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.
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.
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.
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.
+ 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
– 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.
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.
© Yvan Zivkovic 2014