Developer: Airtight Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: June 3rd, 2014
Available on: PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Reviewer’s note: I played this game on a Playstation 4. There may be differences between versions.
What happens when you die? According to Murdered: Soul Suspect you join the land of the dead as a ghost. But to move on you need to have your life squared away and not have any lingering questions. Unfortunately Ronan has one difficult important question: Who killed me?
Ronan was a troublesome gung-ho detective who had the unfortunate fate of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He finds himself thrown out of a window and shot several times by a serial killer called the Bell Killer. Now stuck between Heaven and Earth, Ronan needs to solve the mystery of the killer before anyone else manages to get killed. To do this he’ll need some help though, and he’ll find himself teaming up with a young medium named Joy. While Joy interacts with the physical world for him, Ronan interacts with the spiritual and together the two of them attempt to solve the crime. It’s a genuinely gripping detective noir story with a good amount of the paranormal thrown in. I enjoyed the characters quite a bit and I found myself engaged in the drama well into the final hours of the game. Murdered: Soul Suspect manages to succeed in combining multiple themes and creating interesting characters. The story is easily the strongest part of the game.
Sadly the gameplay doesn’t quite hold up. Murdered: Soul Suspect is an adventure game with some stealth elements that come in later. In theory you’ll have to investigate crime scenes, discover clues, piece together evidence, and use Ronan’s paranormal abilities to advance in the game. In practice you’ll mostly be watching Ronan do those things with only a little participation from yourself. A good chunk of the game involves reaching crime scenes and beginning investigations there. Your goal is to find clues, which is as easy as going up to the point in the environment that interests you the most and hitting square. Ronan does have a few interesting abilities that can help him out though. Poltergeist, for example, allows him to make small electronic devices go off. So you can use this to distract people, move them to different locations, or unveil new clues.
Sadly most of all that boils down to going to a location, hitting square to interact with something, then moving on. Sometimes you’ll be forced to solve some hilariously simple puzzles that almost make me wonder what the point even is. For example, you’ll find a situation that shows a girl hiding from the killer. You’ll then be forced to pick what you think she’s doing from a few various options. Only this is usually so brainlessly easy it’s not even funny. The girl is clearly hiding in fear. Who would ever pick that she’s leaping in joy? Other tasks require you to pick relevant clues from a list of three, though that often boils down to “pick whatever they were talking about last.” Luckily even if you do get stumped there’s no consequences for just hitting every option until you get the right one. The game has some faux ranking system that seems to have no effect on anything, so unless you really really want those three badges it’s nothing to worry about.
Murdered: Soul Suspect has no direct combat of any kind, but every now and again you will be put at risk by demons that come in two flavors. Floor demons are just that: they’re stuck on the floor and all you can do is either avoid them or possess a person traveling over them. Later you’ll find actual wandering demons though. If they spot you then they’ll attack you and try to consume your soul. The only way you can counter them by getting behind them so you can exorcise them. You’ll usually only see them once per level, so there’s less than a handful in the game, but it’s a neat way to change up the mechanics. I actually found the demon encounters to be surprisingly intense, though often on the easy side. It’s a shame, I wouldn’t mind seeing Murdered’s stealth segments branched out into their own game.
Between levels you’ll get to explore the town of Salem in a small open world. It’s not much of an open world, however, as there’s little to do in it besides find collectables (of which there are hundreds) or participate in one of the game’s rare side quests. There’s only four total, each of them telling a small side story of various events. One involves a woman who can’t find her body, while another has a lover scorned that her boyfriend has a new girl so soon after her suicide. Each of these events are stand alone and interesting enough, though often don’t take more than a couple of minutes. Collectables make less sense. If Ronan is a ghost then how is he picking up rocks when he can only interact with ghostly objects? Are they ghost rocks? Do rocks die and have souls? How did this happen?
It’s a shame that Murdered’s story is so brilliant when its gameplay can’t keep up. It really makes the game tough to recommend. If you can find it on sale or can rent it then Murdered: Soul Suspect is worth trying out. Just only go for it if you’re ready to slog through some boring gameplay.