Murdered: Soul Suspect Review
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox OneAlso available on Microsoft Xbox 360, PC, Sony PlayStation 3 and Sony PlayStation 4
Arriving with little to no hype, the internet seemingly bemused as to what it is and what the core game mechanics are, along with having recently read that the development team responsible had all been laid off, it is with mixed feelings that we come to Murdered: Soul Suspect. Luckily for anyone able to give it a test drive, it’s actually a neat little game and to be perfectly frank a lovely break from the monotony of racers, shooters and superhero games that litter our consoles currently, particularly Xbox One and PS4.
Coming across as a nice mix of LA Noire and Ghost (sadly though, no Whoopi), Murdered: Soul Suspect is a game with no combat. Let’s just take a moment for you to drink that in shall we… no guns, no fist fights, no crazy super powers or bonkers car chases, none of that. It’s worth explaining here that while a novel idea, this is very tough to pull off in the modern console gaming space. Granted indies, particularly in the PC arena have been creating award winning GOTY contenders based solely on narrative and opening some doors in recent years and yes, this is slowly coming to consoles but if we are to be honest, a Square Enix game with a decent budget which has absolutely no combat is worth discussing. What’s interesting is that the game doesn't suffer for it and it actually uses some clever little “detective” mechanics to distract you from ever thinking “when does the combat kick in?”.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is an adventure game, plain and simple but don’t be put off, it’s actually not a bad one at all. The core gameplay is all focused around exploring areas, hunting for clues, piecing things together and then applying all that to a given situation, usually a story beat that pushes the narrative forward. You play in Salem, Massachusetts, as Detective Ronan O’Connor, a slightly wayward police officer with a penchant for chaos and disorder, all in the name of delivering justice. Sadly for young Ronan, his headstrong steam-in without backup methods work against him and the adventure begins with him being brutally murdered by an unsavoury gentlemen known as the Bell Killer. As his ghost rises from his body he quickly realises that he has unfinished business in the real world and is unable to ascend to heaven. That business needs to be tended to before our hero, or anti-hero can find peace and what better way to do it than using the detective skills that got him this far?
Murdered: Soul Suspect plays very much like the investigative elements of LA Noire. You wander over to a scene, or follow a lead to one of the main half a dozen or so locations. While there you stumble upon “scenes” - your job within each is to discover all the clues, identifying the most relevant and once complete the story moves forward. Simple in theory and even easier in practice. Playing detective can be fine, if you buy into the experience but sadly even for those that do fully buy in, by the end of the eight or so hour running time you will likely have resorted to just guessing to get the story moved on towards the end of the adventure. Also, frustratingly you don’t even have to get the answers correct in most cases for the plot to progress and even if the game does stop you to tell you that you have chosen incorrectly, there is no real penalty (there are no varying game difficulty levels to increase the challenge), it’s not game over, you just pick again and on it goes. So there really isn’t any kind of a challenge to be found here, just a really interesting, solid, whodunnit story with overriding supernatural themes.
There are some side missions to pull you away from the central plot and they are cunningly scattered around the small town within which the adventure takes place. Sadly they add very little to the story, coming across as padding due to their “more of the same” structure and adding nothing new to the mix. They don’t even pad the adventure out too much either which just adds to the disappointment when you undertake one. Collectibles are arguably the biggest part of the game, aside from the central plot. There is an absolute ton of collectibles in this game, some even unlock story enhancements which is novel, or at least would be if you didn’t have to find so many. There are literally hundreds to find, which is far far too many and whilst interesting and novel at the beginning they become quite tiresome towards the end. Achievement/trophy hunters will love them though as they generally provide the most rewards throughout the entire game. In fact, it is safe to say that Murdered: Soul Suspect should be a bit of a hit with the cheev/trophy crowd as it is very generous indeed. Simply by playing the game you can obtain over two-thirds, with the rest mopped up by doing some collectible hunting in the relatively small town.
By far and away the worst part of Murdered: Soul Suspect is the completely unnecessary quasi-combat that is littered throughout the game. This takes the form of random demon encounters which are essentially just stealth moments where you are required to sneak up on demons from behind, all quiet like, taking them down with a swift random button action. There are hiding spots so if they do get the drop on you, you are able to dash off and escape a quick death (they cannot be taken on head on). These sections are really annoying and when faced with four demons in a small space, all with different sight lines you know you are going to have to replay the section at least twice, all the while wanting to get back on track with the story driven adventure game you are enjoying.
Gripes aside though, the story, LA Noire-like investigations and general tone of the game pull it through. It’s interesting, ominous at times and has a really solid atmosphere throughout. Not a masterpiece and sadly quite flawed in places but ultimately at a time where game releases are few and far between, you could do a lot worse than play through Murdered: Soul Suspect.