First Impressions: The Testament of Sherlock Holmes

It’s a wonder that not one developer had created a Sherlock Holmes game for the Xbox and PlayStation 3 until now.  We could surmise that the eccentric detective had become obsolete, overshadowed by flashier, grittier, and most importantly more modern characters and narratives of this genre – I mean, what is Batman, if not at his very core a detective?  But then, over the last five years, we’ve seen Sherlock rise in popularity, perhaps largely due to the movie franchise starring the charismatic Robert Downey Jr.   Heck, even a modernized reboot of Sherlock in the form of a TV series is coming this Fall.  So, it’s no surprise that Frogwares has seized the moment, bringing Holmes and Watson to the console gaming community in The Testament of Sherlock Holmes this September.  After watching the trailers, you won’t need much time to deduce that this new title will surely be a hit.

Set in London, 1896, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes spins a dark tale of mystery and deceit.  True to form, the game is narrated by Holmes’s trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson, and players will stand witness as the story unfolds, casting suspicion and doubt on the titular character.  It begins with Sherlock solving a case of stolen jewels.  Yet upon returning the jewelry to their rightful owner, instead of receiving gratitude and thanks, our trusty detective is accused of being the culprit!  Unable to refute the claims or provide evidence of his innocence, Holmes has no choice but to run from Scotland Yard.  With his reputation circling down the drain and everyone – including his friend, Watson – losing faith in him, Holmes is forced to commit some contrary acts (e.g. fraud, destroying evidence, fraternizing with less than reputable people) in order to clear his name.  All of Victorian England believes that Holmes has finally sunken to horrendous depths, but would he be desperate enough to commit murder?  We’ll just have to wait and see!

The set of trailers that have been released since E3 show a beautifully rendered London set in the Victorian era.  The architecture and environments are authentic, showing you the brighter, sophisticated and more glamorous side of the city, juxtaposed against the seedier dark neighbourhoods where less savoury characters lurk and ruffians run amok.  The characters have a rugged look to them, whether they’re dressed up in top hats and waist coats, or dirty shirts that have seen better days.  The costumes are fairly run-of-the-mill, and your eyes are drawn to the environments instead.  It might be different if  some women were around, but surprisingly there were little to no female characters in any of the trailers – odd.  At least we know Frogwares isn’t trying to win over audiences using sex appeal.

To say that the trailers’ content is intriguing would be an understatement.  Within the teaser, we listen to Watson bemoan Holmes’ actions that led to broken trust and a chasm in their friendship, as the camera pans over a headstone…Holmes’ grave.  We hear secondary characters talking about fraud, forgery, lies, even murder, and we’re led to believe that they’re talking about the great detective committing these acts. The released trailers tease audiences, leaving people with many questions: Is Holmes truly dead? How did his death come about?  Why did Holmes commit so many nefarious acts that caused even Watson to turn on him?  Luckily, we don’t have too long to wait, as The Testament of Sherlock Holmes comes out in September 2012 for Xbox, PS3 and PC.  Just elementary!

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