It’s not uncommon for videogames to have the player trying to solve the murder of a loved one. But having the player solve their own murder is a pretty unique take on the whole murder-mystery thing. But it seems being a ghost has its advantages when it comes to solving decade-old crimes, as being dead apparently lets you mess around with the living in ways that those with a pulse just can’t manage. And thus I’ve summed up the concept of Murdered: Soul Suspect in one paragraph.
The ghost in question you play as in Soul Suspect is Ronan O’Conner, a former-con & now former-cop who starts the game getting killed by the Bell Killer. His unfinished business is to stop this killer who’s been leading police on a wild chase while getting away with murdering young women. But even ghosts can only do so much, so Ronan enlists the help of a young, rebellious psychic named Joy, who reluctantly agrees to help Ronan if it helps her find her missing mother. But what happens when the killings relate back to Salem’s darker history?
The majority of the game is spent collecting clues and solving the next mystery to get one step closer to the Bell Killer. Being a ghost gives Ronan a variety of useful abilities to help in this regard. He can possess people to influence their minds, helping them remember crucial clues, see through the eyes of the living, and uncover residual energy of events. At each scene, you’ll have to uncover clues and decide which ones are most relevant. But there are demons that prowl limbo looking to devour Ronan’s soul. The only way to fight them is to hide in residual energy pockets until you can sneak up behind them and exorcise them.
Narrative: While not the most complex plot, I did find the mystery of the Bell Killer compelling. The story paces itself fairly well as you slowly uncover the deeper mystery. However, I did find I’d caught on to things faster than the characters did, so at times it felt like the story thought I was slower than I was. I liked the supernatural aspects of the story & how well it tied in to Salem’s history. I also found the main characters to be interested & fleshed out. Both Ronan & Joy could’ve been played as one-note, but they portray a range of believable emotions. They could’ve easily written both characters as your typical rebels, but they show more emotions, & have justifiable reasons for why they act the way they do. But I do find it hard to believe that a character with as sorted a past as Ronan would’ve been able to hide it well enough to become an officer. I also liked how the relationship between Ronan & Joy develops over the course of the game. At first Joy wants nothing to do with him, being fed up with ghosts always wanting things from her, but eventually they come to rely on each other. I also liked learning about Ronan’s history with his deceased wife & his brother-in-law. If I had one complaint about the story, it’s the big twist at the end. While it was a nice twist, I felt it may have come a bit too far out of left field, as there was really nothing in the game to hint at it. Maybe if I’d found all the hidden messages it might’ve given me context, but as that’s optional it’s something a lot of people will miss. I also didn’t get the killer’s motivation. So overall, a compelling mystery but with mixed feelings about the ending. Score: 4
Mechanics: While a mystery-adventure game at heart, Soul Suspect does try to vary the gameplay in between investigations. Stealth & escort sections try to spice things up, but with varied success. Originally I didn’t mind the sections with the demons, as they weren’t particularly difficult. You just hide until it turns its back. But towards the end I just found them tedious & that they prevented me from getting to the next investigation section. Surprisingly, the escort sections faired better. In these sections, you have to help Joy through a route by possessing items to make people in her way move. They’re actually not that bad, as Joy will actually wait until you’ve moved a person. But they’re also really easy. As for the investigation bits, I liked searching for clues. Usually they’re obvious, but I liked that the game required you to think about what the clue meant somethings rather than just spelling it out for you. For example, some clues would simply be “great force” where there’s a dent in the wall from a fight, but other times you have to decide from a list of possibilities what the clue actually meant (was the person hiding, fearful, etc.). However, concluding an investigation could be a bit frustrating because it’s not always easy to tell what the game thinks is the “most relevant” clue. I mentioned this in my Impressions post, but often I would have the whole picture but fumble at what specific clue the game wanted highlight. Also, there was one point in the game when it didn’t tell me I had an ability & I couldn’t get past an obstacle. I knew I needed to possess the officer & get him to walk over the lost souls, but I couldn’t figure out how, because you can’t physically control people you possess (unless it’s a cat). The game didn’t tell me I could use teleportation to poltergeist far away objects. This was the only time the game didn’t explain an ability. So overall, it gets points for having interesting investigative bits & for making escort sections that didn’t make me want to pull my hair out, but loses some points for tedious stealth/combat & some thick puzzle solving. Score: 3
Aesthetics: The graphics are average, but they do have a suitably gritty look to them that fits the setting. I liked how they overlap past & present Salem so that you can see snippets of the town’s history in its environments. The game also has these ghostly images that appear in the background until you get closer, lending to the atmosphere of the game. I mentioned in my last post, but I also like Ronan’s design. He’s a nice change from the clean-cut hero. The voice acting was pretty good, especially for Ronan & Joy. The music wasn’t that memorable, & was mostly for ambiance. I didn’t notice it most of the time, except for when it got a bit heavy on the sinister scale like it was trying to scare me. But it didn’t detract from the experience. Score: 3
Replay Value: Low to Average. Depending on if you run through the story or take your time exploring the town & looking for all the artifacts, side mysteries, etc., the game can feel kinda short. But unless you’re an achievement hunter & you want to find every artifact in the game, there really isn’t a lot of reason to replay it. Score: 2
Overall Score: 3
Final Word: Murdered – Soul Suspect won’t appeal to fans of more action-oriented games. However, if you like mysteries, it’s at least worth a rent.
Title: Murdered – Soul Suspect
Console: PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XB1
Developer: Airtight Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: June 3, 2014