Brett Henstridge reviews the ghostly, supernatural detective story from Airtight Games, Murdered: Soul Suspect.
One game that I had really been looking forward to since its announcement is the ghostly, supernatural detective story by Airtight Games, Murdered: Soul Suspect.
Murdered: Soul Suspect takes place in Salem, Massachusetts where you play criminal-turned-dectective Ronan O'Connor. After being thrown from a window and fatally shot while trying to apprehend Salems serial murderer, known as the Bell Killer, you then take on the task of solving your own murder.
After a quick visit from the spirit of your dead wife, Julia telling you about your unfinished business, you get an explanation about the rules concerning ghosts and your abilities from the ghost of Abigail. This includes a sad excuse as to why you can't walk through certain objects. This highlights Murdered: Soul Suspects first major flaw - it's extremely linear. The inability to walk through objects and explore Salem on a grander scale really takes away the feeling of freedom I thought being a ghost would otherwise have.
The story of Soul Suspect is definitely its strongest attribute, showing some great ideas and at times you do feel some sympathy for the people who died as you help them move on. Your own story is at times intriguing and heartwarming. As you progress through the story and start to piece together clues as to who the murderer is, you also come across certain memories from your life with Julia. This is all to try and make you feel for Ronan and most of the time it is successful.
One thing you definitely don't want to be bothered doing, is reading the minds of the random people walking around the pathetically populated town of Salem. Each person has only two thoughts going through their head and to make it even worse, a lot of people seem to be sharing the same thoughts. For example; I read the minds of three men, one after the other, and two of them shared the exact same thought. This pattern adds to the implication that some of the developers design choices came down to laziness or settling with releasing an unfinished and unpolished game. I'm surprised the developers used the same thoughts and inner monologue voice with various townspeople without a half-baked supernatural explanation as to why.
As far as actual detective work goes, it pretty much comes down to doing nothing more than looking around the area for clues then selecting the most helpful ones to be able to continue on. This would fine except for the fact that there is pretty much no difficulty when it comes to finding clues, making a ghost detective one of the least engaging gameplay protagonists I have ever played. It's close to being nothing more than an interactive movie and isn't helped at all by what this game considers to be combat.
Your only real enemies in Murdered: Soul Suspect are demons, which can be defeated by sneaking up behind them and with a couple of button presses, you somehow manage to use your amazing ghostly powers to vanquish them away. You do get a few options to help you defeat them such as crows that distract them and the ability to hide in leftover remnant pockets of spirits that were left behind. That's pretty much all there is to the so-called combat in Murdered: Soul Suspect. In the end, it feels more like something that gets in the way and lacks relevance to the flow of the story.
When it comes to its graphics, it’s not all bad, yet once again at times it feels underwhelming and unpolished. Some of the main character models are well-detailed and are what you would expect from a game that is on the last gen and current gen consoles. The setting and atmosphere has a classic detective ambience in a modern day setting and the main characters fit nicely into the world the developers have created. However, the rest of the population of Salem are as lifeless and uninteresting as the thoughts running through their minds.
Overall, Murdered: Soul Suspect is a case of some good ideas executed poorly. For a new intellectual property in an industry of numerous game sequels, it really isn't something it can afford to do. With the storyline being the only reason to play through this game, it's lucky that it is interesting enough to make you put up with the overly distracting negatives. Having had high hopes for Murdered: Soul Suspect, I was left disappointed and while it never really takes itself too seriously, if your going to let me possess a cat and control it, jumping on ledges (even making it 'meow') then it makes me feel like I could be doing a lot more when I possess humans, besides reading their boring thoughts and influence them to move their arm so I can see a clue.
All the clues I found pointed to me giving Murdered: Soul Suspect a 5 out of 10.