Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment is an investigation style game with a gentle nod to the great point and click adventure titles of the early 90’s when full exploration and experimentation were required, not just added for fun. Developed by Frogwares and published by Focus Home Interactive Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment was released for Xbox One (and Xbox 360) on September 30th.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment takes place in 19th century London and the surrounding suburbs composed of varied and somewhat exotic locations including central London with its dark and grimy alleys, sun kissed Chinese Gardens, the Roman ruins of St Albans and the world famous Kew Gardens. It draws inspiration from and resonates with the Russian novel Crime and Punishment by the novelist and philosopher Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky. Dostoyevsky’s literary works explore human psychology in the context of the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmosphere of 19th century Russia. Frogwares have focused on the player finding the right culprit and making the moral choice of either absolving or condemning the culprit with various outcomes and knock-on effects dependent on the your choice.
There are six unique cases in Sherlock Holmes Crimes & Punishments and each one has clearly been inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories and also written in the same traditional style. Each new case opens up a number of new locations to explore and clues that will need to be pieced together. Exploring and gathering clues will take up the majority of your time in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment. As you progress and discover new clues they’ll be added to a list of deductions accessible from the Y button. Clues are gathered from crime scenes, exploring places of interest, interrogating suspects in Scotland Yard and performing autopsies on the victims’ bodies if you’ve the stomach for it.
It is from this deduction board (if you will) that you’ll start linking pieces of information together. Clues can be pieced together in multiple ways that lead to possible different deductions and outcomes and based on how you interpret the information you’ll be faced with a variety of different conclusions. In Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment the player can actually fail in finding the correct and guilty culprit if they’ve not spent enough time exploring and reviewing all the available information and hidden clues. Once players have reached a conclusion they are happy with it’s time to decide on condemning or absolving the suspect. The moral choice that players are asked to make will influence gameplay further through the game. Each case will have 3-5 possible solutions; and in total there are 6-10 different endings for each case.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment has a number of new and interesting game mechanics, including Sherlock Holmes’ skill to guess many details about someone’s life simply by glancing at them. When this takes place players enter a first-person view for a close-up inspection of a characters face, emotions, clothing and belongings. You’ll be looking for scars, quality of clothing, signs of stress or un-comfort and of course guilt. Another mechanic is the ability to imagine and reconstruct the course of event by carefully observing all the key details of a crime scene. There is also the addition of “Sherlock Vision,” a mechanic that helps players by highlighting evidence that would otherwise be missed. For example in your first case through Sherlock Vision you’ll look at a dusty bookcase and notice that a chest has been taken from the shelf simply by noticing the change in dust pattern.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment has been fully developed on Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 allowing Frogwares to take the series and jump far ahead of previous instalments in terms of graphical quality. Environments immediately feel more realistic and finely detailed with dynamic lighting and shadows. A particular case later on in the games takes place down a moon light alley in central London. The alley showcases how far Frogwares have taken the series. By choosing Unreal Engine 3 the game also benefits from many technologies like a powerful animation engine for smooth movement and animation transitions, real-time shaders and a particle system, and advanced post-processing effects. Frogwares had previously been guilty of using an old method of employing one huge texture and now have instead opted to use Tiled Textures which make an incredible difference.
The problem with Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment is the obvious lack of challenge from anyone else involved in the case. Other characters immediately bow down to Holmes and fail to question even the most obvious of wrong deductions.
As players progress through Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment they quickly learn that the game isn’t just about what is right and wrong, but it’s about personal interpretation and judgements. From the sofa you’ll quickly become Judge, Jury and Executioner. With the lack of challenge from any other character within the game, even the wrongly accused suspect can feel like the right one and this is an obvious tribute to the well-known ego we’ve all come to love created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment is not just a great detective game, but an interesting one also. Sherlock Holmes mind is presented in the game in such a way that he is clearly a man treading the line between madness and brilliance. This just adds to the opportunity of playing him all the more riveting and not to be missed.
Thank you to Xbox for providing the review code.
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