Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment Review

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Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment Review

Developer: Frogwares

Publisher: Focus Home Interactive

Platform Reviewed: PS4

Release date: 03/10/2014

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous characters in modern literature; A fictional detective based in London at the turn of the 20th century. He is a complicated man, as flawed as he is brilliant. A keen eye for detail, an immense volume of knowledge and an almost unmatched level of intelligence are not dampened by his abuse of narcotics, his distrust in women or, as he puts it, the fruitless pursuit of love and all its distractions. Narrated by his friend and colleague Dr. John Watson, Holmes’s tales are ones of blackmail, larceny and murder.

With the release of Sherlock Holmes: Crime and Punishment we get the opportunity to step into the shoes of the man himself. Tasked with solving six very different crimes, you will need to use all of Holmes’s legendary predatory skills to hunt down the culprits and bring them to justice. This is where this game differs from past Sherlock titles. This time, the fate of the guilty is our hands.

The majority of your time will be spent exploring crime scenes, examining clues and interviewing witnesses or suspects. An intuitive menu screen catalogues every clue, location and character interaction. Very rarely will you feel lost and without direction. The next step in your investigation is clearly signposted which eliminates the time spent wandering around aimlessly, lost and confused.

Camera viewpoints can be switched from a first person perspective to the third person at the press of a button. A useful feature, especially when exploring crime scenes. Begin an interrogation however and camera will instantly enter the first person view allowing a closer inspection of the individual. You will be able to scrutinise their emotions, clothing and belongings, searching for the smallest clue. What you find during these scenes can have a major influence on the rest of the case. The details can be small and easily missed, it’s here that you really to appreciate the keen eye that Holmes possesses.

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Further adding to the level of observation is something called ‘Sherlock Vision’. This enables closer examination of a crime scene. It will highlight clues that would otherwise be missed. For example, the floor may look completely normal to you or me, nothing out of place however, on closer inspection you notice a fragment of evidence has been left behind. This adds to level of immersion, you feel like Sherlock, you feel powerful and remarkable. It is very satisfying.

Holmes has one more weapon too add to his intimidating arsenal. Using his exceptional powers of imagination, certain actions can be reconstructed visually, how someone may have escaped for example. Blue mannequins will re-enact the scene in broken fragments of time and it is up to you decide what order these events took place. Make the correct judgement and the whole scene will be played out in its entirety, bringing you ever closer to the truth.

With each significant find, details are added to the ‘deduction board’, a spider’s web of clues you will need to decipher and piece together. Once it’s all connected you will arrive at the guilty verdict, it doesn’t end here however. It is now a choice of morality, based on everything you have you discovered about the case and it participants, will you condemn or absolve guilty? There is no right or wrong answer, the choice is yours and it will have a bearing on the rest of the game.

Crime and Punishment has been developed using the Unreal 3 engine and it shows. Victorian London has been wonderfully recreated. Realistic, finely detailed environments coupled with the dynamic lighting and solid shadows create a pleasingly believable place. Rich dwellings feel lavish and affable, whilst backstreets feel dank and abandoned to the darkness. The admirable character design, outstanding voice acting and realistic facial animations are a real step forward from previous iterations. The world which has been created is a convincing and at times, beautiful place.

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Sadly, like Holmes himself, Crime and Punishment is not without faults. Whilst it does have some very interesting puzzles, these can be easily skipped without any real punishment. This will aid players who have become completely unable to continue due to a problem they can’t solve but, it makes them feel superfluous and it cheapens the experience to some degree. The brilliant morale backbone is undermined by simply being able to replay the end of the case again. If you didn’t like the outcome of your initial verdict, press a button and change it. A more authentic approach would be forcing you to stand by your decision and live with the consequences. Especially when you consider that upon completion, each case can be replayed individually so different outcomes can be explored.

Sherlock Holmes: Crime and Punishment is a very respectable detective adventure. With well realised characters, wonderful atmosphere and some very well written and interesting cases, there is a lot to admire. Sadly it’s let down by some very forgiving gameplay choices making each case relatively easy to solve. You constantly get the feeling you are being pushed along to one particular outcome. It holds your hand a little too tightly and little too often.

Score : 6/10

Reviewer – Ian @MrBadDog28