Murdered: Soul Suspect
Murdered: Soul Suspect begins on an unusual note, with the death of its main character. His name is Ronan O’Connor, a Detective working for the Salem Police Department. It is the pursuit of the Bell Killer that puts him in harms way. The masked figure throws him out a fourth floor window and then shoots seven bullets in his chest. As his ghostly form is pulled into the light, there’s no question that Ronan is dead.
Only he’s not allowed passage into the next life. He’s told that he’s got something he needs to take care of first: find his killer. Murdered is a detective story that occurs beyond life itself, as you navigate the city of Salem, Massachusetts, and it’s various locales, following Ronan’s search for the truth.
As it turns out, Ronan’s whodunnit is a very well written detective story. The narrative, along with its collection of side stories, make up the best parts of the whole experience, and are the only parts not woefully staggered by inadequate design. The story forms the central pillar and it’s foundation. Every action, regardless of how miniscule, is rewarded directly by more story.
Breaking things down reveals four methods of acquiring storyline. The first, and most basic, rely upon traveling to various locations strewn about the city of Salem. It is in these larger regions that plot development occurs. There’s plenty of other story to be collected throughout the game to flesh out character relationships, or to just tell weird short tales, but if you want to find out who the Bell Killer is, you can only pursue his identity one level at a time.
The town of Salem is a humble open world, with ghostly blockades that prevent you from exploring more than a very small area, filled with twists and turns. It’s probably a good thing there’s not much going on in the main hub, as the game seems to have forgotten to provide a map. Get lost? Take a couple rights and you’ll probably end up on the other side of town and then back again.
As you travel around Salem you’ll run into two kinds of people: the living and the dead. The living enjoy standing in place or walking around in circles infinitely. Ronan can possess their bodies and listen to what they’re thinking. Most of them aren’t thinking about anything important. Some of them are worried about Bell Killer, which is reasonable.
Talk to the dead and they’ll tell you nothing or they’ll require your aid. For some reason these spirits have also been trapped on this Earth, unable to move on with their lives. It’s up to Ronan to set things straight, and as he does so he’ll learn about the lives, and deaths of these poor, unfortunate souls.
Hidden objects present the next set of story collectables. Find all nine muskets. Acquire all eight straight jackets. Find them all and listen to an unrelated tale of spooky Salem history! Somewhere along the line it was deemed that this was a game, not a story collection simulator, and gameplay had to be introduced. What’s in here ranges from bad to bland, and dabbles into the realm of unnecessary.
The part that I’d wager the developers over at the now closed studio Airtight Games put more time into would be the stealth mechanics. For some reason demons wander around, and it’s up to Ronan to sneak up behind them and exercise their spirits away. Only by the most accurate QTEs can he hope to deal with these random boogeymen. Every so often the demons resurface, padding out levels that would likely be short if they were all about story collection.
Ronan spends the rest of his time attempting to get to certain parts of the level. The rules of being a ghost are clear. Ghosts can only enter a building through an open door, but once inside no closed door can stop them. Unless it’s been blessed, or is a ghost door. Also, there are various points in which demon hands are busy extending themselves through the floor, offering a quick passage to the last checkpoint.
So a large amount of time consists of just navigating around the level utilizing your ghost abilities, most of which are largely lackluster in comparison to the initial excitement of walking through walls without a cheat code. The ability to teleport at will is available, but that turns about to be not quite as exciting as it sounds. And then there’s the ability to possess cats. There are a few puzzles that can only be solved by possessing an available cat, and using the little poorly animated animal to transport Ronan upwards and onwards.
Eventually all of this travel finally returns to the heart of the experience: the story. Murdered is a game that does a lot of things sub-par, but what it does offer is an engaging, well written story. You just have to look past the mess.