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Sherlock Holmes Chapter One Review: Cold Case | Screen Rant

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is an action-adventure/mystery game that is developed and published by Frogwares. The game has a great concept and story, but it's let down by a number of performance issues, frustrating puzzles (both in terms of games mechanics and solutions), and out-of-place elements that deviate a little too far from the source material.

As the name suggests, Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is set during an earlier period in the life of the famous detective. In this game, Sherlock is still in his twenties. The game is set on the island of Cordona in the Mediterranean, where Sherlock spent his childhood with his mother and brother. Sherlock is taking a trip to the island to pay respects to his mother's grave. He soon learns that there is more to her death than meets the eye, and he goes on a mission to learn the truth about her demise. Sherlock also has a secret of his own, as he is accompanied on his journey by a man named John.

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Sherlock Holmes Chapter One gives the player the run of Cordona, with Sherlock able to explore the island, continue pursuing the main story, or solving cases on the side. The island is home to vendors that can sell disguises, or furniture, which can be used to decorate the abandoned Holmes family manor. Cordona itself is gorgeous, with numerous sights to see and places to visit. It's just a shame that Sherlock Holmes Chapter One suffers from a number of performance issues at launch, in the form of stuttering, slowdown, pop-in, and assets disappearing & reappearing when spinning the camera. These issues cropped up throughout the entirety of the Sherlock Holmes Chapter One playthrough on PS5 and were a constant distraction from the experience.

The overarching story of Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is fascinating, as it offers an interesting look into the brilliant and troubled mind of the great detective during a part of his life when he was still unsure of himself. Once Sherlock gains access to his family manor, he must slowly uncover the truth behind his relatives' dark secrets. What lets the game down is the solutions to many of its puzzles feel like they come from a '90s adventure game, where it's less about working out what happened in the scene from a logical perspective, and more about guessing what the writer was thinking at that moment in time. The UI is unhelpful and the game badly needs a hint system, not for solving the crimes, but for knowing how to progress the case, as it's not always clear who Sherlock needs to speak to, even after solving a mystery.

What might be the most frustrating aspect of Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is John. He constantly mocks Sherlock for not instantly guessing the solution to every problem, which even extends to questioning suspects at a crime scene or residents of Cordona, even though this is the solution to some of the problems. This culminates in a mechanic where Sherlock examines all of the evidence, and then the player takes control over John in Sherlock's mind. As they try to recreate the crime scene by selecting the right combination of actions, they are played out at pivotal locations by mannequin-style hallucinations. These are some of the worst examples of trying to guess what the game is telling the player, as the actions performed by the hallucinations aren't always clear, and if the player makes a deduction while even one of them is incorrect, then John berates them.

Sherlock will face opposition on his journey, which is where the combat system comes into play. The combat system in Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is a major sticking point. Sherlock cannot just run up and punch his enemies, as they will immediately counter and push him back. Instead, the player must first discombobulate the foes, either by stunning them with powder or using part of the environment to their advantage. The idea of a combat system where Sherlock needs to outwit his foes is a great one - except Sherlock Holmes Chapter One also gives the player a pistol. It's possible for Sherlock to simply shoot enemies with his gun, with the only puzzle then involving shooting off pieces of the enemy's armor. The game doesn't punish Sherlock for massacring his foes; in fact, there are Bandit Lairs spread around Cordona that act as horde mode missions, where Sherlock must defeat waves of enemies. The ability to violently murder enemies goes against a common core concept of Sherlock Holmes and the Bandit Lairs feel totally out of place in the game.

A lot of the issues with Sherlock Holmes Chapter One can be resolved with updates. The performances issues can be ironed out, John's obnoxious behavior can be toned down, and an improved hint system could remove the frustration of being lost during a case. With a few tweaks, Sherlock Holmes Chapter One could be an interesting open-world twist on the detective genre. As it stands, the game at launch still needs work before Sherlock Holmes can fully embrace his role as the greatest detective of all time.

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Sherlock Holmes Chapter One will be released for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S on November 16, with PS4 and Xbox One versions to follow later in 2021. Screen Rant was provided with a digital copy of the PS5 version of the game for the purposes of this review.

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