Murdered: Soul Suspect Review: Collectibles — The Game
Really, though, the thrust of most of Murdered’s gameplay boils down to gathering collectibles. Investigations revolve around the mechanic of finding stuff to pick up, ticking off clues until you’ve found the requisite number in a crime scene. You can then hit a prompt that lets you extrapolate what happened by placing the most salient three or four clues in the correct order.
It’s not an especially intuitive system, however — you might think the fact that the shovel used to bury a body is more important than a note suggesting the person is missing, but you’d be wrong — but there’s little or no penalty for guessing incorrectly as you progress through each bit of detective work. More irritating is the way Murdered moves the goal posts on telling you what you need to do at each crime scene, which can lead to large swathes of wasted of time as you struggle to figure out what the game expects you to do next.
Each investigation includes a counter that lets you know how many clues there are to find, and these mostly mean finding the right interactive hotspots around a scene and hitting the prompted button when you come across them. Sometimes, however, the ticker will note that more clues can be found but won’t let on that they’re not available — when that happens, it means you need to trigger some new information to go forward, like putting together the picture of what happened, or prompting a nearby possession target to think the right thing to give you something new to go on. The trouble is, since you’re conditioned to keep wandering around a crime scene looking for hotspots when there are still clues to find, it’s easy to find yourself checking and rechecking the same dingy room for clues that don’t exist.
Most of the investigations are at least rewarding in an adventure game-style mystery solving sort of way, however. They’re not exactly brilliantly compelling bits of gaming, but they at least require some logic and attention on the player’s part, and they can be fun.
But they never really prop up the entire game, despite the fact that they make up the bulk of everything you’ll do. It’s mostly because of Murdered’s insane over-reliance on collectibles. It’s not a stretch to change the game’s title from Murdered: Soul Suspect to Murdered: Collecting Simulator. Collectibles are everywhere, and just as in investigations, they pretty much dominate the gameplay. Occasionally getting enough of one type opens up a reward, like a short additional ghost story, but mostly they make Murdered feel like busywork.
Even less compelling than obsessive-compulsive collecting are Murdered’s somewhat obligatory action-ish sequences, which consist of extremely rudimentary stealth gameplay that’s more a boring roadblock than a challenge.
The ghost world isn’t all solving crimes and helping people get to Heaven; it’s also populated by demons, ghosts that have been on Earth too long and have gone all crazy and evil. When they show up — always in very neatly telegraphed locations with a loud sound as tip-off — it’s time for you to stealth around and eliminate them. That’s done by hiding in residual ghostly shadows, coming up behind the monsters, and performing a quick execution on them.
It’s about as interesting as it sounds. You can quickly leap from shadow to shadow, and almost every single stealth section includes exactly three demons. Sometimes you’ll have to interact with some element that creates a distraction, but mostly these sections consist of jumping to the right shadow, waiting, and then executing the demon as it passes. Then you get to repeat that slow process twice more before you’re allowed to get back to the more interesting business of advancing the plot.