I always enjoy trying out games I haven’t had anything to do with before, and with the latest Sherlock Holmes title arriving on the PS4 I felt the need to halt my ignorance of the previous few games and see what the new hardware had brought about. Having only heard the odd whisper about these games (which all pointed to overly long and tiresome campaigns) I went into this with my eyes wide open and found a flawed but ultimately enjoyable think-em-up (it’ll catch on).
The biggest news from minute 1 is that you won’t be having to plough through the epic huge campaign that previous versions have forced on you. Instead you’ll spend 16 hours or so spread across 6 different individual cases, each with their own story, characters and information. For someone with a busy life or who finds it tricky to get through this much game time this idea is a God send, and with the Sherlock TV show building the popularity of the detective into a whole new audience, it’s also a very wise choice for attracting new players too.
Sadly the same can’t entirely be said for the way the game looks, which isn’t terrible as such but shows a lack of polish that a bigger budget might have sorted out with time. That said the various locations all look spot on in terms of contents, with a range of great period features across places such as Baker Street, Scotland Yard and Kew Gardens giving a brilliant feeling of time which could easily have been missed. Voice work is mixed too, and while Holmes and Watson (who seems to have totally lost his knack for being useful) are voiced extremely well, other characters sound slightly strained and unconvincing, clearly voiced by people whose natural accent is nowhere near that which they’re portraying.
But you can forgive all of these things over time, especially when it dawns on you that you might’ve just accused the wrong guy of something and the game has happily accepted your decision and let you carry on, smug in the knowledge that you’ve just buggered up the rest of the investigation. This, most definitely, is a good thing. After the early stages which suggest it’s impossible to do the wrong thing this realisation gives you so much more to think about, so much more weight behind your choices and a real moral dilemma when trying to figure out who to point the finger at. It would be easy to be told you’re wrong and send you back to try again, but that’s not how Crime and Punishments works. No sir.
Most of your investigations will revolve around the same skills: hunting for clues using Holmes’ cunning sixth sense for finding stuff, talking to people to try and gather clues and ideas, closely studying individuals for further clues and items which might help you make up your mind, it all slots together to form a challenging but entirely logical decision making puzzle. A few moments did irritate me though, including moments where you rotate a 3D wireframe type image to form a picture in front of you, which had to be millimetre perfect to be recognised as correct. They really tied me up in knots, but generally the investigations are quite relaxed, enjoyable affairs.
What really bugged me though, more than the wonky voices and the annoying puzzle thing, was how I had to keep trotting back and forward to the same place through each story just to get something or speak so someone that I couldn’t picked up or spoken to an hour before. Some elements aren’t available until you’ve done certain other things, meaning you could find something which will eventually be incredibly handy, but you can’t do anything about it until it is incredibly handy, by which time you’re elsewhere and have to get yourself back. It’s hardly a life-ruining set of moments, but it’s still annoying.
But despite the gripes, I’ve been enjoying Crime and Punishments. I’ve enjoyed the change of pace, I’ve enjoyed the fact I need to think about stuff instead of just choosing a new gun and getting killed by someone new in the latest generic FPS game, and I’ve really enjoyed the fact I can stuff everything up and send entirely the wrong person to a life of misery for something they didn’t do, just because I didn’t pay enough attention. It’s not a game for everyone, but for the thinkers among you it could well strike a chord.
Reviewed on PS4