Welcome to “At a Glance” where first impressions mean everything! Ladies, gentlemen and undead detectives, I present to you; Murdered: Soul Suspect.
Sometimes ideas just sound a lot better on paper, but when you finally get the finished product, its nowhere as good as you thought it would be. This problem is frequent in any medium, the idea sounds promising, but somewhere along the way, something went wrong and the stars just didn’t align right. Today’s game in question has this problem, as the idea of a undead detective sounds fantastic when you hear about it, but when you sit down to actually play it, you will be sorely disappointed with what you find. It says something about a good idea, no matter now unique can still be dragged down by poor presentation. Today we are looking at Murdered: Soul Suspect, a game that while on paper works, in motion couldn’t be be any more soulless if it tried.
The game follows protagonist Ronan O’Connor, a fedora wearing detective tracking down a serial killer know as the bell killer. Ronan eventually tails the killer but gets himself killed in the process. Ronans not out for the count however, as Ronan can’t pass on to the other side to be with his dead wife, as he has unfinished business with the Bell Killer. Now you play as Ronan with his new found ghostly abilities and with the help of a psychic called Joy, the two of you must track down the murder and find out just exactly what is going on in the sleepy town of Salem. The story of Murdered Souls Suspect is a interesting premise, but sadly its just not executed very well. The narrative seems oddly campish at times, how Ronan can talk to his wife in the after life, it seems like it could be a fun noir based thriller, but it is in fact boring. Ronan as a character is not compelling at all, he’s a generic white male protagonist with no personality other than being tough. The game’s cast is full of played out and dull characters, devoid of any likeability or emotion with exception to Joy, who remains the most interesting character by far, as she actually has a personality.
It’s not that the plot is bad, it just feels like a hassle to get through with such a one dimensional protagonist, that you as the player aren’t compelled by.
The game play of Murdered Soul Suspect isn’t what I would call complicated. You play as Ronan, who as a ghost has just gained a whole host of new abilities. These new found powers include possession of humans and animals (cat possession being the best option), to walking through walls and post-cognition. Traversal through levels is split into the streets of Salem on foot or investigation inside buildings. As a ghost you can walk through walls, but only walls inside buildings. You cannot simple walk through a brick wall which is understandable but it definitely doesn’t explain why outside of buildings there are indivisible walls everywhere. You cannot simply explore Salem as you either run into a large piece of a building from the past (which is never really explained) or just walk into an invisible wall in areas which look like you should be able to pass though.
The town is broken into arbitrary sections, each with ridiculous load times between them. These areas aren’t even that big, there’s no reason for them to need to load that much into the level, so why split them up with loading screens? It hinders the pacing of the game drastically, forcing you to forget exploring and just follow the main plot, which is counter intuitive seeing as Salem is littered with a insane amount of collectibles. Inside the buildings of Salem is where you will experience most of the gameplay mechanics in action.
Here is where you can traverse through walls at nauseam, which works seamlessly. While you explore these areas you will bump into other ghosts along the way, some with their own issues that you can help with. Here begins the extremely lacking detective style gameplay, tasking you with finding evidence and joining them together to form a solution. You do this by possessing people and reading their thoughts, seeing if they have any information regarding your case. You can also find evidence just lying around, so there are many ways to find solutions. The problem is that solving the actual case; all you have to do is pick three pieces of evidence that you found and line them up together. That’s it, your not even punished if you fail, you just try again.
The other aspect of gameplay present is that of the demons. While you explore the buildings of Salem you aren’t alone, as the levels are also inhabited by demons, ghosts who lingered too long and were transformed into horrific creatures, consuming anything they can find, including you. These demons will track Ronan down as you explore the many interiors of the game, but sadly aren’t anywhere as menacing as they look. The monsters can only see whats in front of them, so all you have to do is lose the demon by hiding in previous spirits locations, wait for them to leave, sneak up behind them and enter a simple two button combo to take them out. That’s it, no tense stealth mechanics or just trying to avoid them, you just kill them while their back is turned. These demons were obviously added to add a sense of tension to investigations but end up just coming off as annoying.
Visually and aesthetically, Murdered: Soul Suspect is very underwhelming. The town of Salem could have been a unique setting but instead all we get is a lot of fog and invisible walls. Character animations are poor, with only Joy and Ronan being high quality models, so whenever they speak to anyone else there’s a very noticeable lack of polish on many figures.
Murdered: Soul Suspect could have been something great, it could haven been a great murder mystery with interesting characters and unique detective based puzzles, but instead it ended up being a overly serious story about the worlds blandest detective, who is more likeable when he’s possessing a cat. A title comes to mind when I think of what Murdered: Soul Suspect could have been; Ghost Trick. A tale of a detective who is killed and must find his murder with the help of a charismatic young girl. Both have the same setup, but its in the presentation where they wildly differ. One was a lot more wacky and over the top, and it benefited from that, the other tried way to hard to be edgy and dark, but ended up just feeling uninspired. My point is that Murdered: Soul Suspect could have been good, but it’s unique story just can’t carry a set of dull characters, simple puzzles and pointless stealth “combat”. If your a big fan of story in games then you may find something interesting here, but if your looking for the all round package then look elsewhere!
Murdered: Soul Suspect can be purchased on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.