the experience fresh, although arguably at the expense of a more consistent experience. While the cases range in quality (a perfect 50/50 split) from highly predictable to pleasantly obtuse, the underlying mechanics that define the experience ensure that, even amidst the weaker cases, Crimes & Punishments is rarely anything less than highly enjoyable.
While general investigations go some way toward building up your knowledge of case, with these moments played out in third person amidst the often gorgeously rendered scenery and a handful of carefully crafted puzzles, it is the all new, first person, ‘Detective Mode’, that really brings the series bang up to date and the first real sign of how development has been affected by the UK-based TV show.
Here, you get to incorporate Sherlock’s world renowned detective skills by taking in minor details of characters or surroundings and subsequently deducting what the appearance of each might mean to the case. From there, you can use that evidence to cross-examine the witness before heading off to the, ‘Deductive Space’ which provides an ingenious representation of Sherlock’s thought process through connecting pathways made up of the information gathered in your investigation.
It’s a shame that those in power never argue against your findings and that, once a decision has been made, you can actually go back and change your mind, but the system itself actually works extremely well. By blocking contradictions as you go, each case allows for a handful of different outcomes based upon your findings and actions with each decision, while potentially unique, at least built upon a logical argument that won’t make Sherlock look like an idiot come the end of the case.
With so much of the game based upon character interactions, you’ll be glad to know that the majority are well voiced, believable and, for the most part, visually convincing. A few minor characters let the side down, but the major players all play there part admirably with Sherlock in particular, and his unique brand of oddly likeable egotism and arrogance, making for an extremely enjoyable if somewhat one dimensional lead. It can’t match the likes of, L.A. Noire for facial animations, and on closer inspection, does throw up the occasional visual quirk or two, but for the most part, the visual and audio design just about match the ambition of the mechanics that drive the narrative.
Sherlock could arguably do with an extra layer as a character (a doubt or two would make him more human…..but arguably less Sherlock), and the supporting cast is something of a mixed bag, but despite these minor gripes and a handful of technical issues (the load times are especially long), Frogwares’ latest take on the ever popular, Sherlock Holmes is a huge success and yet another sign of the adventure genres’ on-going place at the top table of video game development.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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