by Dan Lenois
reviewed on PC
Not Necessarily A Sight To Behold...
The world of London and beyond is an element crucial to capture authentically and stylistically in any Sherlock Holmes game, and for the most part, The Awakened meets this standard acceptably. But nothing beyond acceptable. Normally, graphical fidelity isn't a major consideration in these reviews, for as long as the game's art style remains generally appealing, this can mitigate such concerns. That said, when you have a game that aims to portray real-life locations in a grounded art style that borders on realism, it doesn't seem unreasonable to hope that the developers take advantage of the considerable array of graphical and rendering tools made accessible to them through any modern game engine.
However, setting aside pre-rendered cutscenes, The Awakened not only fails to meet the standard of other AAA games released this year, it barely resembles a game produced within this decade. Textures often look muddy and lacking definition. This is particularly true of indoor environments, while the exterior locales tend to look more acceptable, although none come close to visual remarkability. Faces and skin often look ridiculously glossy, and facial hair on certain characters sticks out so sharply, and at such odd angles, that it barely appears connected to their face. These are the kinds of glaring minor errors that, while by no means game-breaking, can easily break the player out of their immersion.
There Is Nothing More Deceptive Than An Obvious Fact...
While there is some action scattered throughout to break up the monotony, it is the intellectual puzzles, namely those associated with the cases you'll take on throughout the story campaign, that lay at the heart and soul of this game. Luckily, these are mostly fine. Nothing particularly revolutionary in terms of mechanics. If you've played other mainstream AAA detective games like LA Noire, you'll quickly pick up the basics here. Investigate the evidence at hand, speak to any witnesses or persons of interest, even if it means tracking them down, and based on what they tell you, follow up on those leads. Successfully connecting various clues using the sprawling web in Sherlock's mind can often prove highly satisfying.
Without getting into spoilers, the narrative here in The Awakened, particularly the pacing, is definitely one of the weakest elements on display here. Characters' reactions to certain events, particularly Sherlock's, often do not match what is happening on-screen. While Sherlock Holmes has traditionally displayed a perceived indifference to what goes on around him in his daily life, this cannot also be said of him when he is working on a case, particularly when said case involves life-or-death dangers. Yet this portrayal of the inestimable figure often shows him shrugging things off that, in Conan Doyle's stories, he never would have. While it's perfectly reasonable to expect minor changes in how a character acts or responds to external stimuli, some moments in The Awakened will stretch any Sherlockian's credulity.
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is the direct product of an excessively-rushed development cycle. It suffers from questionable narrative direction, poor visual fidelity, and generic puzzles that will entertain the player at first, but quickly become tedious over time. While this is by no means a Sherlock Holmes game at its worst, it certainly falls short of the gold standard set by Frogwares themselves with their past entries. If you're an absolute Holmes diehard, The Awakened might scratch your itch, but if you're not already hooked by the Sherlock Holmes IP, then The Awakened probably won't do anything to pique your interest.
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Fun but campy storytelling, decent visual style, immersive world.
Puzzles are often simplistic, bad story pacing. The game often feels rushed.