Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is the latest title from Frogwares where we have to solve a number of mysteries as the famous detective. Watson is also along for the ride and provides help when needed. With this new Sherlock Holmes game, the development team at Frogwares has upgraded to Unreal Engine 3 which means this is the best looking game to date featuring Mr. Holmes. The graphical fidelity is not the only thing to receive an upgrade however as the audio is done really well, whether it is environmental sounds or Holmes responding to someone with a quick one liner.
There are six different mysteries to solve throughout the game with each one changing things up so it doesn’t feel as repetitive. It is true that you will be doing some of the same things within these cases such as using your analysis table to conduct tests on clues you have found and searching your archives for references, however, things are different enough where it can be a nice change of pace. For one case I had to mix some chemical compounds to come up with something that would help me remove ink, another case had me trying to recreate an ancient weapon and another case had me trying to reconstruct the crime scene so I could get a better idea of what had transpired. There are also a variety of puzzles that you will encounter throughout the game. These puzzles can be fun to do at first but after a while they get a bit repetitive. With that said though, the development team made it so you can skip these mini-games if you want and automatically have it solved. This can be a really great feature if you are trying to pick a lock for the tenth time or whatever the case may be. If you are a trophy hunter though, there are trophies relating to actually completing these mini games and not skipping them. You don’t have to complete every mini-game throughout your adventure but you have to do a decent number of them.
Along the way you get access to Sherlock’s “powers” that will help you solve some of these complex mysteries. One of the things that Sherlock Holmes is known for is his deductive reasoning and it is on full display here as you comb through different locations for clues and try and put two and two together without getting five. Along the way you will come across many different witnesses that you need to speak with and you need to be able to tell when someone is lying or telling the truth. One such way to do this is by completing a character portrait on the individual that you are speaking with. You do that by pressing a button on the controller which allows you to zoom in on that person and really give him the once over. There was one instance, for example, when I noticed the person I was talking with had a telegram in his pocket. By noticing that I was able to spot when he wasn’t being entirely truthful with me and when I called him out on it he finally gave me the complete story which helped with my investigation. There are environmental cues to aid your investigation as well. If you come across a table with some items that need to be examined you will see a white icon. Once you have done everything you can do at that table the icon will turn green. If you are confused or stuck on something during one of the cases it is a quick and easy way to see if you have done everything you can in one spot or another.
Another “power” is being able to see things that others can’t. By hitting the R1 button I was able to focus on my surroundings more and potentially see things I couldn’t normally. Just so you can get the proper visual, think of the eagle vision from the Assassin’s Creed franchise. When using this power as Sherlock Holmes and coming across something of value, it will glow yellow which stands out against the dark background so it is easy to see. Another thing that you can do is by visualizing what happened by using your imagination. There was one case where I was trying to find out what happened to a disappearing train and once I received all of the necessary clues I could re-enact what happened in my mind and you would see almost a ghostly outline of what happened to the train at that moment, for example. As you are piecing together all of the different clues you are gathering you can begin to make some deductions. You do this by going “inside” Sherlock’s brain where you can put two clues together to form a synapse which can then potentially build into another deduction and, by the end of the case, you will have a nice trail of deductions that will allow you to solve the case. This is also where some of the games moral choices come in to play. Sometimes putting two clues together will lead to two possible deductions and it is up to you to choose which is the correct one. If you choose option A then that might lead you to think that the first person is guilty but if you choose option B that might lead you down another path to thinking the second person is guilty. This is where your interrogations and character profiles come in to play as well. By remembering how a character responded or by remembering something else about them, it can make it easier to make a decision. In some instances you might just be dealing with someone who looks guilty but isn’t and vice versa.
Once you have solved the case and decided who the guilty culprit is you then have another moral decision to make. Do you throw the book at the guilty party or take it easy? There is a lot to consider. Was there crime malicious and premeditated or something circumstance? Do they deserve to be throwin into prison or were they just acting in self defense? There are a number of questions that you will need to ponder as you are making your final judgment. One of the cool things about this game is that it will allow you to make your judgment and then after you see how everything plays out, it gives you the chance to see what happens if you went the other route if you want to. If you have no interest in seeing that alternate outcome then you will just confirm everything and move on to the next case.
I mentioned above that Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is using the Unreal Engine 3 and because of it the game looks pretty fantastic. The audio and voice acting were also done well. There are a couple of technical issues though. There were times when I was playing where a character would glitch into the environment. There was one specific instance where Watson’s legs were basically “in” the floor and I couldn’t see his lower legs or feet. At times there were some AI path finding issues as well. I ran into a few instances where there was only one way in and out of a room and Watson would be blocking the door not allowing me to leave. I had to run back and forth a few times before he decided he should move so I could leave the room and continue my investigation. There were also times when the buttons didn’t seem to be as responsive as they could be. There were instances where when I wanted to explore something I would need to push the button two or three times to get the game to recognize it. It didn’t happen all the time and it doesn’t break the game or anything but it was a minor annoyance whenever it happened. Finally, there were times when the load times seemed to be a bit excessive. It didn’t happen all the time though which was weird. Sometimes the loading was really quick and other times, not so much.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is an entertaining journey that is full of twists and turns as you try to solve six different cases. I did get a little bit frustrated with the game at times but my overall experience was positive. If you are a fan of the Sherlock Holmes games, or even just games where you have to solve mysteries, then I definitely recommend checking out this game. There is a good amount of fun to be had here and, for me, it was a welcome change of pace from a bunch of the other games that are coming out this holiday season.
Originally posted on Gaming Target