For many years I’ve had a deep interest in the crime scene investigation and, oddly, in witchcraft. I’ve never participated in the craft itself, but the lore and its history always fascinated me. The very second I heard about Murdered: Soul Suspect, I was immediately drawn to it. The prospect of not only solving your own murder, but apprehending the serial killer as a ghost was definitely a high point for me. But would that be enough to make this game good enough?
The town of Salem is under threat as a mysterious serial killer, known as the Bell Killer, stalks the streets and is murdering innocent people. The Salem Police Department is hot on his heels, especially their bad boy detective, Ronan O’Connor. One night, Ronan corners the Bell Killer in a block of flats, but is bested by the murderer, and is thrown out a window on the top floor. Lying unconscious on the ground, Ronan goes through an out-of-body experience and tries to resuscitate himself. Unfortunately, he can’t do it quick enough and watches the Bell Killer shoot him seven times in the chest. This ends his life as a man, but not as a detective. He soon finds out that in order for him to move on he needs to solve his own murder and find a way to apprehend Salem’s latest serial killer. Later on he meets Joy, a tenacious and cheeky teenage medium that is his only human help in Salem. Together they are the only two that can stop the maniacal Bell Killer.
The basic objective in this game is to solve cases and find new leads in order to proceed. The case solving is a bit of hit-and-miss affair as most of them are very easy and far too simple to finish. In all the cases you’re expected to find clues scattered around the crime scene or the room you’re in. Once you’ve collected enough clues you can close the investigation by adding up the most important clues you’ve collected. This is the same for story and side quest investigations. Most of the clues are pretty obvious to discover, while others require you to use your ghost skills, like your “reveal” skill, which reveals certain actions or items. Occasionally you’ll need to possess another person, read their minds for more clues, or use a discovered clue to influence what they do, think or say to reveal another clue. The process is simple and very tedious and repetitive – not exactly L.A. Noire detective work.
While trying to solve your own murder you can help other stranded souls by solving their own mysteries. These side mysteries are great fun, but also involve the same sleuthing methods above. There aren’t that many, about four I think, and it’s a real shame as I felt that it was an important part of the game – helping both the living and the dead. And you’ll see a lot of living people and ghosts all over Salem.
Being a ghost, you’d think you’re able to run around just about anywhere, but you can’t. The external walls of all the buildings are consecrated and sacred, meaning no spirit may pass them. In order to get inside you need find an open door or window. Once you’re in the building, however, you can move through anything possible. Other impassible items are the ghostly fragments of the past, which you’ll see scattered all over Salem. Only you and other ghosts can see these things, and there’s nothing that can make you move through it. Visually, the game is very good, but some of the characters are a bit bland-looking. The blending in of the current Salem and the remnants of an older one blend nicely together and adds a nice touch in expressing how haunted the town really is.
Adding to the lore and history of Salem are the dozens of collectables scattered through the game. There are various sets to collect – some retell older murder stories, while others give great detail on the Salem Witches and the trials. It’s clear that a lot of research went into the game, to make sure that the witches and the trials were as authentic as possible, I just wish that more work was included to improve the overall game.
I noticed many minor bugs, like my mission objective not updating in the main menu and repeated freezing. Although the game looked beautiful, Ronan tends to blur quite a bit when running. The only action in game comes when you exorcise demons, but it’s reduced to a simple QTE. Simply sneak up behind them, initiate the exorcism with R2 and punch in the next set of buttons that pops up. You’ll only fight demons a handful of times in the game, which makes me wonder why they put it in to begin with.
The pacing of the game is fair, but the closer you get to the end, the more rushed it feels. To add insult to injury, once you’ve beaten the game, there’s not much reason for you to replay it. If you’re careful, take your time with the investigations and explore a bit, you can collect all the collectibles with in the game, earning you that platinum trophy on your first run. But if you’ve missed even one, you’ll have to replay the game from the start because the autosave function prevents you going back to an earlier checkpoint.
It’s not a very long game either. You’re looking at about 7-8 hours of gaming time, possibly 10 if you’re going for all the collectables, so you’re not exactly getting that much your cash. Murdered: Soul Suspect isn’t a bad game, but the lack of action, the repetitiveness of the case solving, lack of extras and the easiness of the game will put many people off it. If you’re a fan of both crime and the supernatural, you’ll definitely get a kick out of it, but if you’re a guns and bullets type, stay away. The game will most likely be a hit with some people, but will leave most wanting more. It’s best you wait for the bargain bin.