OXCGN’s Murdered: Soul Suspect Review


I ain’t afraid of no ghost

Square-Enix, along with Airtight Games bring us their latest creation titled Murdered: Soul Suspect. Our story takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, were we are given a brief rundown on a serial killer that’s on the loose, being called the Bell killer, who has been haunting the Sale for quite some time, mainly targeting young girls.

Murdered: Soul Suspect has a great narrative with some compelling story telling and some great voice work, although some characters do seem to fall into stereotypes. The story definitely keeps you going, despite the game being someone short, clocking in at about 8 – 10 hours for the main story.

We then meet our main protagonist, Ronan O’Connor, who has a checkered past and a lot of body tattoos to show for it. Ronan, who we see for the first time being thrown out of a second story window by said serial killer. Ronan has his life flash before his eyes, summing up the major moments, like growing up as a street thief, meeting his love interest, Julia, who he marries, and even joining the police force. However, his life takes a a dive as his wife dies with no explanations given.

Murdered Soul Suspect Ronan
Meet our bullet riddled ghost detective, Ronan O’Connor.

This is where our adventure with Ronan starts, after reuniting with your wife in the afterlife, you are quickly sent back to the real world, as you are not yet ready to pass on, and in order to ‘cross the bridge’ he must complete whatever is unfinished business is, which is to solve his own murder.

You’ll quickly find that Murdered: Soul Suspect sets its own limitations on you early, as you’ll only be able to enter buildings when someone opens a door for you, making your exploration pretty much non-existent, outside of exploring Salem, and even then, it’s a relatively small sandbox for you to play in.

The game plays on the rich history of Salem,  specifically the era of the witch hunting trials. However, the use of it feels wasted, as most of the time ghostly apparitions of Salem’s past will appear simply to block your path, stopping you from going in a different direction other than the one the game wants you to go, taking away any means of exploration.

The atmosphere in Salem feels like an empty void, with a serious lack of population, and when people are around, they’re mostly lifeless, just standing or sitting around, doing the same robotic movements, with barely anything to say. You can interact with them, and very rarely will you need to possess them to continue the story. When you first start, you’ll probably try possessing every living person in sight, but they usually don’t have anything to offer other than two lines of dialogue that’s just filler.

Murdered Soul Suspect SS1
No wonder they haven’t caught the Bell killer, all these cops are too busy playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution (A vastly superiors Square-Enix game).

The ghost population seem more life-like than the living people (although that has a lot to do with the fact that you can interact with them), you come across various ghosts in Salem, which you are able to interact with. Some ghosts either don’t accept that they’re dead, or don’t act the slightest bit surprised or upset to know that they are dead, which seemed really puzzling. The ghostly population of Salem will give you clues to help you move onto your next objective, otherwise they will tell your their own problems and Ronan will offer to help, unusually hunting down clues and assembling the right ones to solve their murder. Unfortunately, these side missions don’t lead to anything and have no impact on the story other than those completionists out there.

Speaking of compleitionists, scattered across Salem are ghostly, some more well hidden than others, and usually refer to Salem’s past, but again, these have no impact on the story whatsoever and are really just a distraction. Those of whom do collect all these times in a certain area are treated to a short story involving said items, but ultimately it’s just a voice track with a still image, feels kind of half hearted.

The arsenal of abilities that Ronan has will slowly improve throughout the story, but realistically it’s only there to further the narrative and don’t have any other significant use. Most of the time you’ll just come to a scene and start looking for items or clues, which require you to just run around and find each clue individually, the game will keep track of how many clues you’ve found and how many there are in total, but finding all the clues doesn’t actually make the case any easier to solve, because most of them are dead simple to begin with. You’ll then have to piece together the relevant information you have to determine what happened at the crime scene just makes you feel like you’re running around doing busy work to figure out the obvious truth.

Murdered Soul Suspect dead body
Ronan, staring down at his own lifeless body.

Whether it’s your own mistake or the what the game is conveying isn’t obvious, sometimes when solving a puzzle, you may make a mistake. However, there don’t seem to be any repercussions throughout the game when the wrong choice is picked, the game simply informs you that’s wrong and lets you pick yet another answer until you get the right one, which really takes away all challenge of the game, at one point, I  simply picked randomly which clue I wanted to use until I got them all right, simply because it had no repercussions as to how many times I got it wrong, and it has no overall effect to the story or its ending.

Although you might be dead, that doesn’t mean you’re completely safe, as demon roam around Salem, looking on souls to feast on, yours included. This is actually where the game shines, in its means of combat. You must sneak directly behind them to kill them if you wish to continue onto the next area. However, sometimes these demons will go you first, and running away doesn’t always help, and you may have to teleport between the ghost soul residue scattered around the area. The unfortunate side of this is this style of gameplay is severely under utilised throughout the game, considering it’s really the only way you can die.

Murdered Soul Suspect Demon
OK, maybe I am afraid of that ghost.

Pros:

+ Fantastic narrative that’ll keep you playing till the very end

+ Soul sucking demons really set an eerie feel, and the combat system to counter or hide from them works well

+ Voice cast and acting is great, despite some of the characters being a little bland

Cons:

– The tiny sandbox that is Salem is dull and uninteresting, full of people that have no relevance to the narrative and are just there so it doesn’t look desolate (even though it still does)

– The game has no real challenge, you can make as many mistakes as you like and you’ll always get another chance

– Despite some characters having great voice talent, their actual characters can be rather bland and stereotypical, some don’t even seem surprised that they’re dead.

TL;DR

Murdered: Soul Suspect is a great concept and the story will keep you playing, but has its short comings. With a 8 – 10 hour main mission, completely pointless choices, uninteresting side missions, lifeless people and the environments surrounding them, and little reason to have multiple play-throughs, you’ll complete the game and put it back on your shelf. With the mechanics and abilities that Ronan has in game, this could have had so much more potential, but ultimately a lot of it was under-utilised and game suffers for it.

6.5/10

© Yvan Zivkovic 2014

Review conducted with a promotional copy provided by Namco Bandai Australia.

Red Cross Australia Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Preview


Become Dracula in Castlevania’s most impressive outing to date

Last week the Australian Red Cross, in collaboration with Mindscape, gave the media and general public an early taste of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. This event aimed to educate gamers on the importance of donating blood whilst previewing the latest vampiric offerings from Mindscape.

This event was a great success, with pledges and blood donation happening during the evening. Awareness of important issues like blood donation in the specific demographic games like Castlevania aim for can always be improved, and this type of event was a really clever way to reach out. I have to thank both Mindscape and the Red Cross for allowing us to come and test out the game, and to commend them on the excellent event held. I really hope we start to see more events like this, focussing not just on amazing new games, but also on important topics within our society. You can read more about blood donation, and even donate on the Blood Service website.

Even Vampire donate blood
Even vampires donate blood

Now, onto Castlevania. During the event the first three hours were playable, taking us through the tutorial, prologue and then giving us a look at the modern-day missions and open world. In a great move for newcomers, the game introduces the core story for the series over the course of a long cutscene to bring players up to speed with the series, and as a person who hasn’t played a lot of the Castlevania games before this, I felt quite comfortable following the plot.

We first meet Dracula as the game opens in his throne room, sitting atop his throne with a chalice of blood. Before long he’s interrupted, the door shakes as it’s hit by an ornate battering ram over and over. The doors shatter and enemies start to pour in; Dracula’s castle is under siege, and our tutorial begins.

The combat is fairly simple but quite well put together. Using a series of light and heavy attacks, plus blocking and dodging, you can reliably knock down enemies health and sometimes even stun them to perform a gruesome finishing move. You soon become quite good at predicting the moves of the basic enemies, but the bigger enemies and bosses mix up the pattern quite nicely. You also gain two different special weapons for use in combat, the Void Sword, which allows you to absorb health from enemies upon hitting them and the Chaos Claws, which can be used to break through enemy defences and shields. These weapons add a nice sophistication to the combat, making you think about how and when to use your weapons.

The more you use your weapons and powers, the more they can be upgraded through ‘masteries’. You can also unlock more abilities and attacks by collecting experience orbs, broadening moves and attacks from the initially somewhat basic combat roster.

Just as you slide into the comfort of fighting basic enemies the game shows you its impressive set pieces, giving us a stunning view over Dracula’s castle under siege. For a moment you can take in the impressive gothic fantasy world that has been created here, before being attacked by a walking siege castle and a shining gold paladin, whose only aim is to kill Dracula.

The golden Paladin, a fierce early game enemy!
The golden Paladin, a fierce early game enemy!

The game has a great balance to it with its enemies and bosses. It’s not too hard, but hard enough to be a challenge. Enemies and bosses will kill you, but this is no Dark Souls; you won’t find yourself throwing a controller across the room because of them. Slight hints and tells balance out the un-blockable heavy hits, and used wisely, the Void Sword keeps you pretty well stocked on health.

Upon completion of the Prologue you are introduced to the modern-day world through a series of (overly long) cutscenes. Whilst the dialogue can get a little overdramatic, the story is intriguing and the voice acting is quite strong, lead by actors like Patrick Stewart and Richard Madden (of Game of Thrones fame). Regardless of length the lore cutscenes have a great visual style to them, playing out like the pages of a dark fantasy novel across the screen.

Even the in-game or cinematic cutscene have quite a dark feel to them. In one instance, after Dracula’s re-emergence to the modern-day, you are given a real weakness as a shrivelled and old vampire. Directly following this, the game hits the hardest that I saw in its first three hours. In a dark and quite disturbing way you’re forced to murder a family in order to feed to regain your youth and strength, which whilst fitting in with the tone of the game, I found overly brutal. It reminds the player that even though Dracula is the protagonist, he is in no way a ‘good’ guy.

Outside of combat you get an open world to explore in the modern-day, filled with mission based ‘dungeons’ of sorts. I was able to complete the first mission, to in

Gothic architecture and climbing make for some great scenes
Gothic architecture and climbing make for some great scenes

filtrate a science and technology company believed to be a front for the allies of Satan, paving the way for his return. You can smash all sorts of items that litter the area for experience and art unlocks, as well as keeping your eyes open for crystals to increase your health and magic. Lords of Shadow 2 has a very Darksiders feel to it outside of combat. You’ll climb and jump your way through levels whilst gaining powers (such as a crystal that lets you freeze and climb waterfalls), all the while solving basic puzzles to progress.

In the first three hours the game had no really hard puzzles, but almost all of them required a little thought at least. Adding to the puzzles is the drift between the present day and Dracula’s time. You’ll enter a stark modern passageway, or industrial service hatch and come out into a grand ballroom line with chandeliers and torches. It has a beautiful visual style that keeps things pretty exiting all the way through.

Castlevania also employs some stealth gameplay that works well in sections. You can possess rats and hide in the shadows to avoid enemies and traverse passageways unnoticed. Whilst these sections were fun, the game really shines in it’s cool combat and diverse enemy roster.

All in all I very much enjoyed my time with Lords of Shadow 2. With pretty fresh gameplay and an intriguing story it has all the hallmarks to be an exciting entry into the series, and I’m eagerly awaiting it’s release, February 27th, to play more of this game. Once again, a huge thanks to the guys at Mindscape and the Australian Red Cross for hosting the event and giving us a hands on preview of the title!

OXCGN’s Buyers Guide to Christmas!


buyers guide

OXCGN’s Buyers Guide to Christmas!

Our team pick their top 5 buys this Cristmas

by OXCGN Staff

With Christmas fast approaching and shopping centers now having entered late trading hours, now is the best time to pick up any last minute gifts for friends or family that you may have missed. Since the Christmas period usually means quiet time on all fronts, we thought we’d have our staff pick 5 titles or peripherals and compile a list of what you could purchase for someone this Christmas.

If you are struggling to find the perfect present for a friend, family member or even yourself, hopefully this quick guide can give you some idea for those who are hard to purchase presents for.

What will you put under someone's tree?
What will you put under someone’s tree?

Continue reading OXCGN’s Buyers Guide to Christmas!

2013 in Gaming: The Year in Under 2 Minutes


2013

2013 in Gaming: The Year in Under 2 Minutes

What a year for gaming

by Arthur Kotsopoulos

There’s a reason why I love December and no, it’s not only because of Christmas and getting new presents but because of this single Youtube video by Malcolm Klock. If you want this year in gaming summed up for you then look no further than this 2 minute video.

All the years biggest and best titles.

I look forward to other videos which sum up the year in gaming, movies, trailers and so much more!

If you do remember Malcolm by any chance then you’ll know that he also did a 2012 in Gaming: The Year in Under 2 Minutes, which was accompanied by music from Mass Effect 2, that hit all the right spots.

I’m not to sure which year was better though 2012 or 2013, either way we have these two great videos which sum each year up. I cannot wait to see what 2014 has in store for us.

(Thanks to Rae Johnston for posting the link on her Facebook and bringing this to my attention and Malcolm Klock for another great video!)

©2013 Arthur Kotsopoulos

World of Tanks Xbox 360 Edition Preview


WoT

World of Tanks Xbox 360 Edition Preview

Prepare for battle!

by Jayden Perry

World of Tanks has been a huge success for developers Wargaming.Net since it’s launch in 2011, making it’s eSports debut in 2012. Since then it has amassed quite the following, and will see an Xbox 360 launch in late 2013. It is currently in the Beta testing phase, which I was able to have a good go of to get a feel for the game. The game is free to play, but has paid components to it also, such as resources and consumables packs.

Upon loading up and updating the Beta client you are taken to your garage, the hub of the game. From here, you can buy and customise tanks (including purchasing items with real currency in the store), tweak your settings and jump right into a battle.

Welcome to the garage, your World of Tanks Hub.
Welcome to the garage, your World of Tanks Hub.

Continue reading World of Tanks Xbox 360 Edition Preview

OXCGN’s Call of Duty: Ghosts Review


ghosts review

OXCGN’s Call of Duty: Ghosts Review

Aiming high, but falling short.

by Jayden Perry

In the opening minutes of Call of Duty Ghosts you run through a collapsing town, jump to space and try to defend a space station, then watch as the world as we know it is decimated by high-powered missiles.

As you watch these amazing and out there scenarios play out, with everything exploding all around, you know that this is Call of Duty.

Ghosts marks the first Call of Duty game developed by Infinity Ward after their incredibly successful “Modern Warfare” series. Right from the word go you’ll notice the similar feeling of menus and text, but this game has a lot to offer in it’s new premise, extinction mode and surprisingly complex multiplayer.

Ghosts provides the player with a variety of modes in which to spend your time playing; Campaign, Squads/Multiplayer and Extinction.

Ghosts even takes you to fight on the final frontier; space!
Ghosts even takes you to fight on the final frontier; space!

Click to orbit to the rest of the review!

OXCGN’s Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag Review


Black Flag

OXCGN’s Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag Review

Abstergo Entertainment invites you aboard for the adventure of a lifetime!

by Jayden Perry

©2013 Jayden Perry

AC4-BIG-boxart-imageAssassin’s Creed IV Black Flag marks a new step in the path of the Assassin’s Creed series. It brings us a well penned story to cast us a sea on our journey, and puts the player into a beautiful world to explore.

After sinking more than forty hours into the core of it alone, I am still scouring the seas for the many Assassin and Naval contracts yet to be completed, and the many small uncharted islands waiting to be scoured for hidden treasures.

After playing all this on current generation consoles, I am confident, with the release of next-gen consoles, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions will see me invest just as many hours once more.

Continue reading OXCGN’s Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag Review

Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag Preview


Black Flag

Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag Preview

Get ready to set sail with Ubisoft’s latest assassin adventure!

by Jayden Perry

©2013 Jayden Perry

AC4-BIG-boxart-imageLast week I visited Ubisoft Sydney to get an exclusive hands on with Ubisoft’s new title, Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, in the lead up to it’s release for current generation consoles on October 29.

The demo I got my hands on was a large open world demo, not playable at any public showing.

I got to experience free roam in both the Jackdaw and on foot, exploring several islands and regions of the map. I also played underwater diving segments, side missions such as assassination contracts, and the harpooning activity.

I’d like to thank Paul and the rest of the team at Ubisoft Sydney for having me, and for taking the time to walk me through this incredible game.

Continue reading Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag Preview