Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments

[E3 2013] Elementary, My Dear Watson. It's Unreal.

We're on the case of Crimes & Punishments, the latest Sherlock Holmes game from Frogwares.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: June 22, 2013
There may be no cultural icon with more staying power than Sherlock Holmes, who continues to be relevant over 120 years after we first met him. Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments marks the eighth game in the series from developed Frogwares, and the second to come to the PlayStation (following The Testament of Sherlock Holmes). We got a few quiet moments with one of the developers in a small cubicle on the show floor where he showed us the game in action.

The first thing that jumps out at you is that this game looks like it jumped straight out of the Unreal Engine factory. Gone is the proprietary (and often clunky) engine from the past and what we get in its place is something that looks heavily influenced by Mass Effect, right down to the radial conversation menus.

One of the results of the switch (besides a definite upgrade in graphical quality) is a much more robust set of investigation tools. The previous games were closer to a puzzle game than an adventure game at times, but this time around you've got something that seems a bit closer to L.A. Noire. Scotland Yard acts as a hub, and from within there you can talk to a variety of people, analyze evidence you've found, perform autopsies and interrogate suspects. Interrogations seem very dynamic, with the ability to break into conversations and introduce evidence to really try to draw out more detail.

There are a total of eight cases, most of which have multiple endings. Several are based on real Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories including the case we were shown, "The Case of Black Peter". During the investigation Sherlock was able to pick up objects and fully examine them and you'll see his deductions as floating text nearby. It's a neat effect that forces the player to also be somewhat observant. Unfortunately before we got to see TOO much the room had to be cleared out so the rest of the case was as much a mystery for us as it was for Sherlock.

Frogwares has also promised to try and expand the universe a bit more this time around by introducing a few new characters like the enigmatic Mrs. Watson and calculating Mycroft Holmes. Plenty of new locations will be on display and the new quick travel system makes things more streamlined. You'll still see some vestiges of the old system here and there (the map looks striking similar) so those afraid of change won't be totally put off.

The game is on pace to release early in 2014 and after we had a good time with the last effort we're looking forward to seeing what happens with this one. Our biggest complaint with the last was the weak investigation mechanic and that looks like where most of the focus has been put this time around.