I love a good murder mystery as much as the next guy. I also enjoy a good ghost story every now and again. With Square Enix and Airtight Games’ Murdered: Soul Suspect, I could get both genres in one tight, little package. I’d find out pretty quickly that my spirited enthusiasm would be, like Ronan’s time in the land of the living, pretty short-lived.
Right away, Murdered starts out with a bang, or rather a crash, when protagonist Ronan O’Connor is pushed out of a fourth-story window. This should come as no surprise to you, but he’s pretty dead upon hitting the ground, although “pretty dead” can mean “somewhat alive.” As a ghost, he tries to shove his spirit back into his somewhat alive body, only to have the Bell Killer grab Ronan’s own gun to empty seven bullets into his chest, sealing the deal on the murder.
Now dead and stuck between the land of the living and the afterlife, Ronan must wander around the limbo world called “Dusk” and settle his unfinished business before he can move on and be reunited with his deceased wife. But in order to move on, Ronan believe he must first solve the case of the Bell Killer and bring him to justice. This is accomplished by utilizing Ronan’s powers as a spirit and your powers of observation and inference.
To help Ronan solve his murder, you are tasked with completing investigations that will point you in the right direction towards the Bell Killer. You’ve got a host of ghost powers, which are meant to be the augmented skills Ronan had in life as a detective and a former gang member, to help you accomplish this task.
You can possess people, listen to their thoughts, eavesdrop on conversations, and even influence their thoughts. While the rest of the powers are pretty straightforward, influencing thoughts takes the most work, because it requires you to explore the environment and collect pieces of evidence or learn new information. You’ll use the evidence and intel you’ve gathered to piece together certain clues that will influence a person to think one way or another. This all amounts to a lot of trial and error and tests how well you can spot conspicuous objects in the environment.
Thankfully, the controls are simple enough that getting around the town of Salem and possessing its many denizens isn’t too arduous a task, though it can feel a little repetitive. Once you’re inside a person, you only need to choose options mapped to the face buttons in order to peek through their eyes, read their thoughts, influence them, eavesdrop or dispossess them. Other than that, you’ll find yourself running around a lot, often through walls, and teleporting here and there by using your ghost powers or hiding inside spiritual residue from demons that want to drag you to Hell. It’s all good fun, but can get tiring after a while, especially because solving investigations doesn’t really require that many synapses firing.
Playing Murdered: Soul Suspect on the PlayStation 4, I was expecting to be treated with top-notch visuals worthy of a title on a next-gen console. While some of the ghostly effects were cool to see, I couldn’t help but get the impression that the graphics were only a few steps up from what I’d see on a PlayStation 3.
Being stuck in the world of Dusk, a limbo between life and the afterlife, one wouldn’t expect a myriad of bright colors and eye-popping scenery, but even though the environments were meant to be drab and depressing, they did not impress. The most disappointing part was that the town of Salem, in all its spooky glory, couldn’t really be explored since Murdered does such a good job of making you feel boxed in and leading you from one area to the next. Not having the freedom to explore as a ghost seems a bit counterintuitive.
To its credit, Murdered: Soul Suspect offers a pretty interesting story from the outset. I mean, who wouldn’t want to play as a ghost detective? Unfortunately, the gameplay seems more suited to a point-and-click adventure rather than a full-fledged, 3D world. And while the ghost powers were cool for a few minutes or so, the novelty wore off and it felt like a chore to possess people or poltergeist objects. If nothing else, the experience just made me want to play a straight-up adventure game.
For me, the best part of Murdered: Soul Suspect was the series of ghost stories you could listen to after collecting certain items. They provided just enough spookiness to entertain me for minutes at a time while I wound down from Ronan’s less-than-thrilling adventures through Salem. I tried really hard to get into Murdered: Soul Suspect, but unfortunately, it just didn’t have much spirit.
This review is based on a digital version of Murdered: Soul Suspect provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.