Available for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
Developed by Airtight Games
Distributed by Square Enix
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace/ And rest can never dwell, hope never comes/ That comes to all, but torture without end/ Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed. That’s John Milton; did you enjoy it?
If you found yourself lost in its poetic grace, keep reading. If it seemed endlessly long-winded and about nothing, Murdered: Soul Suspect is not for you.
If you prefer a video game to unfold gradually at a nice slow pace, you may find something you like in this new Square Enix title.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is a mash-up of different ideas and genres with a heavy accent on the adventure genre. Most of your time is spent exploring to hunt down items and clues to solve cases as you play as the ghost of Ronan, who is on a quest to hunt down the Salem serial killer that cut his redemptive detective career short.
After being murdered by the Bell Killer, Ronan must solve the murders as a ghost in order to reach heaven and peace. As a ghost you will posses the living to read their minds and influence their thoughts to solve puzzles and the many detective cases encountered in Murdered: Soul Suspect.
The plot is serviceable. It has few twists, but nothing noteworthy. It’s very much standard. The problem is an adventure game as slow-paced as this needs to rely on plot and character to carry it, and with prolonged breaks between plot points, Murdered: Soul Suspect fails to be immersive as it feels more like playing a game than exploring a whole new world.
The concept is what really sells this game. It merges the old film noir detective with a ghost story. Your protagonist, Ronan, overcame a criminal past to become a hard-nosed detective, displayed in signature gritty greys with seven bright orange bullet wounds in his chest, the final calling card for the end of his life.
Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of Ronan, and the aspect that truly represents the influence from the film genre that inspired him, is that being dead has in no way prevented him from smoking like a Frenchman. For all of you non Canadians, that means constantly. Rest assured that stepping into the shoes of this very engaging character, imbued with the ability to be invisible, is very much an entertaining experience. The game establishes depth to him right away and allows further exploration of his and the environment’s past through the many collectibles found within the game.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is very much a blend of styles. It is, at its heart, a detective and adventure game, while paying some attention to horror in the fact that it’s a ghost story, while also being a stealth game. It’s just too much for one game as neither aspect feels as fully fleshed out as it should be. Sometimes ideas are so revolutionary they have never been attempted before, and sometimes ideas are so terrible they have never been attempted before. Blending in stealth gaming and including demons as enemies that you have to banish was a bad idea. Adventure games just aren’t set up to deal with enemies; that’s why it is so rarely done. I found myself dreading their presence due to the irritation of dealing with them rather than the lackluster attempt at terror they represent.
The problem is furthered by the fact that the only way to defeat the haunting demons is to sneak up them and banish them by using the directional pad and a button combination. The demons feel incredibly out of place and the whole concept a shining example of ineptitude as it forces the stealth playing style on the player. Designers would have shown a much greater understanding of the fact that options equal success by giving players a means to deal with the demons head on. This is really the only part of this game that is genuinely unfun.
While the game starts strong and remains intriguing throughout, it becomes very evident, very early, that Square Enix relegated this title to their B team. There is an overwhelming lack of attention to detail. At one point a character says, “Only my birthday for a few more hours,” when the clock right next to him very clearly says “6:30.”
Add this to the fact that on the streets of Salem groups of characters who are meant to be conversing simply stand in a circle, staring off into the distance. Murdered: Soul Suspect contains a wealth of side activities. There are additional side cases and collectibles to seek out throughout this small slice of Salem, Massachusetts.
The game looks like what it is: a PS3 game that was ported over to PS4. There is a graphical upgrade in the out of engine cut scenes, but in game the graphics are very clearly last gen. This would be of little consequence, but on the back of the game box it clearly says 1080P, which is an out and out lie. Rest assured that if this game is 1080P, I’ll punch my mother!
The side stories reward slight exploration with a tale of murder and death that occurred in each location, perfect for a gamer who wants to explore the whole location but not spend a prisoner’s eternity doing so. While the Ghost Girl Writings are difficult to find and are for those who enjoy microscopic exploration, it was a nice touch as Square Enix included additional fun for each level of explorer encountering the game.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is a great concept that is ultimately a bit of a misfire. It wasn’t a terrible game, and the wealth of side activities were very rewarding. Being an invisible ghost was nothing short of fascinating, and it was a nice touch to include this as a means of solving puzzles. But it is such an underwhelming experience with a lack of immersiveness even with its heavy reliance on cut scenes.
There is something here for gamers who would enjoy a modern update on adventure gaming with a slight edge of horror. But by mashing up too many styles in Murdered: Soul Suspect, Square Enix tried to do too much, which made the game guilty of doing too little. The game is pretty good, but not nearly as good as it could have been.
3 out of 5