As the new titles start to trickle out for the new generations of games consoles we get to see a few gems among the slow influx of new video games. Sadly, Murdered: Soul Suspect is not the gem we would have liked to see but more like a polished stone. Occasionally it shines like the real thing but it doesn’t detract from the fact that beneath the shine is still a hunk of rock.
The story of Murdered is quite special, but then we would expect nothing less from veteran games studio Square Enix. The story follow Ronan O’Connor a criminal in youth who turned over a new leaf becoming a detective in the Salem Police Department. While on the trail of a vicious and prolific serial killer, the Bell Killer, Ronan comes face to face with his adversary and finds himself tossed out of a window before being shot repeatedly by his quarry. However, the story didn’t end there for the detective who returned from death as a ghost trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead.
We are going to admit it, we found ourselves captivated by the story and the overall look of this game. Even from the moment the opening cinematic began playing we found ourselves getting excited to see what was about to happen. The marriage between the art direction and the storyline was extremely well done combining a mix of film noire and supernatural intrigue. Similarly the characters were well designed filling in the traditional roles of a cop drama with a paranormal edge. Ronan himself is well written as a hard boiled detective, even down to the occasional tendency to monologue about the state of affairs in Salem. Sadly this level of depth rarely extends to the rest of the character roster which left them feeling two dimensional and weak by comparison. Indeed as the story developed we found ourselves gearing up for a grand revelation, only to be let down by what we actually saw. Without going into the dreaded realm of spoilers we found ourselves getting to the end with a definite WTF moment as the credits rolled.
The fatal flaw with Murdered is one we have seen reflected in a number of new games in the current generation of games consoles, specifically the ability to look good but let the player down on gameplay. Indeed when we first picked this game up we found the overall tonal shift between the in-game cinematic and gameplay to be distracting since it left us feeling like we were playing two different games in one. This left us feeling rather let down especially after such early promise from the games opening. We also found ourselves let down by the almost criminally short play time on offer, allowing us to start and finish the game within less than 10 hours. Altogether a nice but severely limited presentation.
The basic gameplay takes a lead from LA Noire, with the player taking the role of the detective and exploring the area to get clues and learn facts from a cast of witnesses. However, while Murdered takes a cue from LA Noire it ultimately lacks the subtle nuance of that title to focus on its paranormal proclivities which causes the game to suffer as a result. Ronon is given a number of supernatural skills, including walking through walls, possession, and even teleportation which do help happier home the ghostly element of the game. The problem is these features are not executed that well, with intangibility instead making it hard to plot a course through a play area and unnecessarily confusing. Further more possession is hit and miss eventually getting boring fast and even teleportation lacks any real substance. Even with the extra incentives such as demons and exorcism aren’t enough to save the game from feeling anything other than dull.
There are a few extras to play with in the game, in the form of extra mysteries to solve and some collectibles to help flesh out the game world. By and large these are interesting segways and even earn a few achievements and trophies for the thorough gamer. Sadly these are not fleshed out very well leaving these feel more like frighteningly short distractions which come across more as annoying than satisfying. They also don’t have any real bearing on the games ending making it feel like you can skip a huge swathe of the game to reach a quick and unsatisfying end.
At the core of the game is a mystery which we did enjoy and the overall aesthetics of the title work very well aside from one or two minor points which made the presentation feel ropey. Sadly this is let down by the general lack of effort with the gameplay giving Murdered: Soul Suspect an overall feeling that this was rushed through development and the resultant game felt unfinished and lacking in any real impact. It is worth a play through, if only for most of the story which did keep us guessing. But we wouldn’t recommend a purchase, this is definitely one to rent.
You can get Murdered: Soul Suspect for Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One from Amazon.