If you were killed, do you think you would be able to solve your own murder? Developers Airtight Games give you that challenge in Murdered: Soul Suspect. Pull on your detective hat, its time to put together all the clues.
In Murdered: Soul Suspect you play as Ronan O’Connor, a police detective working on the case of the Bell Killer, a serial killer in Salem Massachusetts. Ronan’s path in life was not originally one of becoming a police officer. Quite the opposite he was well on his way to becoming a career criminal, if it weren’t for his wife, Julia. Meeting and falling in love with Julia turned Ronan’s life around. With the help of Julia’s brother Rex, Ronan became a police officer; albeit a “lone wolf” style officer. Rex, a highly ranked police officer, suppressed much of Ronan’s past so he could become an officer and be a good man for Julia. After Ronan makes it to becoming a detective, Julia is killed and dies in his arms.
One night a witness phones in the tip that they’ve just seen the Bell Killer. Ronan is the first on the scene. Without calling for backup, he rushed into the building to apprehend the killer. Things quickly go wrong and soon Ronan finds himself being thrown out of a fourth floor window. Ronan watches helplessly as the Bell Killer comes down to make sure he is dead, shooting him with his own gun. As the Bell Killer walks away, somehow Ronan is able to start following,until he hears a familiar voice. His long dead wife, Julia appears. She tells Ronan that he is stuck between worlds and that the only way for him to move on and join her is to settle unfinished business on earth. He quickly realizes he must solve his own murder.
Controls and Gameplay
Trying to define what game style Murdered: Soul Suspect is a little tricky, it borrows many elements; third person exploration, stealth, point and click, and logic problem solving; it covers a broad spectrum of game styles. This lets the game accomplish a lot without every really focusing on one aspect. This is becoming a trend, but there is usually one style that stands out as the overall theme, defining a game.
While gameplay wanders, the controls are intuitive enough that getting around Salem is easy enough. The only frustration here is finding areas I know I need to explore, but I have no access to because the movement power needed is not unlocked until later (sometimes much later) in the game. This results in a bit of back tracking.
Graphics and Sound
Murdered: Soul Suspect visually takes on a look that falls somewhere between realistic and high art graphic novels. One of the unique things Airtight Games does with the graphics is show you the two worlds in the game in varying color pallets. Because Ronan is a ghost he sees the two versions of Salem, Massachusetts; the modern day Salem and the infamous time period of the witch trials. This also serves to restrict Ronan movements in an already small sandbox.
Audio is a gem of the game. Casting, particularly the voice actors for Ronan and Joy, a psychic young woman who can see and interact with ghosts who grudgingly becomes Ronan’s partner, is a strong point. Each person gives great performances. The background music sets a great spooky atmosphere. It kept a taut tension throughout which helped to set a mood of never knowing when a demon would pop out to attack Ronan.
Murdered: Soul Suspect was a game I was introduced to at E3 2013. The trailer and premise made it feel like it was going to be mystery adventure with a supernatural spin and a slight peppering of stealth. What we eventually got falls short. It comes back to that lack of game play focus; a game that does many things good but never great. The storyline took me about ten hours to get through. As the credits rolled the first thought that popped into my head was that it felt a lot like the old point and click games. Most of Murdered: Soul Suspect was enter an area, find as many clues as possible, pick the ones that have the most relevance to the question Ronan has put forth, and move the story forward. It’s not a bad system, but there was no real sense that you could fail.
In one instance I wasn’t paying attention to the in-game message that kept telling me I didn’t have the relevant clue. I tried to put forth every clue I had and ran out of clues. Eventually it let me solve the problem once I found the missing clue. It had a scoring system of sorts, giving you badges for every clue you found, and for every wrong guess it would take away a badge. In the end it made no difference because there was no “score.” There was no point where the game said, “you are out of badges.” Once you were down to one badge it never went lower, there were no consequences for getting things wrong, you just continued to stumble forward until you got it right.
The stealth elements came from the encounters with demons. Demons were ghosts that eventually went mad from being unable to solve their own unfinished business. A result of their madness was that they fed on other ghosts. You are given two ways of dealing with demons; hiding and porting between ghostly remnants that dot the landscape or sneaking up behind a demon and purging it from the world. Anytime a demon entered the area they would scream; essentially announcing themselves. This aspect of the game was sorely underused. For the sheer amount of ghostly remnants in the game I expected to have to deal with demons a whole lot more. At one point in the game I thought I may have inadvertently set the game to easy, but I found there is no difficulty setting. I really feel that not having various level difficulties was a missed opportunity.
The saving grace of the game is it’s a story and side quests. The story Airtight Games wrote kept me engaged and the few side quests of helping other ghosts solve their own unfinished business was an excellent way of expanding the gameplay without being obvious about it. Sadly, while good, the story is not good enough to carry the game by itself.
Even though Murdered: Soul Suspect captured my initial interest it’s lack of any defining characteristics really let me down. It’s not a bad game, it has sparks of greatness, but it just goes nowhere fast and lacks a center. I give Murdered: Soul Suspect a middle of the road 3 out of 5.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is rated M for Mature for Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
For more information see the official Murdered: Soul Suspect web site.