Murdered: Soul Suspect / 6th of August 2014
Developer Airtight Games and Publisher Square Enix bring us Murdered Soul Suspect, a fresh take on the action adventure genre in a games market swarmed with repetition and ‘too big to fail IP’s’. Set in the supernatural town of Salem, Massachusetts players take on the role of Detective Ronan O’Connor of the Salem Police Department, tracking down a serial murderer known as the Bell Killer. As soon as the game starts it looks like you’ve solved the case and tracked down the killer to a room on the top floor of an apartment block. Then things take a fairly serious turn for the worse as you are thrown out of a window, splattering onto the road below to be later finished off with a couple of rounds to the chest. In other words you’re dead and all before you’ve even sat down to play the game. Stuck in the netherworld between this life and the next you must solve your own murder and many others by using your wit, detective skills and supernatural ghost powers.
Graphically this game isn’t hugely impressive and it probably doesn’t help that everything is in the dark, being dead and all. But this game isn’t about being pretty it’s about telling a story, a supernatural thriller that aims to reel you in and keep you held tight like a beam from a proton pack. For me this game didn’t come alive until you met up with a girl named Joy, a young lady with supernatural abilities, including being able to see and communicate with ghosts. This super handy character gives Ronan access to the living world allowing for objects to be moved out of his way and giving Ronan a much needed confidante. Through some conversation with Joy, you find out her mother is missing and involved in your case, through negotiation you agree to work together and set about to find her mother, solve the many mysteries of Salem and bring the Bell Killer to justice. You interact with other characters on your travels, dead and alive, but for the most part the people of Salem might as well be cardboard cut-outs. Instead of the town being a vibrant New England location it feels like the residents have very little to offer, they tend to repeat their lines like Salem’s been hit by an invasion of body snatchers.
Being a ghost does have its perks, the ability to walk through certain walls and teleport allows for a unique way to explore and investigate your cases in a fairly tedious world. You can also act like a naughty poltergeist and interact with certain objects now and then like TV’s, printers, telephone’s, etc. causing distractions, revealing clues and hidden evidence. Possession is an ability you use quite often on individuals as it allows you to hear their thoughts, influence their behaviour, see through their eyes and take refuge inside them. Refuge from what I hear you ask, from Demons! These demons feed off souls and will kill you on sight, there very tough to beat unless you sneak up on them from behind. When that fails you will need to hide in people, ghost vapours and basically run as far as possible until the demons return to patrol. They did give me a few jumps here and there but soon become too easy to dispatch and at times ruined the pace of my investigations.
Investigating is fairly easy, you are presented with a crime scene or a scene of interest and within these scenes are clues to gather from overhearing conversations, to finding evidence lying about and reading documents. When done correctly you may also receive flashbacks that help expand the story. It is then up to you, the player, to solve these cases by picking the most relevant information/evidence that substantiates your hypotheses. It is here that one of the game’s failings is apparent, there is no consequence for being wrong. You can literally click every answer until you find the right one and the game moves on like you’re the greatest detective who ever lived! CSI Salem this is not.
With no mini map, or map of any description, I found myself getting lost multiple times on the underpopulated streets of Salem and for the most part you spend your time moving from investigation to investigation and returning to locations previously visited. There are hidden cases to solve and collectibles to find in each level and dotted about Salem. Finding all the collectibles in a given mission unlocks a ghost story of sorts, these stories are read to you by the persons involved and can be quite interesting and haunting in their own right.
I did like this game but the lack of consequence in it destroys my motivation for trying to get it right. Much like the bankers of this world, with no consequence for their actions and the ability to carry on, players who get bored or can’t be bothered can abuse this system and be rewarded for it. This game shows raw potential but doesn’t go the distance to make it something truly special. It’s far too short and way too easy and doesn’t provide much challenge for veteran gamers. It does however provide an escape from the unoriginal and unimaginative titles that flood the shelves everywhere we go. Games like this deserve a bit more attention before they undoubtedly end up in bargain bins alongside greats like Alan Wake. All this does is indicate to the developers not to bother with original ideas, feed us what we’re use to and don’t surprise us with anything new. Murdered Soul Suspect at the very least deserves a play through, your attention and support, so that other games can go the distance.