Review: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments (PS4)

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Title: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (8.7 GB)
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Frogwares
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 391 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
Allowing you to step into the shoes of the legendary Sherlock Holmes and transport back to the late 1800s, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments really makes you work when putting together the clues. Knowing that there are multiple outcomes based on your evidence collection and interpretation gives pause when rendering a judgement. Could you unknowingly send an innocent man to jail? Could you let a guilty man go? The choice is entirely in your hands.

Moving through a series of seven cases, all told in the style of the original Sherlock Holmes mysteries, you’ll quickly find that not everything is at it seems on the surface. You’ll be given a broad overview of a case by Inspector Lestrade and then your work begins. Scouring the crime scene for clues, interviewing witnesses, piecing it all together, it’s a really well thought out game.

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You can play in either a first or third person perspective which won’t really make much of a difference in the game itself, just personal preference. Each time you meet a person of interest you’ll have the opportunity to “size them up” by taking a close look at them, noticing any scars, tattoos, wedding rings, torn clothes, etc. It helps you form a better picture of who they are and helps direct your line of questioning.

You’ll be choosing from ready-made questions based on your current knowledge of the situation and person and you can ask any or all of them. At times you’ll need to consult Sherlock’s archives, looking for information related to a particular clue in a current case. Unfortunately, you can only choose the correct answer here. I tried to browse the old newspaper articles and such but the game stopped me every time and told me I had to find something related to the clue at hand.

You’ll also have a number of outfits and disguises at your disposal which can be critical in getting information out of reluctant persons of interest. Wigs, facial hair, glasses, mix and match to your heart’s desire, then go forth and question.

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Inspector Lestrade and your network of informants will bring you new information during an ongoing investigation and you’ll have to decide how to incorporate that into the case. Sometimes, unfortunately, these bits are required to move forward at all, reminding you that this is a game after all.

Early on I felt as though I was just walking through a story, not really doing much more than pushing the requisite buttons but that all changed when I had to make my deductions.

When you’ve gathered enough clues you’ll enter the mind of Sherlock Holmes complete with synapses and all. Bits of information you’ve gleaned float around and it’s up to you to make the correct associations between them to start piecing together a solution to the crime. Some will yield a single result but others will require you to make a choice. Was that illicit affair just harmless flirtation or a jealously guarded love that led to murder? How you piece together the evidence affects the outcome of each case and you won’t immediately know if you’ve sent an innocent person to jail or not, unless you really want to. After each case, you can hit the Touch Pad to reveal whether you were right or not but the answer contains potential story spoilers so I’ve avoided the temptation for now.

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A number of mini-games and logic puzzles are included where you’ll need to put together the right chemical ingredients for a needed formula or unlock a box or even arm wrestle someone, gaining an advantage by reading their face. Everything fits quite neatly into the game with none of it feeling out of place or superfluous.

It may all seem overwhelming but you’ve got a handy journal that keeps track of everything including all conversations. This allows you to go back and put together a working theory but it can also lead you down the wrong path if you’re not careful. Early on I was sure I knew where the story was going and who was guilty, that soon to be found evidence would prove me right. It didn’t quite work out that way. The evidence actually muddied the waters a bit and made finding the real culprit much more difficult. I could have put it together either way and possibly proved either person guilty. It’s just that kind of game, and that’s what makes it good.

It’s not all perfect though as I did come across the occasional bug such as Watson buried in the scenery or pieces of a puzzle not quite lining up until I made some insanely minor adjustments. The HUD also kept quickly appearing and disappearing during some long dialogue scenes as it expected the conversation was over and it could come back. For the most part though bugs and problems like that are minor.

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Where I ran into the most trouble was in finding objects that I knew I should be able to access but couldn’t. I’d keep going back and trying unsuccessfully until eventually I found a clue and Sherlock said, “I should go look at X now.” It became frustrating feeling as though I was several steps ahead of the game but that all dissipated when I had to reach my conclusions and decide the fate of a suspect. This is when you really start to second guess your work as suddenly, someone’s life hangs in the balance. It’s all handled rather adeptly and it really makes the game exciting and interesting.

Visuals:
Built in the Unreal 3 Engine the game is generally a stunner. Detail in the environments is critical in a game where you’re searching for clues and it looks fantastic. Wandering around the crime scenes you’ll be able to spot things before any icons even show up.

Close-ups on faces are particularly gorgeous… except when they’re in motion and shadows appear. Shadows tend to be a bit hit or miss in places but even more so on faces. Considering the character close-up, dialogue-heavy nature of the game with interviews and interrogations, you’ll be seeing a lot of wonky shadows on faces – to the point of distraction.

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Audio:
Strong voice acting brings the game to life. Each character has a distinct accent and manner about them which is critical in a game with so much dialogue. The background music and sound effects add to the rich atmosphere without ever overpowering the scene. It’s really impressive work all around.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only with no online components.

Conclusion:
We’ve been hearing about this game for quite a while, wondering if it was ever going to come out. Clearly Frogwares took the time to add a lot of polish to the game. What they’ve come up with is much more than a visual novel as it’s really a wonderfully layered story with multiple outcomes making you really think through your decisions. It’s not without its flaws but the overall experience is immensely satisfying.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

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