Murdered: Soul Suspect Review
publisher: Square Enix
developer: Square Soft
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Jun 03, 14
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Once again, I have fallen into Square Enix’s hype train, and several critics for Murdered: Soul Suspect convinced me I was in for a massive disappointment once again. Instead, I think I have stumbled upon a game that will be either hated or loved, and what type of gamer you are will determine which side of the fence you will fall. Amongst story gamers, this will definitely hit in all of the right places and become a niche favorite. If action and challenge are what you crave, then well, don’t even give Murdered: Soul Suspect a second glance.
Murdered: Soul Suspect takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, the site of the infamous witch trials of the Puritan era in colonial America. It’s an overdone setting for a murder mystery, but the path of the game’s story would only fit in Salem, and the overall plot is unique enough to stand apart from typical Salem ghost stories. Players take the role of Ronan O’Connor, a detective tracking down a serial murderer nicknamed the Bell Killer due to the drawings of a bell always left behind at the crime scenes. As luck would have it, the moment Ronan finds the Bell Killer, he is overpowered by the masked man, thrown out of a window and then shot point blank seven times. Before Ronan’s soul can move on into the afterlife, he must first finish cracking this case.
What are you doing detective?
Being a ghost has given Ronan several abilities, such as walking through walls, tapping into his inner-poltergeist with electronics, possessing the living to influence their thoughts, and reliving memories of objects, ghosts, people, cats, you name it. As a ghost, Ronan can only do so much, and he recruits the reluctant help of Joy, a teenage medium who is searching for her missing mother. Her mother is also a medium, and she was helping the Salem police hunt down the Bell Killer. Emphasis on was. Ronan and Joy embark on a typical whodunit murder mystery that yes, has some similarities to a cheesy 90s film, Ghost. However, it has far more twists and turns than Patrick Swayze’s movie could ever have hoped to achieve, and each was more jaw-dropping than the last.
Gameplay is roughly 90-95% exploration. You’re a detective, and that means doing detective things. You search for clues. You interrogate people, whether it’s by talking to ghosts or eavesdropping on police interrogations. You sort out the pieces of the puzzle, figure out what which clue is most important--not all of them are relevant, after all--and unravel what really happened in each situation. Sometimes Ronan will do this for the main story, and sometimes he will do this to help other ghosts solve their own predicaments.
Solving a case question is not difficult, especially if you do gather all of the available clues. But even if you guess wrong, you will not get a fail state. Instead, you have to try again, and you lose points for each guess. The fewer guesses you have to make, the more proficient Ronan’s detective skills become, making finding clues and drawing conclusions a slightly easier task. However, like I said, it’s not really difficult, so I couldn’t tell you if a severe deficiency in points significantly affects Ronan’s abilities. Considering that the primary focus of the game is to tell an interactive story, featuring a fail state of this type would remove the player too much from the experience and would be, if you think about it, kind of pointless.
While Ronan explores the streets of Salem, he encounters an obscene number of collectibles in addition to the numerous clues he must gather. All of these other collectibles are strictly optional, and not all of them directly relate to the main plot. Some do, such as finding information about the Bell Killer or Cassandra’s notes when she was trying to find him. Others have their own purpose, such as finding ghostly relics that tell a standalone murder mystery or ghost story that happened at some point in time in the town. I became obsessed with these little side missions, as they were like little mini-Stephen King stories or darker snippets from one of my favorite books as a kid, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
As a ghost, Ronan can walk through doors, but he can’t walk through every door. Shortly after Ronan’s demise, a ghost girl explains the “rules” of being a ghost to him, which are more rules for the player than anything. Ronan can walk through any doors and walls except for ghostly objects that still remain on the earthly plane or areas that have been consecrated. Yes, this is code for, you can’t just run around and do whatever you want. It’s not an open world game, it’s a story-driven game, while these rules seem kind of ridiculous, at least the game adheres to them and they make sense up front. There’s no wondering why you can scale a skyscraper but not a chainlink fence; you know from the outset what is possible, what is impossible, and why.
There is a teensy tiny bit of combat to be found in Soul Suspect as well. Demons also roam some of the halls on occasion, and they can be killed, but only stealthily like a rogue (from behind). If they spot Ronan, they will absorb his soul, which is death for a ghost. Ronan can escape from them by hiding in ghostly residues left from other souls, but he can’t hide in one right in front of the demon’s face and expect to escape completely. The demons are a bit persistent, and they will search the room for you. If Ronan is in their sight, whether he’s hiding in a ghost silhouette or possessing a human, he will have to run and hide again. The only way to get away from them is to keep moving from hiding place to hiding place until they give up and go back to their haunting grounds.
It's a story-gamer's haven with collectibles galore, mystery, and plenty of curveballs to keep you guessing;
There is very little challenge in piecing together the clues, and the lack of an in-game map makes maneuvering around town quite frustrating. I'm personally peeved that once you finish the game, you can�t start at a save prior to the final cut scene to search for any wayward collectibles.