At the recent E3 event in Los Angeles, I was able to scope out an early build of the new mystery adventure game, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. As a sequel to The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, developed by Frogwares and published by Focus Home Interactive, this new adventure finds Sherlock Holmes working on a new set of various crimes – eight new and unique cases of murder, disappearances and thefts for Sherlock Holmes to solve. And the people at Frogwares and Focus promise that these new adventures, while seemingly random and unconnected at first, will have a huge consequence by the end of the game as a web of deceit is unraveled by the player.
One of the biggest changes to Crimes and Punishments over its predecessor is the use of the Unreal Engine 3 game engine over the Motion Capture engine that was previously used. While the Motion Capture engine certainly made Testament a visually appealing game, the Unreal Engine 3 power has bumped up the graphical capabilities of Crimes and Punishments and has made for an even more detailed and fully fleshed out game world. Whereas before character would move but seem sort of stiff in Testament, in Crimes and Punishments they move with much more ease and the range of motion allowed each character certainly allows for more controlled and natural movements as they move about their world. This also greatly enhances the skills of Sherlock Holmes as he can investigate items and crimes scenes with more detail and the characters he interacts with seem more real as facial and body expressions are much more noticeable.
Of course, being the great detective that he is, Holmes also has his own methods for solving crimes unrelated to the graphics engine of the game. While the player is controlling Holmes, they have access to two unique “skills” Holmes can use during crime scene investigations and suspect interrogations. At a crime scene, the player can utilize a kind of “detective vision” that allows them to pick up on clues most people would normally miss. It does this by highlighting certain areas in different colors that the rest of the area. From there, the player can investigate what other inspectors have missed or dismissed as possible evidence. During an interrogation, the player can activate a “sixth sense” kind of instinct that will let Holmes look more closely at the suspect’s facial expressions and body movements to help determine if they are telling the truth or trying to lie their way free.
Utilizing Holmes’ skills during these times, the player must then make a final deduction and present his findings to condemn or absolve a certain detainee of the crime they are being accused of. Several factors go into the deduction phase as all evidence found and collected are presented to the player to kind of “connect the dots” so to speak. Every way the player decides to go about the deduction and punishment phase will have consequences to the overall game, so getting a crime solved quickly and correctly will better benefit the player.
Most people will dismiss Crimes and Punishments for its type of game play, but from what I have seen at E3, this game may have more of a punch than most gamers would give it credit for. It does have the flash or bang that Battlefield 4 or even Sonic do, but its subtle mystery adventure game play should attract those looking for a more “thinking man’s” game experience and are ready to challenge themselves intellectually and enhance their gaming experience. Look for Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments on Windows PC, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 later this year.