Developed by Airtight Games and published by Square Enix, Murdered: Soul Suspect is not only a new IP but a good change of pace from all the action games that have plagued the last generation of the industry. In the shoes of a murdered police detective, players set out to solve their own murder and the murder of several others by a serial killer dubbed the "Bell Killer."
Soul Suspect’s story is easily its strongest component. The game starts off with protagonist Ronan O’Connor being tossed out of an apartment building window. As he falls to his death his life flashes before his eyes; we get a small understanding of his troubled life through quick flashback. Although Ronan survives the fall, the Bell Killer comes to finish the job shooting Ronan seven times with his own gun. Ronan is revived as a ghost and is informed by his deceased wife that in order to get into heaven he must complete any unfinished business he still has in the living world. As Ronan investigates his murder he is aided by a psychic medium named Joy. Joy is looking for her mother, who was aiding the police in the Bell Killer investigations. Being a medium, Joy is able to see Ronan and communicate with him, leading to some great banter between the two. The story drives the game with great voice acting throughout and a plethora of cutscenes that move it along nicely. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but it has a resolution you will definitely want to see.
The first thing you will notice about Murdered: Soul Suspect is that it’s not an action game. You won’t pull out your gun to kill anyone, and you won’t go through quick time events. Those who have played adventure games in the past such as Syberia or any of the Sherlock Holmes games will be right at home with this title. As Ronan, the player’s job is to examine clues at various murder scenes to piece together what happened. I found this to be quite rewarding as the game presents various ways to uncover these clues. The most basic is just examining an object. Sometimes, Ronan will find partially visible spiritual energy. When that happens, he can use his spirit abilities to materialize an image of the killer or an object that was once in that location.
The game helps players with these investigations by telling them how many clues they must find. Once all clues are collected players may solve the case. Ronan will ask a question about the case, and players must select up to three relevant clues from those they have discovered to answer it. Although I like the idea of solving these cases, the execution could have been more refined. The entire time you play, the game holds your hand. Selecting the wrong clues simply takes away one of three badge icons. The game tells you that successfully solving cases helps Ronan do the same more easily, but I never felt Ronan was having any trouble to begin with. When it came to these cases I found that I could just fail and keep trying until I got the right answer without any real penalty.
It’s really a shame; this could have been a perfect opportunity where your effectiveness at solving the "Bell Murder" case could have been used to influence the ending of the game and give players multiple endings. As a matter of fact, I was expecting multiple endings when I discovered I could miss clues and lose badge icons that were presented to me. At the start of the game, I was hoping that everly decision I made would impact the story. Alas, the game only comes with one true ending. I was left to wonder whether all these choices and deductions I had made were merely distractions from the bigger picture I was meant to explore.
As a ghost, Ronan has most of the abilities that we would believe a ghost to have. He can walk through some walls, leaving a cool residual outline of himself on the wall and eliminating the need to run around most objects, but he cannot run through everything. Being in the spirit world, Ronan now sees spiritual walls from the towns past. Although I like the idea and it’s a nice visual touch to the environments, I sometimes felt it was a cheap tactic to keep me interested. Worse, it sometimes stopped me from going where I wanted to go in the small, open town of Salem, forcing me to take the long way to my destination rather than just moving through a wall to reach it. If that wasn’t enough of a hinderance, players will also need to avoid pools of hands trying to pull you down into hell.
Since he is invisible to the living, Ronan is also able to turn on devices in the living world to distract other characters. I found this completely pointless, as the only people who react to any poltergeist activity are the characters Ronan has to distract anyway during key moments of the game. Ronan can even possess other characters, though it should have been more of an occupy ability since he cannot control the people he possesses. What he can do is "read minds" of people, "peek" to see though their eyes, and "influence," making key witnesses remember what they saw. Though these abilities are nice to have, outside of reading minds the other two abilities can only be used when the game wants you to use them during key moments of the game. Reading minds would have been much more entertaining if all the people in the town didn’t say the same thing. It seemed like every man’s mind I would read would say the same two lines. All this just left me wondering why I was playing as a ghost when all my abilities were so limited.
Although the game is an adventure game, it does feature encounters with Demons. These Demons are other spirits that have remained in the spirit world for too long and only hunger to consume other souls. When these Demons appear they give out a loud, haunting screech, freezing me every time I heard it. In order to combat the Demons, Ronan must approach them from behind and destroy them. I wish these encounters were more challenging. Ronan simply has to hide in the spiritual energy of other spirits that have walked through the area and the Demons will not be able to see him. All he has to do from there is wait for them to turn around and destroy them. Players can also distract the Demons with spiritual crows, giving them another easy shot at the Demons.
The game’s location of Salem, Massachusetts brings with it a ton of history. Throughout the game I felt like the entire town of Salem was the main character. History of the infamous Salem Witch Trials is evident throughout the town; for example, seeing the old remnants and structures of 1600s Salam in the spirit world was a nice touch to the environment. It is also worth noting that the game’s one hundred plus collectibles and side activities bring with it a lot of great historical facts about the town as well as opportunities to learn more about the Bell Killer (neatly presented through news clippings), more about Ronan’s past with his wife, and other infamous crimes.
It may seem like I am being overly harsh on Murdered: Soul Suspect but I genuinely enjoyed solving crimes, and the chase to identify the Bell Killer had me hooked from beginning to end. It’s just unfortunate that the game had to hold my hand throughout the entire ordeal. It may not win many awards, but Airtight Games deserves credit for trying something new and refreshing and to the most part succeeding.