Ladies & gents, who would’ve thought that the pride of London, Sherlock Holmes himself had abandonment issues? Yes, you heard me correctly. Believe it or not, according to Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, he’s a straight-up traumatised mumma’s boy with an imaginary friend called Jon… Who may or may not also be his lover? I don’t know what’s happening man, don’t ask!
An Intriguing Tale Full of Sass
Throughout the course of Chapter One, our young detective and his assistant, Jon (who definitely isn’t Watson) are looking for closure on Sherlock’s mother’s death in their hometown of Cordona. And like any well-constructed story before it, the tangled murder mystery cases he solves throughout the game begin intersecting with Holmes’ repressed memories of his mother’s death.
I won’t reveal too much more for spoiler’s sake, but overall, it is a fairly well-written narrative with all sorts of twists, turns and moral dilemmas that you can shake a stick at. Speaking of moral dilemmas, some of the choices Sherlock has to make definitely offer some food for thought. And since players can actively flub up an investigation and still continue on by accusing the wrong suspect or by deciding upon the wrong outcome, it makes for some great replayability and discussion about who the fresh-faced Sherlock Holmes is as a character.
And yes, our two main protagonists are just as sassy as you’d imagine. From the outset, they’re either giving each other grief or making fun of someone else’s incompetence on the regular. Classic Holmes. But their dynamic wouldn’t work anywhere near as good if it weren’t for some stand out vocal performances from Alex Jordan and Wil Coban. These guys play off of each other exceptionally well and make the dialogue-heavy parts of the game very easy to digest. The rest of the main cast is pretty great too. But far out, when you combine such a tight English dub with a frustrating, off-kilter lip-sync, it can really take you out of the experience sometimes.
Grinding Gears in Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One
A similar issue presents itself in the gameplay as well. Let me explain. Now I’m sure you guys are aware that most games in today’s market hold the player’s hand maybe a little too much, often blatantly guiding the player with a line directly to their destination like in Dead Space. However, in Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, this design trend is practically turned upside down. There were so many times where it took me a bajillion years to figure out where to go, as the game kind of just expects you to draw conclusions based on a new piece of information or evidence, while all too often being dictated by some really dumb logic leaps.
One time, an on-screen prompt told me that I’d collected all the evidence in one area, but that wasn’t actually true because I was still missing a very specific key item within that location. This lead me to spending over an hour just circling back and forth, back and forth and back and forth between places of interest trying to find the one thing I needed.
Or for another example, Jon told me to remove a disguise in the downtrodden part of Cordona for spoiler reasons and THEN ask the people around me for more information on a specific piece of evidence. Although as it turns out, Sherlock was actually supposed to leave it ON because everyone in that area apparently hates rich-looking people like his majesty, Sherlock Holmes! It’s stuff like this really sucks the fun out of Chapter One.
“Get To Work, Detective!”
But moving back to the positives, the general gameplay of Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is pretty straightforward entertainment. Throughout the main story, you’ll eventually stumble upon a dead body and then have to search for evidence, speak with people of interest, reconstruct crime scenes, mix chemicals together, listen on in gossip, not follow police protocol – you know, standard detective affairs.
Don’t cringe when you hear this, but all the on-foot work really does put you into the shoes of Sherlock Holmes. Even sifting through the police and news archives for clues is surprisingly fun… When you’re not running around like a headless chook, that is. On a related note, the open-world structure of Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One feeds into the design of this game quite well. Not only does the grand scale make Cordona feel more lived-in and adventurous, but it also helps to shake up the detective gameplay formula.
In regards to the side quests, they’re often picked up naturally by Sherlock’s insatiable curiosity as you progress through the main story, offering hours upon hours of solid content that’s anything but filler. Even though the rewards are normally just small stacks of cash, they act as great examples of gameplay-story integration. There are also plenty of optional collectables, buyable clothing items, furnishings for Sherlock’s base of operations and bandit camps which Holmes can take on to earn prizes.
The Precision-Based Combat of Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One
This would be a good time to talk about the combat. At certain parts of the story and in the aforementioned bandit camps, Holmes can whip out his trusty revolver to subdue criminals. And to emulate his pinpoint precision, the game will enter a slow-motion state where our protag can shoot off pieces of armour, then outright stun enemies by any means possible – whether that be a smokescreen or exposed pipe – to move in and arrest them. This style of combat is an honestly cool alternative to the usual aim-for-the-head approach that most shooters utilise and ties perfectly into Sherlock Holmes’ character… Even if it’s a little jank at times.
Since the player is incentivised to not kill their targets, the police will actually hand out extra payments for live bounty. And once a bandit camp has been cleared for the first time, players can handicap themselves with things like reduced slow-mo length for even bigger rewards from the police – nice touch. But at the end of the day, you don’t really need much cash at all in this game. So yeah, a bit of a moot point there… As a whole, I would’ve liked to have seen more combat during the main story, although that’s just a personal preference of mine.
As much as I’d like to recommend this game, the conveyance issues of where to head next will more than likely start grinding your gears at some point. If you can look past that however, you’ll find a well-rounded whodunnit story and tonnes of sass from the world’s greatest detective. Couple that with a unique combat system, an open world full of interesting side quests and things to find. As well as investigation work that is challenging, yet super satisfying to figure out, and you’ve got yourself a grand ol’ time on your hands.
Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One successfully puts you into the shoes of London’s greatest detective, albeit with crippling, pace-killer conveyance issues. However, the precision-based combat, fun crime scene investigations and decent story help to mitigate the general lack of direction. Holmes is also as sassy as ever.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by Frogwares. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.