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GDC 2014 Preview – Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments

March 24, 2014 Written by Louis Edwards

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The great detective Sherlock Holmes is returning to a console near you, and I sat down with Olga Ryzhko, Associate Producer from Frogwares Games, as she walked me through an early level in the game and showed some of the changes from previous releases.

The last time we ran into Sherlock was back in 2012 and I threw on my hat, grabbed my magnifying glass, and sleuthed my way through The Testament of Sherlock Holmes on the way to an ok 6/10 review score. The game had its shining moments but the lackluster visuals took away from the overall game play. The game was entertaining and playable (and a relatively easy Platinum trophy) and worth at least a rental, possibly a purchase if you enjoy this type of game.

Fast forward to GDC 2014 and I got to see the newest version of Sherlock in action in San Francisco. The scene opens up with Sherlock blind folded with a small revolver in his hand and shooting haphazardly around the room indiscriminately, or so it seems. Inspector Lestrade is trying to dodge his shots and get his attention, all the while trying to remain behind cover. Sherlock finally stops shooting and we find that he decided to try and shoot the vases around his study, solely from memory. As most know, Sherlock is a bit of an odd fellow, so this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

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The first thing I noticed about the game was the marked improvement in graphics. Gone was the stiff and almost statuesque attributes of the previous title, as character design and development took a step in the right direction. Seeing Sherlock and Watson moving around a crime scene definitely looks much better this time around, with overall polished graphics as well. This is mainly due to the fact that Frogwares Games stepped away from their own engine and started using Epic’s Unreal Engine 3.

The view from which you see the world can be easily swapped between third person and first person, either deciding to work your way through the game looking over Sherlock’s shoulder, or play the game through the very eyes of the great detective. The switch between the two modes seemed quick and flawless and I could see me switching between the two based on the task at hand.

One thing that worked great previously, and was brought back this time with a few tweaks, was Sherlock’s sixth sense, or Investigative View. One could try and deduce everything without it, pushing themselves to solve the cases the hard way, or one could choose to use the tools available. Using the tools seems like a no-brainer to me, but others may disagree.

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The cases Sherlock will be tasked with are each unique to themselves, meaning they each have their own storyline and are separate from each other. There are six stories, with ten different possible endings, which are decided by how you choose to work through each case. The game doesn’t seem to force you into a decision, and ultimately gives you a Moral Choice that determines the final outcome of a case. Just because someone killed someone else that doesn’t automatically mean murder. Was it self defense, an act of passion, or premeditated murder? You decide.

Sherlock is known for his disguises and his wardrobe has been filled to the brim from what I saw. You’ll be able to play dress up and help turn Sherlock into an unrecognizable, inconspicuous individual that will allow him to blend into any crowd, giving an element of surprise, or just be able to eavesdrop when needed. The expanded wardrobe is a welcome addition to the game and I look forward to seeing what all can be done with it.

Working through a case has changed a little as well this go round. We will still have our trusty notebook but once you have the clues gathered, they will be connected using a more fluid dynamic, with clues having the possibility of being connected in multiple ways. This could lead to a rather convoluted case book, or if yu figure it all out, a rather simple and easy to see conclusion.

At the conclusion of each case your decisions are broken down and then you are shown what percentage of gamers agreed with your outcome and made the same moral choices. While not exactly a multi-player aspect, it does give the ability to see if the majority of others came to the same conclusion or if your choices were in the minority.

Improved graphics

Improved graphics

Where I felt the previous title was lacking, Frogwares Games took a positive step and used an improved engine, which leads me to deduce that this next game will be way ahead of the previous title. This is one I personally am looking forward to on my PS4, but if you want it will also be released for the PS3.