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
IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor
Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.
On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.
The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.
While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.
What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.
While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.
IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.
The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell
Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law
Directed by John Law
I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.
The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.
The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.
The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.
Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
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