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August 2022

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Frogwares
Release Date: Nov. 16, 2021


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PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Sherlock Holmes Chapter One'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 29, 2021 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

In this story-driven detective thriller, a young Sherlock Holmes struggles to prove himself as he navigates an exotic, dangerous island in the Mediterranean to investigate the mystery of his mother’s death.

Something about Sherlock Holmes makes him a great fit for stories. The iconic genius detective marred by a number of flaws, he is a tantalizing hero for any adventure. It's no surprise that there are more than a few Holmes titles that invite players to take on the role of the world's best sleuth as he tackles difficult mysteries. Most of those games focus on his later life, where he's already established as the best there ever was. Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One offers a look into a rarely explored part of the genius detective's life.

As you can imagine, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One represents an early adventure in Holmes's life. Before he was the world's greatest detective, Holmes was a pompous but shockingly intelligent young man with a thirst to prove himself. His life takes an unexpected turn when he returns to Cordona, the land where his mother passed away. A simple visit to her grave forces Sherlock into a greater mystery where he discovers that everything he knew about his past might not be true, and something darker may be lurking behind his mother's supposed death by consumption.

Sherlock is joined on his adventure by his friend, Jon (not Watson), who's a somewhat rough and sarcastic fellow who exists to serve as Sherlock's confidant and a check on his ego. While he doesn't interrupt the investigations, he usually points out things or comments on subject matters. He also keeps a diary of Sherlock's behavior, which changes depending on how thorough Sherlock is. Apparently, he'll even respond to how you treat enemies in combat. He's an unusual addition to the franchise, far less deferential and far more willing to call Sherlock on his attitude than Watson was at his most dramatic.

The bulk of detective work in the demo involves finding contextual clues to gain a greater understanding of mysteries. Sherlock has several ways to do this. He has a "Detective Vision" that can hint at important objects in the environment. When nearby a person, he'll form a quick summary of their identity based on context clues, such as "Friendly" or "Turkish Adventurer." Some of those clues might make it easier to track down someone, while others are just for flavor. When investigating a crime scene, he'll be able to slowly investigate objects for clues, piece together events based on information he has, or even track down someone. You change the subject of your investigation by "pinning" a specific goal to your HUD, which changes Sherlock's current subject, should he question others.

One thing to note is that like other recent Sherlock Holmes titles, you're not given only a single defined outcome. Gathering clues adds them to Sherlock's Mind Palace, which is effectively a big repository of every connection in that case. From there, you're able to cross-reference clues to form deductions, but it's important to note that your deductions might not be correct just because you can make them. Sometimes, one piece of evidence can be a red herring or lead to two different outcomes. If you leap to judgment based on your initial suspicions, you might end up going down the wrong path or accuse the wrong person. That can be pretty humiliating for the world's greatest detective. Beyond that, you have options on how to respond to the truth. Do you turn in someone to the police for defending themselves against an unjust charge, or do you refuse to bend the rules?

Of course, Sherlock isn't just good at detection. He's also a master of disguise. Early on, he gains the ability to disguise himself using a variety of clothing that can be found or purchased. This can be as simple as putting on a hat or as complex as giving yourself fake old man makeup and sideburns. The more you adjust the clothing, the more it changes how people respond to you, and in some cases, it can even let you disguise yourself as another specific person. We only saw a bit of this gameplay in action, but it looks quite interesting.

One of the big variations from most other Sherlock titles is that Chapter One is an open-world game. While there is a plot to follow and some degree of being guided, once you solve the initial case, it seems as if the game tosses you into Cordona to explore. Among some of the things you can do are tackle side-quests with their own rewards and shop at stores to purchase more clothing. Even newspapers can give you hints or follow-ups to your previous cases. It's hard to see how significant the open-world element will be, but at bare minimum, it seems like you'll have side-quests aplenty to take care of.

There's more to the game than we were able to see in our demo, but most of it is still rather obscured. As mentioned earlier, the game will have combat, but it's a question of how frequent it will be. It sounds like combat will have lethal and nonlethal options, but those who prefer to eschew the fighting will have the option to turn off combat.

Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One looks like it has the potential to be a very enjoyable take on the Holmes mythos. While solving mysteries with multiple outcomes is old hat for the great detective, an open world in which to do so offers some interesting potential. It looks like the game will have a boatload of content — more than The Sinking City. Hopefully it can live up to the ambitious idea it sets up for itself. We'll have to see when it comes to the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC later this year.

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