Developed by Frogwares, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is the seventh entry in the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series and the first to be released for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Working on the Unreal Engine instead of the Motion Capture Engine they used for previous entries in the series, the first thing you’ll notice is how much the presentation has improved since the last game. The environments are detailed, the faces look more lifelike, which comes in handy when interrogating a suspect, the camera effects are dynamic and the music, while subtle for the most part, works to invoke certain emotional responses when necessary and can really draw you into a scene. The voice acting is a bit more of a mixed bag, with certain characters sounding stiff or wooden, but the script itself is incredibly well done and will keep you on your toes for most of the game. Thankfully, one of the big issues with previous entries in the series, lip syncing, has improved greatly and only occasionally did I notice the mouths not matching up with the words they were saying.
The story is split into six self-contained mysteries, each lasting about 2-3 hours in length. During that time, players walk around, look for clues, talk to potential suspects and add pieces to Sherlock’s deduction space, which just so happens to be located in his head. You find clues by either walking around and picking any and everything up that looks interesting, or you use Sherlock Vision to highlight the clues, including ones not detectable by the naked eye. Conversations play out like your typical point-and-click adventure game, with multiple choices leading to various results, both good and bad. You can also analyze a suspect, much in the way Sherlock has become known for, which creates a character profile that is then added to the deduction space. You then piece together the clues and come to a conclusion, which isn’t as easy as it may seem. The game doesn’t point you in one specific direction. Instead there are usually upwards of five solutions to a case, both right and wrong and in the end you can choose to absolve or condemn the person you find guilty. That means that there are multiple endings to each mystery and plenty of reason to go back and try them again to see the various results.
The cases themselves are usually quite compelling, with some interesting twists, turns and red herrings thrown in for good measure, and any fan of Doyle’s previous works or even fans of the recent Sherlock series will find something to enjoy here. It starts out stronger than it ends, but at no time did I ever really feel like I was bored or uninterested in the cases. With so many variations in how they can go, it pays to take your time and really think things through. Being hasty never ends up panning out in the long run with this game.
The only real glaring issues with the game come in the form of its technical limitations. While the presentation is top notch, seeing said presentation can take a while as the loading screens are plenty and they are long. It’s not such a large enough problem as to break the immersion factor of the game, but they happen often enough as to become an annoyance later on in the game. The only other issue is the presence of invisible walls. When wandering around a scene they can come out of nowhere and usually result in Sherlock doing a 180 spin and heading back the way he came in an incredibly abrupt fashion. Anytime it happened it immediately threw me and it took a second for me to regain my bearings.
Despite those issues, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment is hands down the best Sherlock Holmes game to ever be released. With incredible graphics, a near-cinematic presentation, varying cases with numerous results that leads to tons of replayability, incredible mechanics and a very solid musical score, there’s really not much not to like in this game. If you are a fan of mystery games or The World’s Only Consulting Detective, then do yourself a favor and pick this one up.