Who is the greatest detective ever? Some would say Batman, but to most it would probably be the great Sherlock Holmes. Despite Sherlock Holmes being a fictional character, many associate him with being the greatest ever. That is in part due to his uncanny ability to use forensic science, logic and deduction, and his overall knowledge of everything to solve difficult cases and crimes. With the help of his esteemed colleague and friend, Dr. John Watson, these two solve some of the world’s most baffling cases. With that said, creating a successful Sherlock Holmes game would seem like a bit of a challenge in order to bring the authenticity of it all in to game format, but who better to do that then Frogwares who have had years of experience bringing proper Sherlock Holmes games to willing gamers. Their latest is Sherlock Homes: Crimes & Punishment and takes their Sherlock Holmes series to a whole new level.
Considering this is a Sherlock Holmes game, you would think that the game itself would draw upon the original works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That’s actually isn’t the case. Yes, the characters and world are based on his works, but the stories in this game are not. These are brand new stories and mysteries made exclusively for Crimes & Punishment, but have been hand crafted to give that authentic Sherlock Holmes experience. These aren’t stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but they feel like they could have been.
There are six original stories in Crimes & Punishment, each tailor made exclusively for this game. The trailer above will give you an idea of what to expect in the game and a taste of the different storylines you’ll encounter while playing. For instance, the first mission has you investigating the murder of a character named Black Peter. I won’t spoil much, but let’s just say this isn’t your everyday murder scene. What’s nice about these encounters is that each story is pretty long, providing several hours of gameplay. Each are well thought out and each could have been their own game. None of the stories really tie together so once you finish one, there isn’t that urgency to start the next in order to further the story. You can basically play these at your own pace, which is quite nice.
If you’re an action fan, Sherlock Homes: Crimes & Punishment might not be the game for you, as there is really very little “action” in the game. This is a mystery game in which you mainly visit locations to search for clues, ask people questions for clues, and interrogate suspects for even more clues. It’s a very slow paced game, but it needs to be if you are trying to be thorough with your investigations. You’ll usually start things off by visiting a crime scene. This involves questioning witnesses and those closest to the victim. You will be tasked with investigating the crime scene itself and collecting clues, data, and possible motive for the murders. You do this in a variety of different ways.
The simplest way to find clues is to just look around. Items of interest are labeled with text boxes and all you have to do it just click on them to pick them up or look at them to get information about them. Looking closely at these objects will often yield clues you would not have spotted if you did not pick them up.
Next, Holmes has something called detective vision that lets him spot clues that would otherwise be missed by lesser investigators. You will be using this early on in the game and it comes into play often. Holmes also does this thing where when he is questioning a suspect or witness, time freezes and he is able to examine them for clues. These are just random clues though as there is a list on the screen which you check off as you find clues that you need based off of their looks and their clothing.
For the most part, you’ll have to travel around town to find the clues you need to solver these cases and that also requires a visit to the police station as well as your own home to dig through your vast collection of research material. What’s good here is that you aren’t just aimlessly wandering around town to look for clues. Your handy notebook will tell you what your next tasks are as well as possible places you need to visit. Your notebook is also where all your clues are clipped as well as what you’ve learned so far about the case.
After gathering enough clues, you can go into this weird mind mapping area in the game where clues can be linked to other clues forming deductions. This is actually really neat as it’s up to you as the player to form these deductions. If you can’t figure out which clues to link together, you can do the whole trial and error thing and just try to link whatever you can together until something works. It’s not quite as fun this way, but if you’re struggling, just know that’s a way you can do it.
Once you think you’ve put enough of the clues together and started to put all the pieces into perspective, you’ll be able to come to a logical conclusion of “who done it,” whether it is right or wrong. There is only one true culprit for each crime, but like I said, you can accuse anyone of the crime.
I’ve never seen any of the previous Sherlock Holmes games from Frogwares before but for a PS4 game, this one looks quite good. I mean it’s not at the level of something like Destiny or some of the big name games, but I’m actually quite impressed with this. The character models in the game are very good and quite realistic, and the real treat is the environment. There is so much detail in the environment that it really makes the game come alive and immerses you in this world that they’ve built around Sherlock Holmes. This isn’t a bare bones type of game. Each area you visit is filled to the brim with details to look at. You’ll spend much of your time examining your environment so it only makes sense the developer spent a lot of time in this area.
Back to the character models, these are actually quite good as well. These look like real people and not strange, cartoon versions of people. Characters are quite realistic looking and again, there is tons of detail included. What’s rather neat here is that the details are so good, you can see things like individual hair strands and even facial imperfections. Even the fabric on their clothing looks wonderful. The devs went the extra mile making Sherlock Holmes as realistic as possible in order to keep you immersed in the reality of the world itself.
On top of the gorgeous visuals, players will also be treated with some amazing voice acting. Again, surprising for a game that isn’t coming from one of the big named, more well known studios. There is a lot of talking in this game which for a game that plays out like a movie, it’s a welcome thing. Crimes & Punishment would be a much different game if much of it was presented in text format and we’re lucky that it isn’t. The voice acting is very, very good. Each character has their own distinct personalities and all the actors who participated in bringing these characters to life really did a superb job.
This where opinions will vary between players. It’s a very different type of game that console players might not be used to playing. The game plays like a 3rd person shooter, but there is no shooting involved. Much of the game is just walking around and exploring to search for clues. There aren’t any action sequences or platforming sections. It’s mainly all go here, investigate, then go someplace else and investigate some more. However, what it lacks in action, it makes up for with an in depth story, unique gameplay elements, and fantastic voice acting. All of which are very good and though this might now be one of those big named, big budget games, I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you find here.
I actually really enjoy the slower pacing of the game and it’s a nice change from what I’m used to. I like that the game leans heavily on exploration and deduction and warrants more thought than most games. This is one of the few games this year that really makes you think in order affect the outcome of the ending.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishment is one of the biggest surprises this year for me. Not many people were really talking about the game pre-release and even now, it’s a game that isn’t really talked about much. That’s a shame because this is a fantastic mystery adventure game that fully captures the heart and soul of Sherlock Holmes. There is lots of exploration and mystery involved and the fact that there are so many different ending for each quest based on your own decisions means that you’ll be able to go through each several times. There are also a lot of different game mechanics littered throughout the game which really helps with the variety. I just like that the game is much different from the types of games I usually play. It’s a rather refreshing change of pace.
What’s surprising to me is that this game includes so many separate stories, each of which could have easily been a separate game or separate DLC content, but it isn’t. It’s all collected on one disc and part of the overall game. That’s a huge value, especially for players who these days find that many games just lack a proper story. This one has six of them.