You ever played the Sherlock Holmes games?
My personal favourite comes down to Crimes & Punishments, the 2014 entry, which managed to be the game L.A. Noire was too busy being an action game to be. It had it all, smart mechanics, compelling cases, magnificent camaraderie between Holmes and Watson… it was fun and cathartic to be blasting through these cases with all the grace the period provided. Now, The Devil’s Daughter has come along, like the harlot she is.
Today’s London iteration of CSI comes to us from Frogwares, who have done every Sherlock Holmes game you can think of, and 80 Days, which has so little relevance, I can’t be bothered to think of a good joke to degrade it. Thankfully, they usually stick to what they know, but I think that they wanted The Devil’s Daughter to finally break into the mainstream, and does it work? Well…
The Devil’s Daughter mostly sticks to what it knows, with there being several small cases with different characters, but this time, there’s an over-arching story that passes briefly with each case. Sherlock’s daughter returns from her boarding school, and she has a new neighbour, Alice De Bouvier, who may know more than she’s letting on. Forget all that though, Sherlock has crooks, killers, and err… creeps to apprehend!
If you’ve yet to play any Sherlock Holmes games, here’s how the beat goes; you roll up to potential crime scenes, and you look for clues, which will lead you to the next area to search. So far, so CSI, but there’s also a heavy mix of minigames in order to tide over anybody looking to blow something up to keep them from being interested. These minigames could be anything from analysing clues further in Sherlock’s mini laboratory, to playing bowls in a nice Engli- Wait, what?
Yes, it seems that Frogwares have gone a bit overboard on the minigames with this, as they’ve made good use of changing the bastard flow of gameplay every eight minutes. One minute, you’re interrogating a lord with tuberculosis, the next minute you’re running from gunfire like you got a bad hand in a match of PUBG. The changes don’t stop there, as you’ll be playing bowls, tight-roping across treacherous drops, avoiding injury in bar-fights, and avoiding deadly rubble as you escape burning… I’m sorry, this is stupid.
This casualisation of Sherlock Holmes, turning him into this gruff Action Man with a slightly bigger vocabulary, is the same reason the films sucked seven shades of shit. It’s not smart, it’s not enthralling, I’m watching a literary legend be desecrated with the same nuance as the damn Expendables. All of this said desecration goes right down to the character itself.
Sherlock Holmes, in this game at least, is an unfathomable prick. He’s a unbearably smug showoff that isn’t part of some persona he’s trying to solve a case with, Frogwares thought the best way to make him connect to newcomers, is to make him as annoying as the people they’re trying to coax into buying their game. He’s a far cry from the smart, sophisticated and restrained man he was in Crimes & Punishments, that’s for sure.
Here’s a good comparison; in Crimes & Punishments, there’s a brilliant back and forth between Sherlock and his brother. There might be a YouTube clip showing this argument somewhere, but in this specific debate, the grounds of Sherlock’s ideology and purpose in terms of his detective work is laid perfectly, and his brother is the antithesis of that. In about 3 minutes, Sherlock shuts him down, and you respect what he does and how he does it immediately. It’s a huge highlight worth noting, in a game filled with them.
I don’t care for Sherlock’s family troubles, I care for what he stated in Crimes & Punishments, which was bringing the rightful suspects to justice and do it with a mostly neutral outlook, all the while retaining his slight, sardonic tone. Now, he’s just “eh, getouttathaway, ya wanker, i wan’ me lager”, who wouldn’t feel out of place as a Call of Duty supporting character.
Speaking of supporting characters, this has easily some of the worst voice acting in recent memory. Stilted accents, stilted delivery, and deadpan line reading, paired with the sort of sluggish character animation, with all of this culminating into a hilariously pathetic attempt at an American accent, in the form of imaginary auteur actor Orson Wilde. This man brings the quality down even further, as his insufferable presence made me want to glass several of the voice actors.
“ooooo, but saymiee, dat wuz duh point! he iz suposed 2 be annoyin-” Yeah yeah, I don’t care, if he’s insufferable, he’s insufferable.
Even though I praised the intelligence of Crimes & Punishments, when it comes to the intelligence of the puzzles in Devil’s Daughter, they’d be intelligent if they’d work. Some crime scenes don’t load in properly, so a crucial piece of evidence that brings the correct killer to justice may sometimes not load in until you restart the game eight times an- Oh, now it’s stuck on the loading screen? Alright, well, let me hard reset th- OH, NOW IT WON’T EVEN GO PAST THE SHITTING MAIN MEN-
The performance of this game is pretty bad, as evident from that last paragraph. This is probably due to the fact that the game’s engine (UE3) can’t handle anything beyond the slowest boil ever in this generation of gaming. That, or it was badly optimized, which would explain a lot. In truth, Crimes & Punishments did have a few hiccups when it came to more dense crime scenes but those were infrequent, as opposed to the constant 10fps you’ll be dealing with here.
As for the overarching story with Sherlock’s daughter, I’m underwhelmed. I get that it’s supposed to make Sherlock seem like an actual human underneath his autistic-ly brilliant deductions, but that was never what the character was about. He’s supposed to be this outsider, not just to the police force, but humanity in general, and that’s why the character is such a strong example for basic compelling story-telling.
By the end of it all, I didn’t know what to feel. It’s like if you melded a Mass Effect conversation with Shenmue, and I’m pretty confident in saying that I didn’t care for what happened to anybody afterwards. Every character was a tosspot, every case was sub-par slow boils, the action was generic and cheesy, and not even in that ironic lovable way, it’s just the white noise of action raw B-Roll.
The Devil’s Daughter isn’t completely bad, however. The chemistry between Holmes and his just-now-introduced companion Watson is endearing, when Holmes isn’t treating him like a sack of shit. The case “Chain Reaction” also deserves particular praise, since it’s the closest this game comes to the consistent brain enlarging of Crimes & Punishments. That’s about it, really, as on every other front, Devil’s Daughter disappoints, demoting delightful detectives down dreary deplorable dullness.
The Devil’s Daughter has ideas, and that’s it. There’s no attempt to evolve, no attempt to focus on primary visions and goals that Crimes & Punishments set up, and it all comes down into making Sherlock into an action icon like everyone else. Holmes doesn’t deserve this… Well, the Crimes & Punishments iteration of Holmes, the Devil’s Daughter iteration deserves a swift sack tap and a swirly.
This review of Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter is based on the Xbox One version of the game.
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