You’re lying cold on the streetlight-drenched pavement during a freezing winter evening. A hooded man approaches you menacingly. You panic in your attempts to move, yet your body doesn’t respond. Finally, you realise the futility of your actions as the man pumps a clip full of handgun bullets into your chest. As the scent of blood and gunpowder fills the air, you lament over the lost opportunity to discover the person responsible for taking your life. Don’t deny it; you’d be dying to find out, right?
Enter Murdered: Soul Suspect. And no, I will not apologise for the above pun.
Murdered: Soul Suspect puts you in the shoes of the ectoplastic fantastic Ronan O’Connor; a troubled Salem detective who bites off a little more than he can chew when on the job. Within seconds of the game’s opening cinematic, we are greeted to Ronan’s untimely demise as he is suspended from a multi-storey building window and shot countless times by a hooded, shady figure. Instead of heading into the afterlife, his unconscious self is thrown into a purgatorial ghost world known as Dusk, where he must solve the mystery of who killed him and why. Only then will his spirit be laid to rest.
On the whole, Murdered: Soul Suspect is acceptable for a game running on the Unreal Engine. While the current gen consoles will enjoy crisper textures and particle effects, there appears to be a visual discrepancy in the Playstation 4 version of the game (the version of the game that was previewed). It’s quite a rare occasion when the actual game looks and animates better than its pre-rendered cutscenes. This is a bit of a concern due to the cinematic nature of Murdered: Soul Suspect but considering I was experiencing a preview demo, hopefully the cutscene-to-game transitions are ironed out before release.
As expressed before, the aim of Murdered: Soul Suspect is to seek the identity of your murderer, and the reasons why your life was cut short. Spirit-exclusive powers are introduced and assist you in your otherworldly investigations as the world of Dusk is explored. Since Ronan is deceased, he can no longer interact with evidence or witnesses in the usual fashion. Instead, the player has to think outside the box to find clues left scattered around areas of interest. To those who had played Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, Murdered: Soul Suspect manages to capture the essence of the former game with a few twists. It omits the outlandish inanimate object possession, and instead puts focus towards the human psyche, especially when confronted with a grisly murder scene.
Allow me to explain. I played through a crime scene where poor Ronan was murdered as well as the apartment building he was sent flying from, and having to mind read fellow detectives and influence witnesses to recall parts of the incident they’re subconsciously attempting to repress was a unique and refreshing blend of interrogation. In most cases you need to literally put yourself in other’s shoes and possess them to acquire information, observe from a different perspective or even to open up the way to other locations. The latter example has you influencing a policeman to remove his hands from a series of photos that reveals the whereabouts of a person of interest. Once you’ve gathered your bearings as well as enough evidence, you must come to a deduction and summarise the events that have transpired. Keen observational skills and a sharp wit are paramount to success in Murdered: Soul Suspect.
Not only does Ronan have to worry about staying hot on the trail of his murderer, Dusk is also rife with hostile demons hungry for fresh souls. Areas between investigative environments encourage a more stealth-oriented approach as demons heavily outnumber the player. This is where the ability to shift through walls and hiding within the remnants of ghosts comes in handy. If you’re a ghost of the gung-ho variety, you can also dispatch demons as you sneak behind them but be warned; Ronan’s repertoire is extremely limited, at least during my experience as I was being chased during the ascension of the aforementioned apartment complex. Most times you’ll find yourself shifting through walls until the pre-determined path of the demons tip in your favour but hopefully further abilities to deal with them unlock as the game progresses. Side-quests are sprinkled throughout Salem and unfortunately don’t hold as much narrative oomph as hunting down your killer, but for those that want to invest in the world of Murdered: Soul Suspect, you could certainly do a lot worse.
Despite its shortcomings, Murdered: Soul Suspect is shaping up to be quite the ghastly detective drama. The opening sequence is exciting and helps the heavily noir-inspired narrative hit the ground running. I see a lot of potential within the investigative sections as well as the universe and I’m completely giddy to help Ronan O’Connor get his man this June.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is developed by Airtight Games, published by Square Enix and will be releasing June 5 in Australia for Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4 and PC.