The newest game from Frogwares' Sherlock Holmes series has critics on both sides of the fence as the game has an interesting story like its predecessors, but some gameplay aspects fall short. Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is still early days, having only just come out November 16th, but it seems to only be resonating with players who are already a fan of the series and genre rather than attracting a new audience. Since L.A. Noire's shelving due to Team Bondi's unfortunate treatment, many have been looking to fill the sleuthing gap in gaming. Unfortunately, according to critics, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One doesn't quite fit the shoe print.
Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One puts players in the role of a young Sherlock Holmes, solving crimes and occasionally punching faces in this installment of the series. The main focus, like previous games, is investigating crimes and putting together what happened using Sherlock's patented mind palace to come up with motives, methods and more. The game features a heavy focus on narrative with some combat throughout, but the combat has definitely been held against the finished product.
While not all critics agree on the main aspects of the game, they do agree that the combat is the weakest part of Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One. In past games, combat was very few and far in between and made use of Quick Time Events. However, that's changed in this game as Frogwares has opted for an action style for the first time which unfortunately controls stiffly and, according to Andrew McMahon's review from Twinfinite, "control like something out of a PS2 title." While the game is mainly narrative-based, meaning combat can be avoided, for the most part, there are some side quests that require combat if players are looking for game completion. The combat can also be turned off, but this means there's less to do outside of the narrative, which can be a problem for those looking for more than a story-driven game.
Detailed Crime Solving
The mysteries and case solving techniques are the core gameplay for any Sherlock Holmes game and most critics agree this is the best part of the game as it should be. For Chapter One, these have been beefed up. Unlike most games, this one doesn't hold the player's hand, asking them to go from one point to another or telling them exactly where to look. Instead, the player must deduce it for themselves based on the information given and there can be wrong answers. Being wrong about a case doesn't have any major consequences but does reflect on Sherlock's case cracking skills. As Neil Bolt from Game Watcher put it, "While on one level it can feel somewhat at odds with the idea of being the world’s greatest detective, it actually speaks to the brash, cocky attitude of a young Sherlock, a brilliant boy just becoming a man, and dealing with all the instability that brings." There's no major penalty for this either, which means cases are entirely in the player's hands, and this is a good thing in a detective game.
There are also side cases, which don't require as intense investigating as the main story but are fun nonetheless. These can be found through dialogue or by exploring. Not everyone is a fan of this, however, because it means having to take the time to find things on your own and there can be a number of clues to find or sort through. Regardless, most critics concede that the actual crime-solving is fun compared to previous titles, and enhanced by the open world.
An Open but Empty World
The open world, though, has split most critics. Most found it nice to be able to explore to find clues and NPCs rather than being restricted to a small area where things are easily found. It's also what allows the use of side quests which can be found through exploration or information. However, since most of the game is centered around being a detective, there's not that much to do outside of this, making the world feel empty. Fraser Brown from PC Gamer said, "It's a miracle—an open world with almost no bullshit. You're here to sleuth, and that's exactly what you'll get to do..." while Liam Croft from PC Invasion thought, "Frogwares has once again opted to tell its story in a large open world full of different districts, except it doesn't have the budget to fill it full of interesting things to look at and engage with." There's not a ton going on in the city streets and not much to find or uncover overall. Critics feel it was a nice idea that wasn't utilized correctly and while pretty, seemingly empty with not much to do outside of gathering clues and information.
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