- Shadows of Doubt is currently the best detective game on Steam, offering a pure detective experience in a procedurally generated cyberpunk city.
- The Cheats and Liars content update introduces a new ritzy hotel, new citizen interactions, and a new case type about proving infidelity.
I’m not looking to start a fight, but for my money, Shadows of Doubt is currently the best detective game on Steam. Sure, there are games like Return of the Obra Dinn and Disco Elysium that I rate higher generally, but Shadows of Doubt has yet to be topped as far as a pure detective experience goes. I’ve explained before why (despite its greatness) games like Disco Elysium aren’t really detective games, and by that measure, Shadows of Doubt comes out on top.
You play a vigilante detective in a procedurally generated cyberpunk city where every building is explorable, every citizen has a complex social life, and anyone could be murdered by anyone else at any moment. The police exist only to protect the rich, so you have to scratch out a living taking on various smaller jobs for random citizens until word that someone has been murdered reaches you over your personal radio. At that point, it’s up to you to break into the crime scene (the police do not want you in there), collect evidence, and track down the killer. How you do that is up to you. You could scour the crime scene inch by inch, taking prints and carefully cataloging everything you find, from the victim’s work rota to their medical records. You could even establish the time of death and see if you can hack into the security systems and check the footage from around that time.
Alternatively, you could find the victim’s address book and start stalking everyone they knew until you discover something incriminating. During one investigation I was working, that something incriminating turned out to be an enormous, blood-soaked machete sitting on a suspect’s kitchen counter. That was a fairly open-and-shut case, all things considered. The game is basically a combination of Thief and Deus Ex, as my colleague Robert Zak has explained in detail. It’s still in early access right now, but I love it already. Lucky for me then, it just received its first content update, Cheats and Liars.
The update includes a new building, a big ritzy hotel, new citizen interactions (like the ability to give them items and accuse them of murder before an arrest), and as the name suggests, lots and lots of infidelity. There’s a new case type that involves a citizen asking that you bring them proof that their significant other is being unfaithful. Once again, how exactly you do this is left to your discretion. You could tail the accused, waiting for the moment they sneak off to spend an evening with their new Mr. or Mrs., or you could break into their apartment and look for love letters, underwear, and various other signs of an illicit romance. Being a proactive sort, I usually took the latter approach, which landed me in hot water once or twice.
There was one incident in particular that got completely out of hand. I had tracked the offending party to their home and was doing my thing. I’d been through the drawers, checked the bathroom cabinet, and rummaged through the bins, but I’d found nothing that I could use to make accusations of infidelity stick. It looked like the investigation was heading down a dead end until I noticed something under the bed: a lady’s high heel in a size 5, exactly the same size as the ones I’d seen previously at the home of the accused. A quick scan for fingerprints confirmed it was hers. This was the break I’d been looking for. I was just about to leave when I heard a noise from the other room.
I’d been careful to break in at a time when I knew the suspect would be at work, but for some reason, she was home early, and she was headed straight for the bedroom. I only had one option. Just before the door opened, I was able to conceal myself under the bed. I was under there for what felt like hours, but after a while, I heard the bedroom door open and close again. Once I was sure I was alone, I made my escape. Unfortunately, I had miscalculated somewhat. I stepped out into the living room only to discover the other woman sitting on her sofa. Doubly unfortunately, she pulled out a loaded pistol.
Somehow, I made it out of there, but not without a couple of bullets in me. My vision was blurring, and I was rapidly losing blood. I stumbled down a back alley and into a nearby pharmacy. After patching myself up, I headed over to my client with the evidence I had almost died for and closed the case. I love how the game can go from tense, action-packed moments like that to the routine drudgery of detective work. A lot of what I was doing the rest of the time was poring over steamy emails and following suspected cheaters all over town in the hopes they’d do something compromising I could take a picture of.
I’ve only really scratched the surface so far, but I’m very impressed by Cheats and Liars. One new case type may not sound like much, but it’s a radical departure from all the previous types, and it really makes good use of mechanics like the tracking devices and the camera, which had only been of limited utility before. It also fits the game’s themes perfectly. After all, what kind of seedy cyberpunk dystopia is complete without the occasional love triangle or romantic indiscretion?
It’s a big improvement on what was already a remarkably solid foundation. We already know there’s more content on the way too, so the future looks bright. For now, though, there are plenty more adulterers out there who need to be brought to justice.
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