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Murdered: Soul Suspect

By BloodyFanGirl27-03-2015
Murdered: Soul Suspect

The Defence

Airtight Games
Square Enix
Action, Adventure, Role Playing
Release Date:
US 03-06-2014
EU 06-06-2014

The Prosecution

Intel Core i7
AMD FX-8000
Nvidia GeForce GTX 660
AMD Radeon R9 270
4 GB
12 GB
10, 11

The Case

Murdered: Soul Suspect follows Detective Ronan O’Connor as he attempts to solve his own murder. Along the way, O’Connor uncovers that death was just the beginning and just the first piece of a much bigger picture. The bigger picture involves the mysterious Bell Killer and mysteries that go back to the town of Salem’s roots. This particular case has been especially drawn out and now it is finally time for this judge to give her verdict.

The Defence

As you start, the set-up and subsequent death are presented in a highly cinematic way that leaves one feeling pretty hopeful about the following experience. Ronan confronts the Bell Killer who easily picks up the grown man and throws him out of a window. Ronan hits the ground and finds himself surprisingly not dead...but his soul is no longer residing within his body. Eager not to completely shuffle off his mortal coil just yet, Ronan frantically tries to reunite his body with his soul before it’s too late. This is where the player is first allowed to actually play the game, as you attempt to help Ronan re-align his soul with his body. This opening section is actually surprisingly tense and helped to maintain attention throughout the opening sequence. Just when you think maybe Ronan will live to see another night in Salem, the Bell Killer shows up and puts seven bullets in him with his own gun. Of course, if you’d been following the game’s pre-release promotional bread crumb trail, you’d know that any actions you took in this opening section were destined to be ineffectual. What first seems like a very strong opening sequence soon turns out to be alarmingly prophetic.

Definitely nothing strange going on here...

Definitely nothing strange going on here...

Allow me to elaborate. The gameplay is made up of three main styles: mystery, exploration and stealth. For mystery, gameplay centres on collecting clues for an ‘investigation’, either by interacting and observing objects within the environment or by possessing people and influencing them to reveal more clues. Once you’ve collected enough you can then ‘conclude your investigation’ by reviewing the clues in your possession and selecting those that are most relevant. At the bottom of the screen are three police badge shaped icons that are implied to be ‘lives’; if you select incorrectly, one of these badges goes dim. However, there’s no real punishment if you use up all of your badges, allowing you to select the correct evidence by process of elimination if you need to. It’s a similar story with the stealth sections. Occasionally areas will be stalked by a number of demons that can quite easily spell the end for Ronan. You have the choice of either hiding in people, cats and ghostly wisps or you can destroy the demons. If caught by a demon, you’re given a QTE to perform in order to release yourself from their hellish clutches. If you fail this QTE, that’s it for Ronan...and you immediately start again from the last of the generously placed checkpoints. Whilst hiding and avoiding the demons is a valid style of play, I actually found it much easier to destroy the demons and allow myself to explore the environments freely. Destroying demons is also done through a relatively simple QTE and I ended up finding the demons’ presence far more annoying than genuinely threatening. There are also stealth sections where Ronan can help the living traverse an area without getting caught by possessing objects and causing distractions. These sections are insultingly easy, lack any nuance or tension and feel overly phoned in.

It’s very difficult to screw up in Murdered and if you do, there’s no real punishment. It’s as though the developers, having made their protagonist already dead, failed to figure out how to make a failure state meaningful or worth avoiding when dying again was not an option for the player character. Much of the game plays as though the player’s input isn’t all that meaningful in itself. The game feels far more concerned with the progression of the story at expense of engaging gameplay; one gets the distinct feeling that Murdered really wanted to be a movie when it grew up.

I'll give you three guesses.

I'll give you three guesses.

As for the story, numerous clichés and tropes are drawn upon – you have the ex-con turned reformed cop, a tragic back story involving their significant other, the teenaged punk medium girl, the reluctant crime fighting partners - I could go on. Whilst introduced fairly confidently to begin with, the iterations of all of these tropes and the story itself begins to lag around the middle portion of the game and starts to grate. However, there are some shocking revelations in the lead up to the game’s finale that pull you back in...if you haven’t already given up before then due to the flagging gameplay. Additionally, you can collect a variety of items to embellish the story, such as Julia’s thoughts. This particular type of collectible explores Julia and Ronan’s relationship and helps to flesh out Ronan as a character. It helps to further establish him as a likeable, though obviously flawed, character by showing us a side we don’t really see anywhere else in the game.

Speaking of, the parts of the game I found most enjoyable to play were the exploration and collection elements. The in-game incarnation of the town of Salem is relatively small in scope though the developers have clearly done some homework when it comes to the location’s history. Throughout the game’s setting, there are plaques that you can collect that give some insight into important events in the town’s history. For the history nerds amongst you, this is a very cool addition. On top of this and Julia’s thoughts, each area has a location specific collectible. If you collect them all, you can unlock a short ghost story, some of which are genuinely quite creepy. That said, one wishes more effort was made on their presentation. As it is, the stories are told with audio over the top of one still image. The images are competently rendered but occasionally spoil the conclusion of the story.

Ronan's first mosh pit experience was not a pleasant one.

Ronan's first mosh pit experience was not a pleasant one.

Furthermore, exploring the main town area of Salem is generally rewarding, with lots of collectibles scattered around and hidden areas that can only be accessed via cat possession. However, this larger area could’ve done with the inclusion of an in-game map. Some of us (i.e. me) have absolutely no sense of direction whatsoever and an in-game map would have saved a lot of frustration. As you explore the town, you can read the minds of NPCs but, of course, the only ones you can truly converse with are your fellow ghosts. The living NPCs are fairly samey, often reusing the same character models and thoughts over and over again. The ghosts are far more fleshed out and you get snippets of each of their back stories. There are even some you can help in regards to their unfinished business though these are few and far between. Being a ghost is, as you’d expect, fairly isolating and leaves the setting of Salem feeling empty and sadly, for lack of a better word, lifeless. For a place with such history, one would’ve thought that there’d be a few more ghosts hanging around with unfinished business.

The Verdict

To conclude, Murdered: Soul Suspect is a prime example of wasted potential; there are many intriguing ideas here that are let down in their execution. Much of the gameplay is overly easy and lacks a meaningful failure state. The story, whilst often very enjoyable, is more than a little clichéd and flags around the middle. The most interesting parts of the story require a scavenger hunt and are actually very rewarding to uncover, though their presentation isn’t as polished as elsewhere in the game. In-game Salem itself could’ve been a lot more interesting and it’s obvious some amount of work went into its creation but, as it is, it’s lacking any glimmer of life. This is something the game as a whole suffers from – a general sense of lifelessness.

Case Review

  • Collectibles: Fun to collect, make exploring rewarding and they serve to embellish the main story.
  • Presentation: Cinematic and polished. It’s definitely nice to look at.
  • Story: A crescendo is reached but many will have given up before then due to the flagging middle section.
  • Characters: Are mostly walking clichés but clichés aren’t always a bad thing...though they aren’t always to everyone’s tastes either.
  • Gameplay: Lacks challenge, nuance, feels phoned in and mostly fails to be engaging.
  • Environments: Feel, for lack of a better word, lifeless.
Score: 2.5/5
Who ya gonna call? Not Murdered: Soul Suspect.
Comments (1)
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Posts: 3290

Dang :(

This showed so much potential as well.

Le sigh