Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 30.09.2014

Review for Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments on PlayStation 4

Frogwares has a long history with making games based off the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle literary character Sherlock Holmes. At its core, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is an adventure game that can be played in the third- or first-person view points, gathering clues, and conducting experiments in the form of mini-games or puzzles. Over a dozen different Sherlock games across many platforms, does Frogwares know the formula to crafting a game worthy of the legendary detective?

For the uninitiated, Sherlock Holmes is an enigmatic character. His home and base of operations is festooned with little bits and details that paint a picture of a man who is a boxer, which is illustrated by a punching bag located by his study's loft and a pair of boxing gloves, and has a very messy desk. He is a kind of guy who thinks outside of the box and considers otherwise unconventional methods of thinking when approaching a crime scene, and has no problem with taking evidence or even doing a little bit of cocaine on the job. While he is a quirky character, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments handles him with a modicum of restraint, and is surprisingly grounded in reality. In fact, his iconic deerstalker hat is only worn for one chapter, and in general he is depicted as a very gifted detective who just likes to have a little fun once in a while. In contrast, his partner, Dr. Watson, is a stuffy, somewhat more by the book kind of guy. Dr. Watson is typically wrong about everything except when it comes to all things medical, and is virtually useless in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments where his big moment is not until halfway through the game when he gets to turn some handles. For anyone who has been following the games by Frogwares, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments actually does fit in the continuity as established by their past games! This title has a lot of references to the past cases and some of them are even explained in Sherlock's massive archives.

Screenshot for Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments on PlayStation 4

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is a 3D adventure game built with the Unreal Engine. It is a fine looking game on the PS4, but it is obviously built for the past gen platforms. For the most part, character models look exceptional, but every once in a while there is a very sloppy looking or low detail character. The thing is this: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments has a very limited cast and has very few incidental NPCs (which also look exceptional), so it is very distracting when the player is presented with a shoddy looking character model with low amount of detail that resembles it is in a perpetual state of texture loading and is front and centre playing a big role in a specific case. There are a few other instances of low detailed textures or low poly models here and there, but they are far and few in between. Frogwares has gotten quite a bit of mileage out of the Unreal Engine, however, it still falls victim to its follies such as its limitations with character animation, inability to render women's hair and cloth effects. While characters' faces look pretty natural and believable, they are not very expressive or emotive, particularly in a game where being able to tell if a character is lying or telling the truth, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is held back by a graphics engine that is too limiting to have nuanced performances like that found in L.A. Noire. While the game does run quite smoothly for the most part, more Unreal Engine issues pop up in the later more large environments; graphical issues the engine is known for like noticeable screen tearing, pop-in, texture loading, frame rate dips and various flickering.

Screenshot for Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments on PlayStation 4

Any player who has played an adventure game made in the past decade should have an idea how Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is played. Not too much different than the types of adventure games made by TellTale Games, Crimes & Punishments is a much more complex and, dare it be said, even more game-like than that of The Walking Dead episodic series which was more movie-like at times. No, Crimes & Punishments is a game with some real thought put behind its puzzles and challenges, some of which were actually really challenging. It has some real consequences and real game changing outcomes that drastically affect the story. This is the most defining characteristic of this game and what makes it stand out from so many fraudulent adventure games that aim to be "movies." Not only can Sherlock imprison completely innocent people, but each route also has a moral choice included with every outcome, thus giving Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments a large amount of replay value and player agency - a quality that is very rare in adventure games like this.

Aside from the depth of agency the player is granted in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, the game also has a variety of puzzles and mini-games which take the form of lock-picking, chemistry, assembling objects with 3D models, tight-rope walking or even very brief shooting with Sherlock's revolver. These are peppered lightly throughout the game's cases to break up the dialogue heavy sequences. As for the dialogue itself, it is well written and feels accurate to the time period of the early 1900s. Sadly, the way Frogwares handles the dialogue tree isn't really a tree at all, but more like the player having to press the play button on a video track because none of the dialogue choices matter since all options are always chosen eventually, except for a few times when the player can catch a character in a lie and present evidence. There is also a Detective vision that is underused, and also a very interesting concept called "Sherlock's Imagination" where he envisions aspects of the crime scenes in real time and players can interact with them in specific ways. One thing worth mentioning is that though many of the puzzles can be challenging, there is always an option to skip them entirely. This option definitely cheapens the challenge of the game, but for those who simply want to do the investigations and enjoy the story, one cannot fault Frogwares for including an option for those types of players.

Screenshot for Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments on PlayStation 4

For any fans of Dr. Watson, they will be sorely disappointed by how useless he is in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments. He just follows Sherlock; rarely will he provide valuable insight or help in the investigations except for perhaps two or three fleeting moments. Shockingly, Sherlock's dog Toby gets in on the action, too, and gets a few playable segments, which amount to just following a trail and isn't very substantial, but is cool fan service nonetheless. Inspector Lestrade plays a prominent role as possibly one of the worst detectives in Scotland Yard. As Sherlock, the most bogus evidence can be presented to him and the guy will accept anything as fact from the player, never questioning Sherlock's authority on anything. While it doesn't hurt the game, it was amusing to purposefully turn in an obviously innocent man and Lestrade take Sherlock's word for it. As for the various endings or conclusions, the game does offer options to jump back to previous saves in case the player isn't satisfied with an ending. This is actually quite a nice feature that takes away frustration of working so hard to solve a case, but only to get an ending that falls flat, however, at the same time it also cheapens the choices made since they can be easily rescinded.

Screenshot for Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is a pretty great game that has some questionable design choices, like how useless Dr. Watson is and how underutilised Toby the dog is. The shallow execution of the dialogue tree is also something that distracted when engaging NPCs. The cases in this game are all pretty unique with Sherlock and Dr. Watson getting to visit a surprisingly wide amount of locations, one of which wouldn't look out of place in an Uncharted game. There is no doubt that Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments will be a sleeper hit and will find its audience, but for anyone who would enjoy a procedural crime investigating game, this title comes highly recommended. By far one of the more interesting adventure games to have come out in years.




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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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