Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One (PS5) Review

Two months ago I was given the opportunity to preview Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, a new open-world adventure for the titular detective. The preview only gave me access to a limited number of side missions and a small portion of the main storyline, yet it increased the hype and anticipation I had for the game, making me want more. A few weeks ago I received my review copy of the game on the PlayStation 5, I was instantly hooked and didn’t stop playing until I’d unlocked the platinum trophy – I think it’s safe to say that I love this game, but please read on to find out why.

Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One was developed and published by Frogwares, the studio behind the brilliant The Sinking City and ten previous Sherlock Holmes games. They are masters at creating exciting and engaging mystery/adventure games, covering not only the above titles but also Dracula, Around the World in 80 Days, and even Journey to the Center of the Earth. 

Launching tomorrow on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S|X, and PC, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is also set to come to the PS4 and Xbox One later this year after further optimisations have been implemented. The question is, how does the game perform on the current-gen systems and did the game continue to excite me beyond what I covered in the preview? Let’s find out…

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 1+1

Hard choice!

Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is an original story focused on 21-year-old Sherlock and his childhood friend Jon (not to be confused with John Watson). In order to pay your respects to your mother, who sadly passed away unexpectedly eleven years ago, you’ve returned to the small island you lived on as a child, Cordona. However, seeing your mother’s grave and entering your old house has resurfaced suppressed memories, you were told your mother had died of TB but you’re beginning to doubt this – was it really a natural death or was there something more sinister surrounding it?

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Solving the mystery behind your mother’s death is the main reason for you staying on the island, but it’s not the only thing you’ll work on whilst there. Whether you’re helping out the local police with their unsolved cases, going on a random treasure hunt, or completing favours in exchange for information, there’s something to do around every corner that’ll reward you with money, info, or new costumes. The game also doesn’t hold your hand, encouraging you to investigate everything, talk to the right people whilst wearing the right clothes, and ask the right questions – it’s very immersive and really tests your detective skills to the max.

First things first, don’t be confused by the title of the game. It could have been called Sherlock Holmes: Origins, or The First Case, as ‘Chapter One’ doesn’t mean it’s an episodic release – it’s simply the first chapter of Sherlock’s life as a detective. The game itself is as big, if not bigger, than The Sinking City – it took me around 60-70 hours to obtain the platinum and around 20 hours to complete the main storyline. Obviously, if you’re following a guide or looking up hints online then you’ll complete it faster, but considering I had the game almost three weeks ago, there was literally no help or support out there so I had to work out the solutions manually (bar the help I got with two trophies from the developers).

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 2+1

Find clues and plot your own destinations!

Gameplay
Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is an open-world adventure game, a big difference from the linear Sherlock Holmes games by the same developer, yet very similar to their previous game – The Sinking City. However, despite the jump from linear to open-world sounding quite drastic, I felt this game was more interactive and immersive than the previous games, thanks to the various mechanics borrowed from The Sinking City. Not only do you have to talk to NPCs, investigate crime scenes, and work out chemical structures, but you also have to plot your own waypoints, pin the correct evidence to talk about, and even dress a certain way for people to talk to you.

We also see a return of the Mind Palace, a process where you map clues together in order to come to a conclusion for the case you’re working on. This is combined with the reconstruction mechanic we saw in The Sinking City, allowing you to rebuild the chain of events in your mind and break down exactly what had happened within the crime scene. 

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The game leaves a lot of the investigating and location mapping to you, offering hints and clues which may point to a location on the map or require you to visit one of the archives first in order to search for a specific address. I loved this in The Sinking City and I loved it here as well, instead of simply pointing you in the right direction, you have to discover and plot the waypoints yourself and then make your way over there manually or via an unlocked fast-travel service – often unlocking further locations on the map such as clothing and furniture stores, which you pass on the way.

Let’s take a look at each of the specific gameplay mechanics one by one and see how they work, starting with…

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 3+1

I guess he doesn’t like sailors?

Asking the right questions
One of the new and rather intuitive mechanics has to be the requirement to pin the evidence you wish to talk about or concentrate on. For example, the first case you work on revolves around returning a cane to its rightful owner. After you’ve looked over the item and noted the details in your case book, you have to ‘pin’ that piece of evidence so that Sherlock will question anyone you talk to about that subject, rather than having a non-related chat. Similarly, pinning the right evidence will enable ‘Sherlock Vision’ which allows you to track footsteps, search for relevant clues, and activate the reconstruction process. 

This is a great feature as it forces you to think about the case you’re working on and correctly pin the relevant clues and evidence in order to progress and obtain more information. Thankfully, the game does provide small icons on the items within your casebook, so you know if you need to pin it, look up more details in an archive, talk to someone about it, or wear a disguise. So, it does help you out a little, but you still feel very satisfied when you work out what you have to do next all on your own.

Just like in previous games, you’ll also have to visit the City Hall, Police Station or Newspaper in order to search for clues in their archives. As above, you pin what you’re looking for, interact with the archive desk, then select the relevant three search criteria relating to your evidence or clue. If you get it right, it’ll either update the evidence with more info or you’ll get a new clue with an address, description, photo, or a hint on what to do next. 

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Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 4+1

This gives me MCR vibes!

Dressed to Impress
Asking the right questions in Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is one part of getting the right information from various witnesses, suspects, and citizens on the street. If you want to fit in with the crowd, you’ll often have to look the part by dressing up accordingly. This mechanic was in previous Sherlock Holmes games, but not anywhere near the level you have to do it within this game. For example, at one point you have to gain access to a dig site but the recruiter is only looking to hire beggars who love the British. As such, you need to swap your smart waistcoat for tattered clothing and proclaim how much you love drinking tea.

People react to you differently based upon your clothes within the game, if you’re a policeman then witnesses will open up more but criminals on the street will refuse to talk to you, dress smart and the rich will tell you things but the poor won’t, and if you look a mess then poor people will give you advise whereas the posh ones look down on you. This all ties into the above mechanic of asking the right questions by pinning your clues and evidence – if you’re looking for a location in an area occupied by poor and lower-class citizens, don’t approach them wearing a suit that costs more than they make in a year. 

There are a lot of costumes to buy or rent within Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One. As money is quite hard to get during the first few hours, I’m thankful you can ‘rent’ certain items – usually the ones that relate to the case you are currently working on. Renting the items means you don’t pay and they’ll just be returned once the case is over – I actually found it easier to work out what the game wanted me to wear by simply looking at what I could rent, as it doesn’t often let you rent things which aren’t useful for the situation you’re in. 

Speaking of the costumes, you can get clothing, hats, facial make-up, face masks, and facial hair – allowing you to create a rather amusing cross-dressed Sherlock Holmes. For the majority of my first playthrough, I wore white foundation and lipstick, often swapping between a policemen’s outfit and a dress – sometimes coupled with a big bushy beard. The people of Cordona are very accepting of my unique dress sense… Later, I found an outfit that reminded me of My Chemical Romance – so I matched that with scruffy hair and the ladies face, going full ’emo’ as I solved the various mysteries which lay ahead.

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You can also dress up Jon but only in pre-set costumes you unlock by doing cases. I wish we had a cull customisation for him as well!

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 5+1

This is why you should bathe… your sweat gives you away!

Mind Palace and Reconstructing
Reconstruction is a mechanic that we saw in The Sinking City – you enter another plain as you rebuild the events which happened prior to your arrival. It’s triggered by having the correct evidence pinned in the right location after you’ve obtained all the clues you need to solve the reconstruction. For example, there’s one side-mission based on a group of people sacrificing a goat, you have to use the suspects’ testimonies and the various clues left around the bloody scene to figure out which person performed each of the tasks.

This is fun and quite challenging, especially the reconstruction in the graveyard. This is because sometimes you’re trying to determine which person performed an action, rather than what action a person was doing, yet multiple people can look similar in their ghostly form – plus, the outcome isn’t always quite what you predict it to be. Nothing is impossible though, as I managed to do them all without any help, but they may take a little trial and error.

If you’ve played any recent Frogwares game previously, you’ll know how the Mind Palace works. As you gather evidence and clues, you play a ‘game’ of matching the pairs as you link two pieces that relate together, creating a key theory or factual point in your Mind Palace. Most of these points are a single outcome but some require you to pick which you believe is the truth – such as, did someone purposely harm someone or was it an accident. As the points in here grow, you’ll come to a conclusion – which isn’t set in stone at this point.

You can pick whether to condemn or sympathise with the suspect once you’ve come to your final conclusion, making your final choice once you go back and talk to them as you reveal the evidence you have against them. The beauty of Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is that there is technically no wrong answers – you can come to any conclusion you wish and deal with the suspect as you see fit, yet you’re never punished for ‘getting it wrong’. After you’ve made a decision and finished the case, you can buy a newspaper and read what happened to the person after you arrested them (or let them go). This offers a brief look into the aftermath but doesn’t impact choices or narrative going forward in subsequent cases.

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Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 6+1

Why don’t we find out?

The many cases of Sherlock Holmes
As mentioned above, despite Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One following the story of Sherlock returning home to discover the truth behind his mother’s death, there are many more interesting cases and side activities to get involved within. If I recall correctly, there are thirty other cases, some relating to the main questline and required to complete, others hidden on the streets which you’ll only find if you go exploring the city. Every case is different, just as they were in The Sinking City – they’re not simple fetch quests or something that’ll take five minutes and be over.

For example, The police station has a notice board of unsolved crimes – you can take on these at any time and work your way through them, helping the incompetent officers by doing their job for them as you work your way up to uncovering the elusive Hive Master. Other cases involve you searching for a missing elephant that murdered a guy, uncovering a questionable piece of art, solving a murder at an Eyes Wide Shut-like party, and working out why a body was found inside a locked safe.

Although some of the cases are light-hearted and fun, some do take a dark turn. There’s one that is heavily focused on rape, with a few graphic images. There’s another which can result in the death of an animal, which was quite sad and clearly not the choice I should have made! And obviously, there’s a lot of murder within the game, so expect blood and some graphic death poses – including the aforementioned bloody remains of a slaughtered goat.

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 7+1

That looks familiar…

Home Sweet Holmes
Cordona was Sherlock’s childhood home, at least for a short period. Once his mother passed away, he left the island and never looked back… until now. As such, what remained of his family home was sold off to local businesses to cover costs and debts the family had – leaving the building an empty shell with no personality or family heirlooms within its four walls. Thankfully, none of the merchants seems to have sold your precious artefacts over the last ten years, so you can easily purchase them as long as you have the money to do so. 

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As you buy your items back, you’ll begin to trigger new memories of the past within the mansion. As your memories return, new areas within the building will unlock, allowing you access to other parts of the house which will subsequently unlock more memories and items to buy in the shops. 

I found that I was often required to forget the main story and go solve a few side-missions as you don’t earn a lot of money within the game, yet the items you need to buy can get quite pricey. I didn’t mind this, as it meant I was pushed to explore the city to find more cases to solve, but it did make me wish I could make more money faster – especially when I had to choose between buying new clothes to wear or spending the money on some art to unlock a new memory.

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 8+1

A simple QTE and he’s down for the count!

Fight Club
A big new addition to Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, which will split people down the middle, is the combat segments. There aren’t a lot of them, but they do pop up fairly frequently when working through the main storyline missions. The combat is akin to Gears-esque cover-shooting, but with QTE finishers. Sherlock has a gun, but you’re trying to NOT kill people, you shoot the ammo on the enemies chest, flour bags, beer barrels, light fixtures, etc… then, whilst they’re stunned, you move in and perform a simple QTE to knock them out and arrest them. 

However, if you’re feeling rather aggressive, you can straight-up kill them by shooting them in the face, but Jon won’t be happy with you and some missions require you to take the suspects in alive, meaning you may lose a trophy if you slaughter them all. However, there are some trophies based on arresting and a few based on killing people, so both are encouraged! 

If you’re not too keen on the fighting, as it can get a bit repetitive after a while, you can turn it off completely – allowing you to hold a button and skip the fight whilst still reaping the rewards. You are still required to fight the last person if they’re part of your current case, but everyone else will automatically be arrested. The only fights you can’t fully skip are the Bandit Lairs – in these, you take on a wave of enemies to earn money and unlock harder modes within the other clubs scattered around the island.

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Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 9+1

Can you work it out?

Mini-games
I really liked the chemical analysis mini-game. Basically, you have a final composition which you have to recreate by using various elements combined with limited transformative processes. For example, you may have to make a final outcome with -3 Red and +4 Blue – one of the solutions could be to grab a +3 Red element and invert it, so it becomes -3, then combine that with a +4 Blue to create the one you’re looking for. Obviously, the elements you have are different and some have multiple colours assigned to them, so you have to really think about how you can manipulate the numbers using various mathematical adjustments.

Just like the combat, I found that you can also adjust the difficulty of this puzzle, allowing you to simply skip it if you can’t work out the solution. My first 50+ hour playthrough was done on normal difficulty, so I fought every fight and solved every puzzle, but when I came back for a second run to grab some trophies, I had them both set to skip – I felt more satisfied completing them but I can see why some people may struggle, especially when the chemical puzzles get quite advanced later on.

One of the other mechanics, which could be classed as a mini-game, is figuring out new clues by listening to other people’s conversations. I don’t know what I’m doing with this mechanic – you have to swipe up on phrases you think is relevant to the subject, and down on those that aren’t (like Tinder, but for clues and not dates). I simply did trial and error with this as some of the solutions were quite abstract from the subject – however, it could just be me being a bit stupid!

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 10+1

Awww, I love you too.

Jon
Although there’s no John Watson within Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, we do get another companion called Jon – Sherlock’s childhood friend. He’s a snarky, sarcastic, and annoying fellow who often complains when you get things wrong. For example, if you’re not wearing the right clothes and people won’t answer your questions, he’ll moan, he does the same if you’re asking the wrong question to the wrong people as well. The game does say that Jon has written about you in his journal when this happens, but all it says is that Jon basically thinks you’re stupid. If it offered a hint or a clue as to what you’re doing wrong, that would have been more helpful.

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Whilst trying to solve the various cases, Jon will often suggest a secondary objective, a task that usually isn’t required to complete the case but will reward you with a PSN trophy if you manage to complete it. For example, one of the cases has you investigate the murder of a person belonging to a club – if you complete the case and also complete the three rules of their club whilst doing so, you’ll pass his challenge. The secondary missions add variety to the game and often pushes you to explore a little more and investigate things more thoroughly.

I don’t want to give away anything in regards to who Jon is or how he relates to Sherlock, but I thought he was a very interesting character and brought a decent amount of comedy to the game. 

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 11+1

I’ve seen this picture in a bunch of games recently.

Trophies
I’m sure by now there will be guides online and as of tomorrow, you’ll see people in various forums offering support and guidance for those who are stuck. My advice, try to do as much of the game on your own as it’s much more satisfying. There are a few choice-based trophies that are missable, but the game has a generous auto-save and manual save facility, so you can easily reload and make different choices if you missed something and noticed it fairly soon. I simply played the game how I wanted the first time and then played it a second time to grab the choices I missed.

There are a few more in-depth trophies that you can easily miss, such as triggering a few fights and getting every accusation question right (nine in total), but again, if you’re mindful of the criteria required then you shouldn’t miss them. The only case I really struggled with was the Treasure Hunt – you’re given a bunch of photos and you have to find that location in Cordona and pick up a small box. The titles sometimes give a slight clue, but ultimately all you have is a small image to go off, which makes tracking them down really hard. I managed to find almost all of them but a developer had to step in and show me where the final few were.

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I had one issue with the trophies – after I had my PS5 in rest mode, some of them weren’t triggering upon completing the criteria. Luckily I noticed this, closed the game, reloaded my previous save, and did the same action again – they then unlocked. This didn’t happen every time it was in rest mode, but it happened once. It’s not a big issue, but if you think you should have got a trophy – just ensure you have a save and close the game then reload it.

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 12+1

Of course, there’s a creepy doll!

Technical
When Frogwares announced that the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game were being delayed, I instantly knew why – optimisation. I’ve previously played the PC version back in September and I experienced a poor framerate then (although that was a pre-release build and on my not-very-good PC). However, I was hoping the PS5 version of the game would be flawless as The Sinking City was well-optimised and ran great at 4K and 60fps when that was re-released earlier this year. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The opening prologue is fine, it seems to run quite smooth and gives a great first impression – the visuals are nice and sharp, and the framerate is solid. But then, when you enter the open world, things sadly go downhill. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not unplayable, but there is a lot of slowdown, inconsistent framerates, micro-stutters, and possibly frame pacing issues. Inside buildings, it’s much better, but the ambitiously dense and heavily-populated open-world hits the performance hard.

I’ve asked the developers about any upcoming patches but it seems the day-one patch is what we’ve been playing for the last few weeks – so you’ll be experiencing it as I have. However, they did advise that once the game launches tomorrow, most resources will be going on the last-gen versions, so as they optimise that version, they’ll indirectly discover optimisations for the current-gen version too – so I’m hoping we’ll get a patch around the launch of the PS4 version that’ll improve the PS5 version. 

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As I said though, it’s not game-breaking or ‘so bad you can’t play it’, but don’t expect a silky smooth 60fps tomorrow – but don’t let that put you off picking it up. Personally, I would have possibly offered a lower resolution mode, forcing it to 1440p whilst they work on the higher resolution optimisations, or even gave us a toggle to enable a 30fps cap for those preferring stability over a higher inconsistent framerate. But, either of these options I would have liked as an option so gamers can pick how they wish to play the game.

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 13+1

Not whilst I’m on duty…

Aside from the above performance issues, what did I think of the rest of the game? Personally, I really enjoyed the voice acting – I don’t tend to like it when famous characters are dramatically changed and re-cast or voiced, but I thought the actor who plays young Sherlock did a great job (Alex Jordan). Similarly, I didn’t have an issue with any of the main cast within the game, each with their own dialogue and unique reactions based upon what you’re wearing. The various NPCs also have multiple things to say based on how you look, but you do often hear the same lines from the same actors if you’re questioning people in the same area.

Visually, I thought the game was stunning. As I’ve said many times, the game looks and feels a lot like The Sinking City, but during the daytime – something that never had due to the theme of the game. Cordona looks beautiful on the PS5, with a very dense city, distinct zones, a lot of NPCs wandering the street, and some rather graphic imagery. I wish the game had a photo mode but it didn’t come with one and I don’t think it’s on the plan to have one implemented. If you’re playing on PC, you can use the NVIDIA tools to activate the unofficial photo mode (which I did in the preview) and that works great with the game.

In terms of bugs or crashes, I only had one bug throughout the entire game (not including trophies not popping for me). It was rather strange, when I was talking to NPCs, they would say their dialogue for about five seconds then repeat the same short piece of audio until the game triggered they should have said the whole sentence. This stuck until I restarted the game – it was quite funny but didn’t break the game. I didn’t have any crashes or severe bugs though, even though the game sometimes felt like it was going to crash when the framerate went a bit iffy.

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Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Personally, I’d say that Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is one of, if not THE, best game from Frogwares so far. It takes the open-world and immersive quest gathering aspects from The Sinking City and brilliantly combines them with the charm and quirky nature of Sherlock Holmes. Although the performance isn’t perfect at launch, it never impacted my enjoyment of the very interesting story, intriguing cases, well-written conversations, and wide variety of missions. Having to be mindful of what you wear, who you talk to, and what you talk about, makes you feel like Sherlock himself, it’s a level of immersion and interaction we’ve not seen in any of his prior adventures.


As stated previously, the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S|X and PC versions are out tomorrow (the 16th of November 2021) – the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions are due to arrive later this year. If you do pre-order the game tonight, before it goes live at midnight here in the UK, you’ll also get Crimes & Punishments for free as well as a vampire costume and some in-game money. If picking it up on consoles, the version of Crimes & Punishments is the REDUX edition, so it’s a new trophy list compared to the 2014 original.

The PS5 and Xbox versions of the game also gives you access to the PS4 and Xbox One versions – just not yet…

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One

£36.99
9.3

Final Score

9.3/10

The Good:

  • - Brilliant original story which has you hooked from the beginning until the end
  • - Having to wear certain clothes to ask certain people a certain question adds to the overall immersive and interactive gameplay
  • - The voice acting is really good, with every character delivering a great performance
  • - Easily over 50 hours of gameplay if you complete everything by yourself
  • - Visually the game looks great, from highly detailed character and environments to disturbingly realistic evidence and crime scenes

The Bad:

  • - As of launch, the performance when traversing the open-world is very inconsistent (this should get better with a few patches and the launch of the last-gen version)
  • - Jon is a fun character but he's not very helpful, often scolding you rather than giving you hints or advice on where you've gone wrong
  • - I love the lack of hand-holding throughout the game but some cases, such as the treasure hunt, felt like we should have had a little more guidance or the ability to ask locals to point us in the right direction
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Niko
20 days ago

Thx for the review! Maybe ill give Forgware a chance!