Today developer Frogwares announced the latest game in its Sherlock Holmes series, titled Crimes and Punishments, would be available from September cross-gen on Xbox and PlayStation, as well as on PC.
'So what?', you're probably thinking, airily batting away slight recollections of the previous games, maybe remembering seeing them on the shelf and thinking that they looked lower budget than most homemade porn films (you're probably right). This news may not be important to you, and neither really is it to me. Well, not in the sense that it would enable us to live forever, or prevent another world war, or invent a program that deletes both YouTube comments and their creators. It is, however, akin to finding a tenner in an old pair of jeans. Pleasantly surprising, like the games themselves.
I'm not going to say that I think they are great, even in this era where the word is bandied around to describe anything from chronically-stupid vests to the consistency of turds you just had to Instagram to your friends. I wouldn't even say that they are, in a lot of ways, good games. They look like shit, for a start, and have all the technical accomplishment of that thing you 'built' in D&T when you were 14. The voice acting is atrocious, with the principals sounding like someone impersonating RADA trainees while on their 38th shot of a Red Bull centurion. The supporting cast is even worse, comprised seemingly of Dick Van Dyke playing Barbara Windsor. Holmes runs errands for so many people he's more like a delivery boy than the finest deductive mind of his time.
There are a lot of things about it that aren't very good. Still not convinced? Here's a screenshot.
Yes, that is from a video game that was made sometime in the last 3,000 years. And yet I don't care. There's something about this series that is amplified by their shitness, that makes them appeal in a way that a hundred jumped-up, technically-astounding shooters don't. Sherlock Holmes games are the anti-Crysis.
Their poor technical quality plays into an otherworldly sense of place, a bizarre feeling of unreality that makes you want to find out what happens next, even when the experience is seemingly doing its level best to dissuade you from going any further. I don't know anyone that has actually finished a Sherlock title, but everyone I know who has played it speaks fondly of the strange mixture of elements that comprise it. Right now, you can probably pick it up for about eight pence anywhere in the world. I suggest you do. It will be worth it for the laughs alone.
Worryingly, when Crimes and Punishments was announced it was also stated that it would run on UE3, which might suggest that it could reach some level of technical accomplishment. Fortunately, this does not appear to be the case, and as such we can all rest easy. Sherlock Holmes is back. And while he'll look, sound, move, and investigate in a manner that probably suggests all is not well, it'll be worth checking out.