Review: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment (Computer)

Reviewed by Tom Bond, posted Sep 30, 2014
Sep 30, 2014
  • Release Date (NA): September 30, 2014
  • Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
  • Developer: Frogwares
  • Genres: Puzzle, Detective, Mystery, Adventure
  • Also For: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment is the brand new entry in the Sherlock Holmes adventure series by Frogwares, this time boasting a darker theme and new ways to investigate, as well as being built in a the Unreal Engine 3, which is a first for the Holmes games.
Tom Bond

Holmes is at it Again

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Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment begins as you would expect; with Sherlock partaking in some cool ass experiment that make no sense, and Detective Lestrade barging in asking for assitance. Right away you're thrust into Holmes' perspective and you begin the game. Crimes and Punishment features 7 new classic Holmes cases, though admittedly I never got to the 7th as I suspect I messed up a decision at the end of the 6th case, and as the game removes all saved data from previous cases I'll need to replay case 6 before I can reach 7...But I digress. The game contains 7 new cases, each involving some sort of crime such as murder and theft and other such crimes that Holmes is known to take on. 

New Features, New Outcomes

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Each case requires you to go out and investigate and solve puzzle, as the previous Holmes games had you do, but this time you're given new tools to help your investigations. The first major feature is the ability to profile each major character you talk to, allowing you to gather additional information used to point out contradictions and other information that will help you narrow down potential suspects. You also have a couple investigative tools as well with “Sherlock Vision”, which helps point out hidden clues, and Holmes' Imagination, which allows him to view past events and figure out how XYZ crime might have happened. 

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The biggest addition to this game, which is also my favorite, is the new deduction system. As you discover clues in each cases, be it from dialogue or a broken picture or whatever, they're added to a deduction system. You must then combine these clues to form deductions in your case, each deduction adding more and more details and then when you're finished you get the outcome. But here's the kicker;  there isn't a single outcome in any of the cases! You get to decide the end result, you get to decide whether to condemn or protect the culprit, you get to perceive each clue as you would perceive them, not as the game wants you to. From what I can tell, there are at least 3 different endings to every case, and with each case you get the moral and that is just excellent. 

A Story within Stories...Story-ception? 

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Each case in Crimes and Punishment is seemingly unconnected, and in a way this is true. What is odd, however, is a group called the “Merry Men” are constantly mentioned in every case. At first it's an offhand remark or two, but then as you finish one of the cases you're mysteriously thrust into this situation with the Merry Men and Holmes, and it's the biggest problem with my experience in the game. For me, very little of the group was explained. The motives were clear and it was a cliché “anarchy” group, however with my decision at the end of the event nothing was really explained in depth as the previous cases were. It was disappointing and anti-climatic. I suspect, however, that this is where the 7th case would have came in. If it weren't for the fact I was already aware that I messed up somewhere along the line in my decision-making I would've said this is a con in the game. But as such, my decisions is what caused the disappointing ending and I just have to accept that.

This Game is Gorgeous

I mentioned in the introduction that this Holmes game was made in the Unreal Engine 3, and by god does it show it. Instead of going on about how beautiful these arrangement of pixels are, I'm just going to say this: It's a damn sight better than the previous games and in my opinion looks absolutely beautiful. As our Review Center only supports uploading 20 files I'll once, here's a link to an Imgur Gallery of all the screenshots I took of the game, and below are some of my favorite from the games:

Every Game Has It's Problems...

A majority of this review I've been talking up everything from the new features to the graphics, but the truth is this game isn't perfect. There are multiple problems with the game, and the biggest is the loading cutscenes. Every time you fast travel to a new location, you're treated with a lovely cutscene of Holmes and Watson in a carriage traveling to their destination. Unfortunately, these cutscenes are laggy as all hell and the load times are insane for a PC game. I'm not sure if this is due to my hardware, or due to the fact that the game is loading in the new maps and textures while displaying the cutscenes, or maybe it's because the game allows you to view your casebook and deduction while loading the new maps and displaying the cutscenes, but regardless they drop from a nice 60fps to maybe a laggy 20 at best and continues for approximately a minute between each location. Another quick complaint regards the fast travel; in previous Sherlock Holmes games you were able to explore around the streets of London, especially in Jack the Ripper, whereas in Crimes and Punishment you're stuck to the pre-defined areas in each case. While this isn't necessarily a huge con, it would be nice to be able to travel around London with the new textures and models. 

Some ambient sounds also extremely overpower the voices and other sound effects. An example would be any place with running water, the sound is so incredibly loud I had to constantly adjust the ambient volume in the menus in order to hear Holmes' remarks and to concentrate on other clues. While this isn't necessarily a big problem, constantly adjusting the volume can get quite annoying. 

Watson's AI also didn't seem to get any improvements compared to the previous games, he's still just as stupid as ever. Luckily, he's not a very big part of the 6 cases I played so I didn't experience too many issue, the biggest I've noticed is in any hallway with Watson following you, he constantly blocks the way and takes a good 10 seconds or so to register the fact that he must move out of the way. 

+ Made in the Unreal Engine 3, made the game look miles better than the previous.
+ Added features enhance the Sherlock Holmes experience and offers a more genuine feel to the Arthur Conan Doyle stories.
+ Multiple outcomes and additions make a very lovely addition to the Holmes series.
- Chopping loading cutscenes, long load times for a PC game.
- Overpowering ambient sounds in certain areas.
- Watson's AI is still stupid and in the way.
7 Presentation
Visually, the game is absolutely stunning. The improved models and textures really bring out the best of Sherlock and his adventures and each area is fluid. Unfortunately, the long loading times and the choppy cutscenes during loading breaks this fluidity and as such the game takes a small hit.
10 Gameplay
Out of all the Sherlock Holmes games, Crimes and Punishment really hit the nail on the head gameplay and story wise (for the most part, anyways). The addition of multiple outcomes and decisions as well as the new investigative tools that enhance your choices stands out from other detective games, and gives the game a more modern feel compared to the previous entries which constantly felt dated.
8 Lasting Appeal
I had a little trouble deciding the score I'd put here. Each case lasted a good 1-1.5 hours and as the game offered many different outcomes, which is a plus, however if you wanted to witness other endings or if you wanted to collect all the clues you'd have to play through the cases again, which is a tad boring since you would've essentially solved the case already.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Overall, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment made an excellent addition to the Holmes Adventure games. The new modern approach really benefits the game as a whole, and the new engine brings out the best in the Holmes games that the others just couldn't convey. I would highly recommend this game to anybody who enjoys the Sherlock Holmes universe as well as to anyone who enjoys detective/mystery games as well.

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