Murdered: Soul Suspects is one of the most surprisingly good current gen games I have played in a extremely long time. It manages to sell an extremely bizarre premise that is right out of a Stephen King novel and builds an extremely solid, story out of it. Just for the record I really don’t understand the bad reviews for this game, for some reason most review sites absolutely punished this game and after my second play-through which happens rarely I cannot for the life of me understand why. While the game does have some technical flaws which I will details later in the review, they really didn’t detract much form the games overall experience.
You play as Detective Ronan O’Connor’s whose life is brought to an end when a brutal killer confronts him during a burglary. After his murder and his subsequent resurrection in the afterlife he now finds himself trapped in the afterlife, his only escape from this nether world of “Dusk” is to bring the truth of his death and his killer to light using his newly developed supernatural abilities. As Ronan, you can explore the town of Salem for clues, battle demon spirits to save your soul, and unearth revelations about who is responsible for your untimely death. If I had to describe the game, it would be a mix between La Noire and Beyond Two Souls.
You would think that a game about a ghost solving his own murder would be tough sell to make but I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting the game to get ridiculous really quickly, but I was pleasantly surprised when it did not. The game took takes a massive leap of faith on handling its rather silly subject matter with a straight face. But the developers gamble paid off with a story that is intriguing, suspenseful, and at times even moving. And the reason this works is because the characters are grounded and instantly likable. Ronan’s “hard-nosed cop with a troubled past” act is one of the biggest clichés in the detective genre be it movies or video games.
It also helps that Ronan’s motivation comes from sympathy and love rather than revenge, which would have been far less satisfying choice for the developers to make. Joy, Ronan’s “ghost-whispering” partner in crime, was also surprisingly well fleshed out from the start. I assumed she would be the standard “know it all” archetype and to an extent she is, but she is also a reluctant “ghost-whisperer” who want’s nothing to do with the afterlife and the ghosts who inhabit it. This creates a rather interesting dynamic between Ronan and herself as they play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. There are also other pretty interesting characters and side quest stories thrown into the mix, which helped flesh out the world of Murdered: Soul Suspects.
If you are looking for a game with plenty combat/action or and stealth then you best look elsewhere. Like I stated earlier the game can best be described as a mix between La Noire and Beyond Two Souls. Each chapter of the game contains one or more crime scenes for Ronan to investigate, and they all pretty much follows the standard “explore crime scene find evidence, analyse evidence and then solve the crime.” This might sound tedious or formulaic, but as a “ghost detective” you can also gleam information from sensing vague energies, possessing people and animals while reading their thoughts. And re-creating past crimes by studying the psychic residue left behind by other ghosts.
Once you have gathered enough clues, the game will prompt you to put the events together in proper order so that you can figure out exactly what happened at the crime scene. While level of difficulty of some investigations are higher than others, it is always satisfying to piece things together and solve these crimes. Occasionally, you will run across side quests for other ghosts who also need help piecing together how they died, and these quick little one-off stories are all really cool, if extremely disturbing at time. And more than that, they reinforce Ronan’s larger quest to get closure on his own murder. Locked doors and rooms mean nothing in Murdered: Soul Suspect, because obviously you are a ghost.
While a few rules govern what Ronan can and cannot do as ghost, they at least make sense in the context of the game. Outside doors and walls are off-limits unless they are opened by a human being. Other than that, though, you can just go through everything, and this means that the game has some fun with established formulas. The only action/stealth in the game can be found every once in a while when you try to take out some demons that want to swallow Ronan’s soul, think the Dementors from the Harry Potter franchise. To exorcise them, you have to sneak up behind them undetected. But since you can detect them through the walls that you can also walk through, it means that you don’t have to worry about making a slow and deliberate approach when stalking them.
The game also offers a few escort missions, but you being a ghost helps immensely with these missions. Instead of having to sneak around and also making sure your partner remains undetected, Ronan can just walk around and use his poltergeist skill to make phones ring to distract guards and clear a path for Joy. It is the least stress I have ever experienced doing a sort of escort mission in a video game, and I can really appreciate such a subtle change in gameplay mechanics. Ronan being a ghost is a revelation for level design. It changes what the developer can do and lets you move around the map in new ways, I never thought possible.
The sound design in the gaming is pretty amazing and is complimented by an amazing cast of voice actors who truly make the characters come live on screen. Graphically the game looks decidedly last generation, not that it looks bad by any stretch of the imagination. But compared with other games of the current generation you do notice the difference, but having said that the game-play is smooth with no frame rate drops or stuttering to be found anywhere. Which leaves me with the three biggest gripes in the game. The game has no map which is extremely weird, I got lost more often than I should have which wasted a lot of my time. Also this might sound weird but the game has way too many collectibles, so much so that it interfered with the sense of urgency the game tried to create.
And finally every now and then some of the demons you fight would get stuck in the scenery which halts the progress due to the fact that as soon as you approach them without sneaking up behind them killing you instantly. Neither of these break the game or makes it unplayable, but they are unfortunate hiccups in an otherwise great video game. And I can honestly say I finished the game feeling satisfied. This is something that I don’t find in many games I play these days. So if you can get over the lack of action, and if you like games like: Heavy Rain, Beyond and L.A. Noire with its investigation parts, then give Murdered: Soul Suspects a chance. It might just surprise you, and surpass your expectations of it.