While we’re on the subject of games with cool concepts but disappointing results, let’s talk about Murdered: Soul Suspect.
You are Ronan Keating, ex-criminal turned detective in a town called Salem (oh yes, let’s get knee deep in the allegory right now) – despite being a hipster dressed like a 1930’s cop in the modern era, you’re pretty chuffed with your luck. So you decide to go arrest a local thug, only to get shot and fall out of a window. Oh no! No time to mope though, now you’re a ghost detective! Get out there and solve your murder!
The initial concept for Murdered: Soul Suspect was probably better presented than my last paragraph and may have been quite a cool idea. We are obsessed with the idea of the afterlife and limbo, being able to experience such entrapment between worlds with a worthy cause would be a great piece of art. It was brought down immediately when the first thing I had to do, when the game finished it’s Metal Gear Solid cutscene, was carefully position my ghost parts with my corpse parts.
I’ll hand it to Ronan though, he does get over his sudden rebirth pretty quickly.
When it comes down to it, Murdered: Soul Suspect is better positioned as a Walking Ghost Simulator. You’ll stride around, going “woOoOo” and occasionally stepping through a wall. The detective part of the game comes into play when you circle the same room seven times looking for a clue, which you have to directly face in the position the developers dictate, otherwise your keen spectre senses are pretty much moot.
There are some hidden clues in each area, which – when combined – will give you a short story on something terrible that happened there. This could’ve been a nice addition to the world, if you weren’t looking for the exact same object in 14 different places. Beside that, nowhere you go is particularly imaginative: an apartment building, a police station, a graveyard…
When you get somewhere to explore, having been let in through the front door, they’re all fairly uninteresting; you’re just there to find some meaningful tat and argue with a psychic teenager. Wherever it is you may be hunting for clues, there will be ‘various’ methods to keep you from getting distracted; anti-ghost walls, localised outbreaks of the Fires of Hell, Demons or Doors. The Demons have a particularly annoying habit of randomly, and suddenly, turning 180° to eat your face, forcing you to walk at a brisk pace in the opposite direction or hop through ectoplasmic residues.
Once you’ve collected all the Scooby Snacks on offer, you’ll get to ‘solve’ the area’s mystery! Cue a screen full of pictures and words, plus poorly worded question you have to answer. I’m pretty sure there was no tutorial for this section, you’re just dropped into picking 3 statements that sound kinda right and hoping that’s what was programmed in.
As a ghost, you have a limited set of skills which you can employ throughout the game; one combat move, used exclusively against the one enemy, and possession, which allows you to read minds or influence how the Living answer. At one point you even get to possess a cat, which was fun.
In an effort to show you how tedious this game is, allow me to quote some ‘Did You Know’ facts from the front page of the game’s wiki:
- Did you know the main character can piece together any story?
- … that Julia is Ronan’s wife, who died by being stabbed 3 years before the game?
- … that the Salem Witch Trials were Puritan trials against Mediums, who were considered Witches?
- … that Demons are the primary enemies?
You would only have to put an hour’s worth of time into Murdered: Soul Suspect – and take a quick history lesson – to know each of those facts. There is no substance behind it, it’s nothing more than a walking simulator with the clue hunting sections from L.A. Noire shoved into its mouth. You could have a more fulfilling experience by babysitting an 8 year-old for an afternoon, following them down the street as they pointed out a broken bottle, a deflated football and a shoe on the telephone wires, then conjured up an exciting tale of pirates, betrayal and cooties which would already be twice as much as effort as they put into Murdered.
I’m glad I bought Soul Suspect when it was in the Winter Sale last year, because I would have hated myself if I got it at full price. It had high aspirations and never reached any of them, unless you count “walk here, pick up that” as a goal – in that case, kudos! I only got to about halfway through, because we had absolutely nothing to do on a Sunday, and I have very little inspiration to open the game and finish it – while it did make me laugh, probably not an intended outcome, it was a boring slog of a game that blew it’s chance to be a big deal. Shame.