Posted on July 11, 2014, Phil Hornshaw Murdered: Soul Suspect Review: Collectibles — The Game
Games work at creating fantasy worlds in which players can do things they otherwise can’t in the real world. Some things games do better than others.
They’re pretty good at making you into a world-class digital soldier, simulated football coach or virtual race car driver. They’re significantly less good at making you into a cyber detective.
Murdered: Soul Suspect trades the more traditional elements from police games, like shooting bad dudes and chasing them with cars (and sometimes shooting them from cars), for an emphasis on gathering clues and solving crimes. Unfortunately, like many other games that attempt a focus on crime-solving than criminal-destruction, Murdered is haphazard about giving you the tools to really detect. Even though you play a ghost detective in Murdered, the crime-solving itself varies wildly as an enjoyable and challenging experience.
Without decent detective work going on, Murdered unfortunately struggles to be much of an engaging experience. While it creates an interesting mystery to solve through the course of its plot and provides some round, intriguing characters to follow through it, there’s just not a lot to do, and when the game throws crime-solving and clue-gathering at you in earnest, the experience almost always oscillates between dull and frustrating.
Murdered: Soul Suspect
Platform: PC (Reviewed), Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Xbox One
Developer: Airtight Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Back to the premise: in Murdered, you play a detective who also is a ghost. You are, in fact, murdered in the game’s opening moments, and spend the rest of the game trying to figure out who killed you in order to secure your ability to “move on” to the Afterlife. It’s the whole “unfinished business” sort of ghost story, the business being a serial murderer known as the Bell Killer who you’re determined to move over into the “finished” basket.
The game takes place in Salem, Mass., with all the attendant witch history that goes with it. Couple that with the story of protagonist Ronan, a guy who grew up on the mean Salem streets, did time, and then met his future wife and with her help and the help of her brother, became a cop himself, and there’s a decent recipe for a compelling story within Murdered. And in fact, the plot, although a bit predictable, is far and away the game’s best feature.
Ronan himself is a character who’s informed by a number of competing values that make his trip through ghostly Salem more than a run-of-the-mill detective story. His ultimate drive is to be reunited with his wife, but he’s also unwilling to leave his cop buddies hanging with the killer on the loose, and he often finds himself using his detective skills to help other ghosts throughout the game who are unable to move on themselves. You can also uncover bits of backstory about Ronan along the way that help to further round out his character, as well. Altogether, as game characters go, Ronan is relatable and fleshed-out enough to hold players’ attention, and if you like him enough, finding out what happens to him can be the reason you need to stick around through the whole of Murdered’s story.
That story is almost always pushed forward by completing investigations, and that’s accomplished by, more or less, picking stuff up off the ground. Interactive clues mostly comprise that stuff, often tipped off by police markers at crime scenes, and analyzing clues gives you information about what happened at the scene. You can also do things like possess nearby people to see what they’re looking at, or use various clues you’ve discovered to trigger a person into remembering something that would be useful to you.