Murdered: Soul Suspect Reviews

  • NatFromAusNatFromAus306,692
    03 Jun 2014
    60 3 14
    There’s nothing quite like a generational shift to get a studios creative juices flowing. It’s a time when all players in the gaming industry, big and small come out in droves like a veritable gold rush, looking for that one sure-fire early hit. Square Enix have entered into the fray with one of the most unique titles of the new generation to date, Murdered: Soul Suspect, from Airtight Games. Being fresh, unique and innovative, it’s an experience unlike almost anything else available today, and well worth your time to play.

    Beneath the inky darkness of a foggy Massachusetts, the player takes control of Salem Police Detective Ronan O’Connor, as he is shot and thrown from a fourth storey window. Brutally murdered by the Bell serial killer, Ronan finds himself trapped as a spirit in the mortal world. Before he may pass over to the other side and re-unite with his wife, he must complete his final task: Apprehend the Bell Killer, and bring them to justice.

    As Ronan soon discovers, the ordinary world is littered with other spirits trapped in limbo, unable to move on. Unrequited lovers, suicide victims with guilty consciences, evil, unrelenting murderers; all find themselves trapped between worlds until their unfinished business is complete, or they go mad and become demons.

    In the course of his investigation, Ronan discovers Joy, a teenage medium, one of only a few capable of communicating with spirits. Joy, full of teenage angst and rancour, has lost track of her mother and fears the Bell Killer is after her next. Realising they share a target, Ronan and Joy team together, aiming to prevent another murder from occurring.

    When combined with his already impressive skills as a detective, Ronan’s new abilities as a spirit make him a sleuth-solving tour-de-force. The gameplay in Murdered is centred on investigating new locations and discovering clues to help progress the quest to find the Bell Killer. Each investigation tasks the player with discovering a number of clues, analysing them and then determining which are relevant to the cause. Clues are hidden throughout the environment, often attached to a small mini-game such as identifying which section of information on a document is most relevant. When all the clues have been gathered, the player arranges the two or three most important pieces in chronological order to learn more of the story and progress to the next investigation. Searching for the final missing clue can become a tad tedious in larger areas, and a hint system wouldn’t have gone astray within the more challenging areas. Still, there is a definite feeling of euphoria and reward when all the pieces of an individual puzzle fall into place.

    Thanks to his new spiritual being, Ronan can directly possess and influence those still in ownership of their mortal bodies. While possessing somebody, Ronan can read their thoughts, or jog their memories of crimes to help discover clues. Possessing mechanical items, like a television or a telephone causes Ronan to “poltergeist” the object, distracting any nearby guards during certain infiltration puzzles. Animals can also be possessed for light platforming, which can lead to the discovery of new secrets. The possession tool is a neat trick, and something that hasn’t really been utilised will since 2005’s Geist.

    Thanks to his lack of a physical body, Ronan possesses the ability to pass through things that would stop an ordinary man in his tracks. Though it takes a moment to get used to, passing through walls, dumpsters and barriers as though they weren’t there is extremely novel and makes exploring houses and alleyways far quicker. There are a few exceptions to what can be passed through, of course: an astoundingly contrived excuse regarding consecration prevents passing through the outer walls of a building; whilst “spirit objects”, walls and barricades invisible to ordinary human eyes and covered in pallid, blue fire act as ordinary impediments to progress. These minor caveats aside, however, the sensation of simply clipping through the world at large to get to where you want to be is something you are unlikely to experience in other titles without cheat codes, and is extremely satisfying.

    Salem makes for an excellent, deeply disturbed locale for a game regarding spirits and serial slashers. The obvious historical connotations of the town are quickly embraced by the narrative, drawing stark attention to the bloody, fiery past of the town. The dark lighting and eerie mood create an overwhelming, palpable sense of dread constantly. Small things, like the flickering, ghostly images in the backgrounds of rooms that disappear upon sight, or the slow wails of the lost souls in a graveyard reinforces the dread and tension present, making the act of exploration and uncovering the dirty secrets of the town’s past a truly unpleasant experience. One small story relating to an inmate in a mental hospital is easily one of the most unpleasant narrative experiences I’ve ever sat through in any type of media, gaming or otherwise. Airtight Games have excelled at creating a well realised world that I never, ever want to set foot in.

    The town of Salem itself acts as a sort of hub world, with key locales and larger investigations branching off in all directions. The town centre is littered with smaller, sub-investigations designed to help local spirits find their peace and move on. They are fleeting hits of deduction that tend to be a bit more fiendish than the main investigations. These tend to help break up the story a little and flesh out the true pains of being stuck in the mortal world without the ability to move on.

    Not everything works though. There are some pretty severe cases of replaying dialogue and some less than stellar texture work in some locations. There is a positively overwhelming amount of collectibles, with nearly 300 different items and clues to find over a 10-15 hour long experience. The items themselves are always tied to the narrative, adding back-stories to characters and giving a further understanding of their motives as well as the dark past of Salem. Though you can take solace knowing how varied and interesting they are, the sheer crippling number of them is mind-boggling.

    The worst aspect of the game takes the form of a demon-based game of Cat and Mouse that is consistently played over the last half of the story. Roaming spirits seek to destroy Ronan who can only fight back when he is undetected, forcing the player to sneak around and strike from behind. Murdered: Soul Suspect is a fairly passive title ordinarily so it makes sense that developer Airtight Games would try and spice things up with a few moments of action. Unfortunately, these sections are cumbersome, clumsy and unnecessarily punishing usually requiring a perfectionists approach to complete. They are maddeningly simple to error and unsatisfactory to finish. Though they succeed at adding an unwanted element of action, it is to the strong detriment of the rest of the game.

    Happily however, despite a few minor quibbles, Murdered: Soul Suspect is a game easy to recommend. More important than any individual component of the title, it is a unique style of game rarely seen and rarely executed well. With an engaging plot and novel gameplay mechanics, Murdered never lets go of your interest once it digs its claws in. Just like any gumshoe detective story, the journey to the killer is more satisfying than the conclusion itself, which is slightly contrived and muddled; however it conforms well to the literary genre it tries so hard to emulate. It is likeable, engaging and unique, a true, stand-out original in a sea of mundane copy-cats. Murdered: Soul Suspect is game that should be checked out by anyone interested in seeing something a bit different.
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    Zcrisis2Great review for a great game, if anyone hasn't picked this up yet then I highly recommend it and @derechtegraf1 I could not agree anymore that it needed a map, when I had to venture back to a specific place as I had missed a collectible, mainly the church, I found myself running in circles as I couldn't remember how to get there.
    Overall though it is a 9 out of 10 from me.
    Posted by Zcrisis2 On 30 Jul 15 at 07:58
    rumandcokeslurpI just started playing this because it was free with Games with Gold. It is quite unique and fun, and I've had a hard time putting it down! I agree with the gripes, but I would add that the lack of a map really hurts. I wandered in circles quite a bit trying to get back to an early portion of the game. Still free till the end of the month, I would highly recommend it to those looking for something different!
    Posted by rumandcokeslurp On 21 Nov 16 at 04:11
    SpartanWolf 187Loved the game! Nice review, definitely agree with you scoring it a 4, I did as well👍
    Posted by SpartanWolf 187 On 03 Aug 20 at 05:46
  • Don NielsonDon Nielson699,350
    06 Sep 2022
    1 0 0
    For as long as we've been playing games, we've been trained to do one thing: guide the protagonist safely through the game. By that logic, in Murdered: Soul Suspect you are directly "Game Over". The game starts with the death of police officer Ronan O'Connor, the main character. So not a traditional start. Will that line continue in the rest of the game?

    On the way to the afterlife
    It immediately becomes clear that Ronan is no ordinary police officer. Not only does he not have to wear a uniform, he also has a longer criminal record than the average criminal he catches. Ronan's character is portrayed through an effective intro sequence. Including criminal youth and girlfriend Julia, who has passed away for some time. She lets him know that she is waiting for him in the afterlife. But before Ronan can join her there, he must find out who killed him and why. Thus, Ronan, newly risen from his bullet-riddled body, begins the investigation into his own death.

    No search warrant needed
    In the context of the police investigation, Ronan's death doesn't look all that bad. As a ghost, he can walk through walls and address other wandering dead. In addition, he can take possession of people, which allows him to read their minds and sometimes subtly influence them. In the apartment complex where you were killed, all these abilities come together nicely. You'll hear personal stories as you walk through the apartments, learn about the "Bell Killer" who has long gripped the town of Salem, and help a dead girl who can't find her body anymore.

    As befits a good detective, there is plenty for Ronan to investigate and gather evidence. You do this on various crime scenes, starting with your own murder. By taking a good look around you, taking possession of people and examining evidence, you try to reconstruct what happened. During the game, crime scenes and exploring new areas alternate at a good pace, creating a pleasant flow in Murdered: Soul Suspect.

    Murdered: Soul Suspect strong suit in addition to the detective elements, has to be its story. Despite the sometimes somewhat predictable characters and well-known horror locations, this manages to keep the attention. Still, I have the feeling that the average detective story is being held too much, while the setting lends itself to giving it a new twist. It doesn't help that main character Ronan, despite his heavy criminal past, is a very good citizen. With a little more spice he could have added more to the whole.

    More is less?
    Developer Airtight Games, or perhaps publisher Square Enix, felt the need to add some extra parts in addition to the basic gameplay. After all, you have to appeal to a wide audience! Unfortunately, this has yielded varying degrees of success. The different environments are dotted with collectables that tell you more about the town of Salem, the Bell Killer and Ronan's past. There are also collectables for each location that unlock an exciting story, which is told by an emotional voice-over, accompanied by one still image. This could have been worked out a little better. But also the notes about Ronan's past, told from Julia's perspective, quickly became a bit monotonous.

    The collectables do not always add anything and sometimes take you out of the flow of the story. However, there is an even bigger culprit. Every so often demons appear looking for new souls to add to their collection. This ushers in a sort of stealth section, where you have to dodge or take out the demons by sneaking up on them from behind and quickly pressing a button combination. The first time this is still exciting, but during the game it becomes more and more annoying. Mainly because of the timing, because they usually appear when you've solved a crime scene and you're curious about the next location.

    Deep sigh
    The demon sections are plagued by yet another Murdered: Soul Suspect problem. You interact with objects in the game world by 'targeting' them with an invisible reticle, which is (probably) in the center of the screen. However, this is quite sensitive, so you often think you are targeting something, but the icon for interaction does not appear. Stepping back or moving the camera unnaturally usually solves this, but it's disastrous when the demons show up.

    Too often, you'll sneak up on a demon from behind, ready to give him a taste of his own medicine, only to find that you've suddenly lost the demon in your sights. In these situations you don't have time to take a step back and you will be discovered. The appearance of the demons always gave me a very deep sigh, instead of the cold shiver that Airtight Games undoubtedly had in mind.

    No spectacle
    In addition, it is noticeable that the further you get into the game, the less attention seems to have been paid to details. What is especially missing are the small side-quests that you often encounter in the beginning of the game. Quests of ghosts who for some reason can't make it to the afterlife. After the first three locations, these mini crime scenes no longer occur, but the evidence for their planned presence is there.

    Graphically, Murdered: Soul Suspect knows how to hold its own with effective use of lighting effects and (especially for the main characters) detailed character models. However, nothing spectacular happens anywhere. The graphics are therefore mainly used to create atmosphere, as well as the music that keeps the tension in with a minimalistic soundtrack. It doesn't really stand out here either, while the music could have had a bit more structure at times. The voice acting is good in general and especially for the main characters.

    With its length of about ten hours, Murdered: Soul Suspect offers a nice gaming experience, in which the core gameplay gives you enough satisfaction. Yet too many elements are not worked out well enough, which ultimately detracts from the whole. I also think that more could have been done with the game. For example, by adding larger or linked crime scenes and offering more possibilities with possessed people. It could also have been a bit more difficult. Murdered: Soul Suspect always reminds you what to do and you only get stuck when you can't find an important piece of evidence due to the targeting problems. A difficult game to recommend, but for a budget price it is well worth your time and attention.
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