Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is the tenth game of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series by developer Frogwares. A point and click game that lets players delve into six different crimes as the titular detective, Crimes and Punishments has an updated list of abilities to use and makes for the most advanced Holmes game to date.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is by far the most visually impressive in the series, being the first Adventures of Sherlock Holmes title to use the Unreal Engine 3. Frogwares has done an excellent job of capturing the feel of Victorian England, and has put great detail in every setting. The series has seen a massive improvement in textures, lighting, and shadows with this latest iteration. Animations are still a little wonky, but not terrible for Frogwares‘ first try with the new engine. This has to be one of the prettiest and most accurate depictions of a Victorian setting out there.
There has been an influx of mystery games in the past year with Murdered: Soul Suspect, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and now Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. Frogwares‘ latest game may borrow some influences from the other titles (Floating text and projections of crime scene elements anyone?), but Crimes and Punishments does provide one of the greatest detective experience to date. Holmes has always had almost super human abilities, even before modern interpretations gave him godlike mental acuity and foresight, but it seems that Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments has finally drug Frogwares‘ Holmes into the twenty-first century. There’s a more modern take on his capabilities through the addition of two types of Sherlock Vision and slowing time to give a suspect the trademark Holmesian once over, gaining insight into the character with Sherlock’s all seeing eye.
Each mystery will have dozens of clues to discover and then it’s up to the player to establish links inside Holmes brain to create deductions as to how things played out. There are multiple ways to interpret clues, and different conclusions you can reach in regards to who’s guilty.
Once you’ve made your decision–which can be right or wrong–you’re given moral options such as punishing or absolving your suspect. With all of these options, every case has at very least four different endings that you’ll have to live with. Some cases seem more cut and dry than others, but I remember one case that actually had me agonizing over my moral choice for a good fifteen minutes. To me, that’s an impressive feat compared to any other game with a moral system.
Unfortunately, as good as the game is, it has a number of defects from mild inconveniences to glaring issues. There’s the usual complaints about texture pop-ins and there’s a very nasty stutter in some places even on lowered settings. It’s nothing damning, just a mild inconvenience at times that mars an otherwise gorgeously stylized and detailed game. Sherlock’s detective vision can also take a little while to register that a clue is on screen, leading to frustration if you look over the clue too quickly and no sign pops up on your screen.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments consists of six cases. It’s a decent number considering how in depth they can get, but why have two of them centered around a battered wife with an abusive, dead husband? These two cases can play out almost exactly alike with players having the option to retread the same string of deductions.
Those issues are small potatoes though. The biggest problem is the camera and movement. This complaint is centered around the third person view. The camera is terrible, awful, or any other word for bad you please. It’s plain unpleasant to move around Crimes and Punishments in third person. It was the first time in my life I had ever become motion sick. I quickly learned the game does much better in first person, which is the point of view I encourage anyone to use.