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Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One review – PC Gamer

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By Fraser Brown 15 November 2021
An island full of riveting mysteries, stuck with some truly awful and jarring combat.
An island full of riveting mysteries, stuck with some truly awful and jarring combat.
What is it? An open-world detective mystery with a young Sherlock. 
Expect to pay £40/$50
Developer Frogwares
Publisher Frogwares
Release November 16
Reviewed on GTX 1080 Ti, Intel i7-8086K, 16GB RAM
Multiplayer? No
Link Official site
Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One feels like the ultimate expression of developer Frogwares’ ambition for its venerable sleuthing series and, simultaneously, its strangest entry. It is nearly everything you could want from a game about the consulting detective, but also quite a few things that you could do without. It veers between greatness and absurdity, but if you’ve got an itch to solve some Victorian mysteries, there isn’t a better salve. 
Don’t let the title fool you—this is not the first in a series of episodic games, but rather an origin story. In The Devil’s Daughter, Frogwares transformed Sherlock Holmes into a brooding Jon Hamm look-alike, and here’s it’s doubled down, giving us a fresh-faced version of Sherlock who’s clearly just walked out of a CW Network drama—probably one of the vampire ones—complete with a pout and a penchant for leather gloves. 
Instead of being stuck in gloomy London, Sherlock’s taken a trip to the sunny Mediterranean island of Cordona, where he lived as a child, to visit his mother’s grave. There’s no fog, no army of urchins and no Watson; all of which, it turns out, is actually a good thing. Unshackled from so many of the conventions of a Sherlock Holmes mystery, Chapter One takes bold, surprising and, yes, sometimes quite silly turns, and miraculously does that within an adventure that still feels true to the game series and the broader fiction. 

Sherlock’s constant companion, Jon, is a sort of proto-Watson, and really exemplifies how Chapter One adapts Arthur Conan Doyle’s ancient character. Like Watson, Jon is a sounding board, motivator and confidant for Sherlock, as well as assisting in his cases. But unlike the good doctor, he’s a bit of a rogue, with a playful, cheeky streak and a more fraternal relationship with Sherlock. He’s also entirely imaginary.
Jon’s status as a figment of Sherlock’s imagination is revealed right after the prologue—a brisk but entertaining case involving a séance, a stolen diamond and a murder—but there are hints straight away, like how you never see him walking. You’ll open a door and he’ll just be there. He doesn’t move, he appears. And there’s often a hint of mischief. You might find him soaking his feet in a hotel water feature, mucking around on a piano, or painting on the ceiling. I appreciate this level of dedication to keeping the Creepy Watson meme alive.
While Frogwares has pitted Sherlock against eldritch cults and Jack the Ripper, this still feels pretty out-there. But for a series that, at least for the last couple of games, really pushes the concept of mind palaces and constructing mental crime scenes, the idea that Sherlock would also invent a companion to assist him in navigating life in general is maybe not such a huge leap. Jon’s also another mystery to solve. He’s been with Sherlock since childhood, a period of his life that’s mostly a blank. Lost memories can be conjured up, however, filling the gaps in Sherlock’s past with sketches superimposed onto the present. And while you’re unravelling this story, at the heart of which lies the mystery of his mother’s death, you’re always a detective. The tools you use to solve crimes are the same ones you use to illuminate the past. 

It dawned on me, somewhere between having visions, bantering with my sidekick, and putting crooks behind bars, that Chapter One is a superhero origin story specifically. In Crimes & Punishments, we had the middle-aged, stoic veteran of countless cases, deerstalker on his head, trustworthy Watson by his side, in complete command of his preternatural crime-solving powers. Chapter One’s Sherlock is less refined, less in control, and is still trying to complete himself. And his best mate is an imaginary dude who likes booze and dinosaurs. And it works! Somehow. Maybe that shouldn’t be too surprising. What is Batman if not an American Sherlock Holmes in fancy dress? 
The Dark Knight and Sherlock have even more in common now that the latter has joined the ranks of open-world protagonists. Cordona is very far from Arkham’s Gotham or Assassin’s Creed’s gargantuan spaces, however, for which I’m incredibly grateful. Instead, it’s evocative of LA Noire and Mafia, where the cities are just elaborate stages. For the most part, the bustling island just lets you get on with the good stuff: solving cases. And oh boy are there a lot of them. 
Forget, if you want, all the other stuff—this is Chapter One’s greatest hook. A picturesque Mediterranean city that’s filled to the brim with thefts, murders and conspiracies; case after case, cold for years or so hot the blood is still warm; and, as a treat, shops full of disguises for you to try on. It’s a detective’s paradise. 

Outside of the main story’s five mysteries, there are more than 30 side cases. That’s a hefty chunk of delicious crime. You are free to take your time with them, switch back to the main story, and bounce between the ones you’ve already started. The cases range from simple things like ‘which drunk idiot stabbed that other drunk idiot?’ to chasing down an elephant who may have killed an important lead. The best cases, of course, are the bamboozlers that send you all over the city to research legal documents, interview suspects, solve riddles and do a spot of chemical analysis but, when you’re craving that hit from putting another mystery to bed, it can be nice to just walk into a room, look at a crime scene, and say “That dude did it.” And even the quickies can be engaging conundrums—Chapter One takes its cases pretty seriously. 
Like the last couple of games, the cases are made all the more gripping because you absolutely can get it wrong. You might make the wrong conclusions after observing a suspect, make the wrong deductions in your mind palace or, worst of all, accuse the wrong person. Then you just have to keep moving forwards and live with your mistakes. That’s the important bit, though. The constant progression. Chapter One is a master of momentum, never letting you get stuck, even when you’ve got dozens of clues and no idea how to put them together. Everything in your case files comes with a text description that can give you a nudge in the right direction, but even more helpful are the red symbols attached to clues that let you know there’s still more to glean and, crucially, how you go about doing that, without giving away too many specifics. You’re still the one making all the important decisions and deductions, but with none of the faffing around or aimless wandering.
Even when that dreaded word “collectibles” rears its head, it’s an easier pill to swallow because it just means more puzzles to solve. Back when Sherlock was a kid, his brother Mycroft pinched his coin collection and hid them all over the island. A decade later, you can try to find them all. Mycroft is a prize prick, so you’ll have to jump through some hoops to get them, flexing those detective muscles as you piece together his clues. Thank goodness for horrible brothers, because it’s one of the only collectible hunts I’ve enjoyed. Chapter One has a few of these diversions and, while they never reach the heights of the actual cases, they never feel like fluff. Indeed, you’ll learn a lot more about Sherlock and Jon by completing them, making them an important piece of the narrative puzzle. 

Nearly everything in the open world fits, but there’s a glaring exception: bandit lairs. They are a surreal addition, if only because it makes absolutely no sense for them to be in this game of mystery and deduction. The cops are apparently overworked, so they let a 20-year-old nerd with a gun take out criminal gangs with no backup. You can go Victorian Rambo on their asses, but you’re gently encouraged to cuff rather than kill. Go down this route and you’ll still need to use your gun, however, by shooting environmental hazards or destroying the armour plates some of bandits have strapped onto themselves. After that you can stun them in a QTE and leave them for the lazy cops. 
Watching Sherlock dish out all these beatdowns, it feels like one step towards Batman too far. Every other oddity has its place, like it’s been thoughtfully included, but these pointless brawls are utterly incongruous to the rest of the game, like someone accidentally spilled some Far Cry on it in the middle of development. I’m not even entirely opposed to a Sherlock game having a few fights, but not these repetitive, wave-based arena brawls with vacuous goons. And sadly that’s the only kind of fight Chapter One throws at you. The good news is that these lairs are so detached from the rest of the game that you can and should skip them. The bad news is that Frogwares is so inexplicably confident in the quality of these out-of-place bouts that it also chucks them into cases, making them unavoidable, though not common. 
Sherlock still tends to find a way to handle most problems with words, running rings around everyone with his uncanny observations and revelations. He’s even occasionally funny, playing off Jon, who brings it out in him, or resorting to some polite Victorian sarcasm when he’s had enough of someone’s bullshit. There’s a playfulness to Chapter One that balances out the grim nature of Sherlock’s work, both through the the characters and the gags that Frogwares has snuck into easy-to-overlook things, like innocuous items and disguise descriptions. Serious or silly, the dialogue often contributes just as much to the cases as the compelling mysteries themselves, and the quality of the writing is some of the studio’s best.

Despite this, it does still stumble. There’s the depiction of a trans man as, in Sherlock’s words, “a woman who disguises herself as a man to achieve higher social position”. He is also consistently misgendered by Sherlock, even in conversations where he’s calling him by his chosen name. Neither Sherlock or Cordona are real, and the setting should serve the game, not the other way around, so the Victorians aren’t to blame for Frogwares’ misstep here. Or when it decided that searching from an African refugee should be a simple matter of asking the first random Black passer-by you can find. For a game with so much smarts, it can be very dumb. 
Like the young detective himself, Chapter One is imperfect and sometimes awkward, but I still found myself dangling on its hook, hungry for more crimes. There is a very clear point of no return, and with a deadline looming I considered moving past it a few times, but I kept being drawn back by the cases I’d yet to close. And then I’d find completely new ones. The people of Cordona just cannot help but murder each other, for which I’m grateful. I begrudgingly polished off the story eventually, but I’ve still got a few outstanding conundrums to solve, and a save waiting for me. It’s impressive that, as dense as it is, and as long as it is, it still manages to stay focused, bandit lairs aside, on the important stuff. It’s a miracle—an open world with almost no bullshit. You’re here to sleuth, and that’s exactly what you’ll get to do, nearly uninterrupted, for 40 hours. 
An island full of riveting mysteries, stuck with some truly awful and jarring combat.
Fraser is the UK online editor and has actually met The Internet in person. With over a decade of experience, he’s been around the block a few times, serving as a freelancer, news editor and prolific reviewer. Strategy games have been a 30-year-long obsession, from tiny RTSs to sprawling political sims, and he never turns down the chance to rave about Total War or Crusader Kings. He’s also been known to set up shop in the latest MMO and likes to wind down with an endlessly deep, systemic RPG. These days, when he’s not editing, he can usually be found writing features that are 1,000 words too long. He thinks labradoodles are the best dogs but doesn’t get to write about them much.  
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The PS5 and Xbox Series X are for sale now for Walmart Plus subscribers – The Verge

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Both the disc-based PS5 and the Digital Edition are up for grabs
If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s becoming ever-so-slightly less of a maddening exercise to get your hands on a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. Granted, it’s still harder than it should be, but recent retailer restocks have taken longer to sell out than they used to. So, here’s hoping that you’re able to purchase whichever console you want during today’s restock at Walmart, which is specifically for paid Walmart Plus subscribers and going on right now.
Walmart is offering the $499.99 PS5 with a disc drive, the $399.99 PS5 console that can only play digital titles, as well as the $499.99 Xbox Series X. These consoles are available to non-trial Walmart Plus members, meaning you actually have to opt-in to pay Walmart for the service to get access (here’s where you can sign up for Walmart Plus). Though, Walmart is calling these “early access” deals, perhaps suggesting that they’ll open up to non-Plus customers after a window of time. In the past, the window of exclusivity has been three hours.
To ease the checkout process, make sure you have your shipping and payment info ready to go ahead of time.

Sony’s flagship next-gen console, which includes a disc drive, allows you to play both digital and physical games for the PS4 and PS5.

The PS5 Digital Edition costs $400. Compared to the standard PS5, this console is $100 less and does not include a Blu-ray disc drive.

The Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s flagship console, serving as its most powerful (and biggest) option. While the Series S is aimed at smooth 1440p performance and takes a disc-less approach, the $500 Series X is focused on fast, 4K gameplay.
In case you plan to get lucky with buying a console today, there are several excellent games and accessories that we recommend. Starting with games, head over to this list to see the PS5’s best games of 2021.

An open-world, third-person sword fighting game that has your character trying to prevent the Mongolian invasion of Japan.

Insomniac Games’ latest adventure in the Ratchet & Clank series is the most fun entry yet. It’s also the first to launch on PS5, and it’s both a showcase for amazing graphics and fast loading speeds.

The midnight black DualSense controller sports the same hardware as the original — haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, etc. — only with a two-tone black design reminiscent of PS2, PS3, and PS4 consoles.
If you’re on team Xbox, you may already know about Game Pass Ultimate, which gives you discounts and access to an ever-expanding catalog of Game Pass games, along with online multiplayer. You may never need to pay full price for a game for your new console. Though, whether you do want to pay full price or you just need some ideas on what to play, check out the Xbox’s best games of 2021.

You don’t have to miss a call while you game thanks to Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Headset, which is currently selling for $96.99 instead of $99.99 at Target. In our review, we found it to be a comfortable, intuitively designed headset that’s well worth the price. In addition to working well with Xbox consoles, it can connect to another device simultaneously via Bluetooth.

Of course, you can buy faster storage to add onto your Series X / S console, but it’ll cost you significantly more money than the option above. Microsoft partnered with Seagate to make proprietary SSDs that can be inserted into the rear of either console. The SSDs are currently available in multiple configurations, including a 512GB model for $139.99, a 1TB variant for $216.95, and a 2TB version for $399.99. All three are supposedly just as fast as the storage inside your new console, so this is the best place to keep all of the new games you want to quickly load and switch between at will.

Update January 13th, 4:11PM ET : Walmart has sold out of consoles for now.
Update January 13th, 3:00PM ET: We’ve updated the copy and headline to reflect that the PS5 and Xbox Series X are now available to Walmart Plus subscribers.
Update January 13th, 12:09PM ET: We’ve updated several prices in the product cards, as well as the language in the post to reflect the timing of the event.
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PC Building Diary: Assembling my first gaming rig and why I should have gone pre-built instead – 9to5Toys

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Like many other console gamers through the past few years, the allure of switching over to a PC finally got the best of me. There’s just the problem of actually making the jump, considering just how hard things are with the ongoing stock shortages. Detailing the entire experience of building a PC for the first time, down below you can follow along as I go through all the components in my first rig and my thoughts on why I should have just gone for a pre-built in the first place.
After having a chance to check out a pre-built machine from CLX as a loaner, it got the ball rolling in my head that it might be time to invest in a system all my own. In what was a test for “will I even use a gaming PC in the first place,” I inevitably decided that my mixed experience with that brand shouldn’t deter me, and I sent out to build my own gaming PC and see what the other side of the table had in store. After all, there has to be a reason why everyone is so gung ho about crafting their own gaming rig.
In what was perfect timing with NZXT launching a new case and some coolers to go with it, I took those debuts as the perfect chance to dive in. So what did I ultimately decide on for my first machine?
To start things out, I built the entire PC around NZXT’s new H510 Flow case. While I am hardly one to push my system to the point of really needing the improved airflow capabilities that give this case its namesake, the peace of mind is certainly nice. I was originally debating getting one of the brand’s more compact machines, though after assembling everything inside of the mid-sized case, I am glad I had the extra room to work with. That pairs with the NZXT C850 power supply to get things started.
As for the CPU, I was recommended the Intel i7-11700 chip by 9to5Toys’ own PC builder extraordinaire Patrick. The suggestion has turned out to serve my gaming needs quite well and should be more than capable for any workstation-related tasks in the unlikely event that I make the switch from macOS. I am not going to bore you with benchmark results or anything trying to contend that this is the best value out there for the price point, but the CPU seems like it will be able to hold me over well into the future.
Once settling on the CPU, it was time to get the hardest component of my PC build. That’s right, the graphics card. In what ultimately seemed to come down to fate, I was able to score an NVIDIA RTX 3060 for a little more than its retail price. Its performance has been worth every penny over its MSRP and has meant that my rig can handle pretty much every I throw at it in the gaming department. Even if all I seem to be playing right now is Halo Infinite and Overwatch.
On the RAM side of things, I am rocking four sticks of CORSAIR’s Vengeance RGB PRO DDR4 memory. This gives me a total of 32GB for multitasking and is the perfect kind of overkill for my gaming rig. Adding to CORSAIR’s claim on my gaming PC, I also have one of its CORE 1TB M.2 PCIe Gen4 SSDs as the main boot drive. It has been nothing short of a beast even with how little I push the limits of its 4,700MB/s max transfer speeds.
On the all-important front of cooling, I mentioned earlier that this entire build was inspired by some of NZXT’s latest releases. So it’s only fitting that the brand’s Kraken Z73 all-in-one cooler is what helped me pull the trigger on the entire system.
The refreshed white design was a big selling point for having a uniform PC in the looks department, and its actual performance has kept me happy with it over the past month or so of gaming. I particularly love the built-in screen which can do everything from monitor system stats like temperature or CPU utilization to displaying gifs, which might be my favorite part.
And to tie it all together, I am rocking one of NZXT’s N7 B550 motherboards. Keeping up with the slick white theming, it has a matching coat of paint to the rest of my system and more I/O than I thought I could ever need. Lastly, I threw in an extra pair of NZXT’s AER RGB 2 120mm fans for some extra cooling. Though if I am being entirely honest, the extra RGB lighting is really the reason I splurged here.
While assembly could have gone better than expected, the experience of actually building a PC wasn’t all that bad. It may have taken an afternoon to get all of the components slotted into place, and more time than I’d like to admit for installing Windows, but eventually everything was ready to go. Even though I don’t necessarily regret the process of sourcing my own machine, I am getting some envy from just going the pre-built route.
Shortly after finishing my own build, the holidays arrived and I picked up one of NZXT’s H1 Mini PCs for my significant other so we can game together. And the whole experience there was honestly night and day to what I had gone through with CLX. That’s to say I was impressed with the process from the second I clicked buy all the way until it was finally plugged in and ready to go. That’s in contrast to doing all of the work myself to end up with a similar, yet much messier setup. Seriously, don’t judge my cable management, I know it could be better!
Even if now isn’t the best time to be getting into the PC gaming space for the first time in terms of actually sourcing parts, I am shocked by how much value is offered by the mid-tier gear found in this build. I feel confident that my machine should last well into the future without having to sacrifice too much on performance for any new games that the next few years may hold. And honestly, if it wasn’t for the shortages, now would be such an amazing time to dive into the world of PC gaming with just how much competition there is in the space churning out better and better products.
That’s to say after experiencing both sides of the equation, I would go the pre-built route for myself if I had to do it all over again. Even if I ended up saving a little bit of cash, having a package ready to go out of the box that I could have tailored to my liking over time seems like a far better compromise for this casual gamer than having to do all of the hard work to get a perfect rig right from the start.
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Anbernic may be developing a Windows handheld gaming PC – Liliputing

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Liliputing
Anbernic is a Chinese company that makes handheld gaming devices, most of which are powered by Android or Linux software and designed for retro gaming. But it looks like the company may be developing its first handheld gaming PC that runs Windows.
That could make the new device an option for gamers looking to play modern PC games, although the new model will also probably be Anbernic’s most expensive system to date – most of the company’s current devices tend to sell for between $50 and $250.

Anbernic hasn’t officially announced the new Windows handheld, but a set of pictures included in a recent patent application make it pretty clear that the device is designed to run Windows.
Like many handheld game consoles, it has a display surrounded by dual analog sticks, a D-Pad, action buttons, start and select keys, and four shoulder buttons/triggers. There’s also a home key on one side, and a Windows key on the other, which will likely function as a Start Key.
On the left side of the device there’s also a switch that lets you toggle between game controller and mouse modes, a feature we’ve seen on some other Windows-powered handhelds, which makes Windows a little easier to navigate on devices without a mouse or physical keyboard. This will most likely let you move a cursor with an analog stick while using action buttons for left and right-click actions.
Other features appear to include a USB Type-A port, what may be a USB Type-C port, stereo speakers, and a 3.5mm headphone jack as well as what looks like a microphone.
There’s no word on the specs or pricing, but it seems like a safe bet that a Windows-powered handheld will have a more expensive processor than most of Anbernic’s systems to date, which will drive up the price tag accordingly.
If and when Anbernic’s Windows-powered handheld comes to market, it will join an increasingly crowded space that’s currently dominated by small Chinese companies like GPD, One Netbook, and AYA as well as the upcoming Valve Steam Deck (which will ship with the Linux-based Steam OS, but which has all the hardware necessary for Windows gaming if anyone feels the urge to replace the operating system).
via DroiX, Taki Udon, and /r/Anbernic
Liliputing’s primary sources of revenue are advertising and affiliate links (if you click the “Shop” button at the top of the page and buy something on Amazon, for example, we’ll get a small commission).
But there are several ways you can support the site directly even if you’re using an ad blocker* and hate online shopping.

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What are they trying to patent? Buttons and switches where your hand will be gripping and more prone to accidentally activating (ie. bad idea)?
Also, if their handheld looks like this, how are they expecting to compete with the other Chinese handhelds (let alone the Steam Deck)? Price? The bar handhelds are all pretty much the same with different tweaks here and there.
At this rate, I feel like whatever part of the market the Deck isn’t able to capture will just be shared equally among the rest of these small companies.
Now more manufacturers in the game, waiting for Alienware and Razer to join this party, they had UFO and Switchblade concepts in the past
I feel a tiny bit sorry for GPD – after years of being the “only game in town”, now they have competitors coming out of the woodwork!
Still, it seems like good news for everyone else!
If it’s pocketable, then I’d get it. Otherwise, if I’m getting a non-pocketable slab/bar PC handheld, then it’s only the Steam Deck for me.
Judging from the USB Type-A port, this thing’s pretty large. It’s not any more pocketable than the other slabs so pass. The Steam Deck it is.
Waiting for a hologram of Roseanne Barr to explain the meaning of the device’s name to me.
🙂 Close enough to Ambergris
🙂 Close enough to Ambergris
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