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Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments

By Bobfish03-10-2014
BloodyFanGirl (editor)
Bis18marck70 (editor)
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments

The Defence

Focus Home Interactive
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8800
AMD Radeon HD 4850
2 GB
14 GB

The Case

A man who needs no introduction. Widely and universally recognised as the world’s greatest detective. Wait...no, not me, the other greatest detective. No, not that one either, the other other...fine! Sherlock Holmes! The world’s greatest detective. Those others? They’re just pretenders. Holmes is the real one. Because he’s English, duh. And now he’s back. Brought to life, not for the first time, by Ukrainian studio Frogwares, who also mark their second foray into the realm of the Unreal engine. So, how does this stack up with their previous offerings?

The Trial

Pretty damn good actually. There’s no point beating around the bush - visually at least, the game looks amazing. Though there is a small caveat to point out here: whilst the overall visual fidelity is commendable, it’s actually about par for the course these days. It looks good, don’t get me wrong, but not so much so that it stands out from the crowd to any significant degree. However, one area where Crimes & Punishments really makes a name for itself is in its facial animations.

Marvel at the detailed models...and investigate.

Marvel at the detailed models...and investigate.

Given the subject matter, it was inevitable that there would be a large emphasis on exploration and interaction with other characters. The latter takes the form of interrogations and cross examinations, an important part of which is reading the expression on a person’s face - an unintentional flicker of the eyes, a curve of the lip and so on - Frogwares have done an absolutely astounding job here. The way the camera zooms in so close is a little disconcerting at first, but when you stop and marvel at the sheer volume of detail added, it leaves one certain that it could not have been done any other way. You can see the freaking pores on Holmes’ cheeks!

Other animations are less impressive, but not because they are in any way insufficient - it is simply that they become inferior by comparison. They are perfectly functional, fluid and natural. It simply cannot be understated just how good the facial animations are; Rockstar can eat their heart out, they ain’t got squat on Holmes...and Frogwares didn’t lock us to thirty frames per second either.

But the best facial animations in the world are useless if the voice work behind it is underwhelming, something which it certainly isn’t here. There are no performances that really leap out as being mind-blowingly amazeballs perhaps, but there are none that are anything less than solid. Each character feels like a real character, like they come with a fleshed out backstory, even if we do not come to learn of it in-game. Our erstwhile protagonist is given some snippets of dialogue that a true Holmes fan will instantly latch on and point to, simply saying “that is Holmes.”

Oh my!

Oh my!

This latest adventure follows Holmes and the ever faithful Watson on six cases, five of which are entirely new though one is from Sir Conan Doyle’s original short stories. This lattermost one is the third, and shortest, of them and, of all of them, it highlights the importance of intent behind your decisions because in the original story Holmes does not indict the guilty party. This may be lost on those unfamiliar with the source material, but screw it, you get to play as Toby (Holmes’ dog) in that case, so it’s all good.

Mechanically, Crimes & Punishments is actually incredibly simple, deceptively so. The actual act of finding clues requires little more than looking at the environment. It is even assisted by something I like to call Holmes vision, a borderline gimmicky, black and white hyper focus type effect that allows him to pick out things like dust marks and footprints. The only real complaint I have is that certain clues cannot be detected any other way, even if you can clearly see them with your own eyes. Whilst this is only a minor issue, it is still irritating at times. It would have been nice if there was an option to play without it, like a challenge mode perhaps, though the game is in no way diminished by the presence of such a mechanic, still offering a good twelve hours of gameplay.

One neat idea is taking a moment to more closely examine an individual to get a better impression of who they are. During conversation, you can click on an extra option which lets you examine things like their clothes, perhaps a letter peeking out of their pocket, bruises and scars on their face and hands, things like that. Doing so unlocks extra dialogue options in most instances. This is triggered by a, honestly, redundant quicktime event (you press Q, every time, just press Q) then choose from one of five options to catch the person out in a fib. Unfortunately, there’s no fail state included; you either get the right one or it rewinds a few seconds and makes you choose again. This was something else which I found disappointing. The lack of a fail state removes any sense of censure, as you are not even marked down for picking the wrong option at the end of the case.

Not that damned Q again.

Not that damned Q again.

Speaking of which, after gathering all (or at least enough) evidence to form a logical conclusion, you proceed to the case resolution, in which you make your allegation and have the ‘guilty’ party arrested. At which point you are given the option to not only return and try again, but you can also press the spacebar to see if you reached the correct conclusion. The inclusion of these mechanics was highly disappointing to me, I must confess. I can certainly understand why the game was made this way but, again, it would have been far better if this had been optional. Well, you don’t have to check if you reached the right conclusion, but the fact is that it’s there and it still irks me. Having said all that, the actual method by which you collate all the available permutations of each case is really cool. At any time, you can press the B button to go into your deductions space. Whilst there, you can cross reference tidbits of information, such as one person saying they heard three shots and another saying they only heard two, which leads to a relevant deduction something like there were really three shots, but two were in rapid succession, or the third shot was just an echo. Then you’re left to decide what the most likely answer is and compare it with other information in a matrix of deductions laid out like the latticework of a human mind, a really creative way to both visually and thematically give the impression of being inside Holmes’ mind.

The best part of this is that not everything actually goes in here. This is your deduction space, yes, but those deductions are based on verifiable facts. Discerning which facts are, well, facts, is based on the evidence available, a lot of which can be far more subtle things like one person having a button missing from their jacket - something which may not have any attention drawn to it, but will be noticeable if you’re really paying attention. Ultimately, it means that the truly astute will be able to pat themselves on the back for spotting the little things, whilst the less observant can always fall back on the above mentioned (personal) complaints in order to still solve all the cases perfectly.

That’s just...cheating.

That’s just...cheating.

The actual act of solving the cases ostensibly falls into a binary morality, though it is not nearly that simple. There are two options per conclusion, yes, and it could be argued that they fall into either the hardline or humanitarian. But each of them is not an island unto itself. Throughout the entirety of the game there is a running tally of where your sense of morality lays. This ultimately leads us to the conclusion, as explained by Mycroft (Holmes’ brother) in the final moments, that what we have done, the decisions made, are only the end result. The core, what actually matters, is the motivation behind them.

The Verdict

In closing, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is a superb game. It has some flaws (including a lack of custom keybinding options, grrr) and they do hold it back from true perfection. But only just. With the final result being, well...just buy the game. You will not be disappointed.

Case Review

  • Animations: Wow man, just...wow!
  • Choice: For once it really does matter, even if only on a personal level.
  • Length: Clocking in at a good twelve hours, this is by no stretch of the imagination a short game.
  • Visuals: Though they seem stale compared to the facial animations, the game is still very, very pretty.
  • Hand Holding: It’s not bad per se, but some may find it a little patronising.
  • No Custom Keybindings: Well, really now. That’s just not cricket.
Score: 4.5/5
Come, my dear Watson, and bring your service revolver.


And so finally, developer Frogwares achieve what they set out to do: make a kickass adventure game about Sherlock Holmes. It has taken many attempts and though a few, such as 2004’s ‘The Case of the Silver Earring’ and the more recent ‘The Testament of Sherlock Holmes’, weren’t terrible by any means, they still fell for a lot of antiquated adventure game trappings. These earlier games often felt awfully slow paced and the puzzles just seemed obtuse or drawn out. Well, that’s all in the past. With the oddly (yet appropriately) titled ‘Crimes and Punishments’’, Frogwares truly outdone themselves. It’s akin to Testament in that it’s not a straight up point & click game but more of a third person adventure game with point & click mechanics. But where Testament felt stiff and unwieldy, Crimes is anything but; the gameplay is fluid and the pacing is much more efficient. You’ll be exploring a lot of environments, studying a lot of items up close and reading a lot of faces to find people’s dirty little secrets - so it’s good that Frogwares are one step ahead for once. The visual fidelity is impeccable, and few adventure games can profess to look better. Sure, you’ll find the rare oversight and texture pop-in here and there, but it’s still a beautiful game and the locations you visit are all distinctly different. You will, of course, be doing a lot of the same work in all of them, but the puzzle-variety is actually quite decent too.

I think I can safely say that this is just about the best Sherlock Holmes game made to date. Does that mean it’s perfect? No. For a game that focuses on the incredibly perceptive Sherlock Holmes of all people, a person who can figure out your entire lineage by glancing at a scar on your nose, Crimes feels way too easy. For instance, you’ll rarely find yourself even remotely stuck on a puzzle. Furthermore, games can cater to new players and veterans alike, but too often it feels like Crimes completely forgets about the latter group. Take the fact that you can choose to “skip” most puzzles, for example, or the special vision mode you can enter by pressing T. It’s okay that new players have this to more easily spot clues in the terrain that they might’ve missed, but it becomes a problem when you’re forced to activate it in order to spot certain clues that are otherwise invisible. I want to explore! Not press a button and let the game do all the work!

In closing Crimes and Punishments is a game about giving you the feeling of being the genius detective Sherlock Holmes - and it does this quite well for the most part, being a very faithful gamification of Sir Conan Doyle’s literature. But if you were anticipating a game that would challenge your mind to reach the levels of the master detective himself, then you’ll find yourself disappointed. Even so, there is still more than sufficient amounts of fun to be had, pretending to be Mr. Holmes for the 10-12 hours it’ll take you to complete all of the cases...even if Holmes himself would scoff at the game’s persistent hand-holding and lack of challenge.

Score: 4/5


He’s the world’s greatest detective. He fights crime and runs around town in a black cape kicking ass. Batman? No, this a place for grownups. Mr Holmes is the real deal and with the latest instalment, Crimes and Punishments, he is here to show how real men solve crime. Sir Doyle’s greatest creation will come to life and obey your fingertips in a beautifully crafted virtual environment where your conclusions will enact justice.

Adventure genre was a very niche genre just few years ago but with games like The Walking Dead it was brought back to the mainstream attention. Crimes and Punishments is aiming to do a similar thing by making the game quite accessible to most gamers. The game is full of hints, tips, special vision and even allows you to outright skip some puzzles altogether in order not to keep you stuck. This works to alleviate frustration while, in most cases, letting the hardcore crowd fully solve the cases on their own. When it comes down to it, you can even convict a wrong person and not lose the game. How many games allow you to do that!

Being pretty also helps the case. The game is just spectacular with high resolution textures and spectacularly crafted models being the highlight. The controls could be a bit more responsive but it’s an adventure game after all and this issue takes a backseat in overall scheme of things. All I can say is if you have any interest in a detective/adventure game – this is a perfect place to start.

Score: 4.5/5
Comments (2)
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Posts: 3290

Maybe that's what we should say on our Curator page

Posts: 1317

It's not perfect, but it's thoroughly entertaining, and a solid step in the right direction. I hope the game sells well enough for the devs to take their ideas and concepts further in a possible (and probable) sequel.