One of the most obvious changes is the new "Character Portrait" ability, which allows Holmes to take a moment and examine a suspect or witness with his keen, investigative eye. As he scans the person, words in white appear over certain features, noting how expensive or worn down certain articles of clothing are, noting scrapes or signs of labor on limbs, and deducing relevant, personal information.
This ability in particular is inspired by the BBC show Sherlock, designer Olga Chalovskaya told me. Sherlock is, itself, a dramatic interpretation of Holmesian detective stories, and Crimes and Punishments draws on many of the same, human-driven tones. Crimes and Punishments also features "Sherlock vision," a mechanic reminiscent of Detective Mode in the Arkham games. In the demo, Holmes investigates the scene of a gruesome murder, where a sailor is harpooned to the wall of a shack like a dead butterfly on display, blood soaking his wounds and smeared on the floor. Holmes finds a notebook that he notes was thrown in the pool of blood after the murder, and a knife that he investigates in detail, rotating the blade completely to examine it from all sides.
A row of sailing records rest on a shelf in the shack, and to the untrained eye, nothing else stands out as potential evidence. Holmes switches on Sherlock vision and the background fades to gray, and a yellow, glowing outline forms a box that's now missing from the shelf. A clue! (He doesn't yell this out in glee; remember, this is a darker Holmes.)
Crimes and Punishments includes eight cases to solve, each with three to five conclusions and two moral choices that players must assess – the game gives players "the ability to fail or succeed," Chalovskaya said. Holmes can condemn an innocent person or absolve a guilty one, and the player will deal with the consequences of his decisions as the game progresses. Essentially, players can completely destroy Holmes' reputation, if they wish. Or if they're bad at deduction.
The setting, tone, mechanics and graphics in Crimes and Punishments each appear to be updated vastly and in a wonderfully gritty direction compared with previous Sherlock games. This might just be the game I wanted to play when I first booted up The Testament last year. Crimes and Punishments is due out on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 (as a retail title) in Q1 2014.