Square Enix’s latest video game to hit the market is Murdered: Soul Suspect from Airtight Games, which is a paranormal crime thriller set in modern day Salem, Mass.. You play as Detective Ronan O’ Connor, who is a cop with a troubled past that gets killed at the opening of the game by the Bell Killer, who has been murdering young women that have connections to the town’s infamous Witch problem from the past. You’re tasked with solving Ronan’s murder, which is the only way his soul can leave the limbo area called Dusk to be reunited with his deceased wife. To do so you must use Ronan’s new ghostly powers to solve various crime scenes by possessing humans, poltergeisting electronic devices, finding clues, and then piecing them together to come up with leads. All of this must be done while avoiding evil demons looking to take Ronan’s soul to hell.
Murdered: Soul Suspect’s package seems like it would make for a great and unique gameplay experience thanks to the pairing of spirits with crime solving, but the lack of any sort of solid action brings down the overall experience. As a ghost one would think Ronan would have all sorts of paranormal abilities at his disposal, but all he can really do is teleport his being, or possess humans and electronic devices. These gameplay tactics get old very quickly and don’t really provide any sort of action based gameplay, which leaves the overall package feeling stale.
In fact, Murdered: Soul Suspect is almost entirely devoid of any action outside of a few encounters with the orange and black demons that can kill him. These gameplay moments play out in a stealthy fashion as Ronan must sneak up to these demons to kill them via a QTE encounter, so the only real skill involved is being able to use Ronan’s ghost vision to see the demons through walls and then plan his route of attack accordingly. Even if you love stealth gameplay you don’t really get to encounter these scenarios very often, because the entire over world map of Salem doesn’t feature a single demon to avoid, and most of the case missions don’t have them show up until the case is solved and you must make your way out of the level. Even when the demons would show up they really didn’t present any sort of challenge unless you didn’t employ an ounce of patience.
The lack of action-based gameplay would have been easily overlooked if the crime solving gameplay motif was strong enough to stand on its own, because after all Murdered’s main focus is on its narrative, but after working the first crime scene the practice becomes nothing more than monotonous button pushing. Each crime scene requires you to find a certain number of clues, which consists of you hitting the square button on various objects in the environment to pick them up. Once all of the clues are found you then must piece them together to come to a conclusion.
If you come to a conclusion on the first try you get three badges, if you miss a guess you lose a badge, and so on and so forth. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t get all three badges, so you can just randomly make guesses until you find the right solution anyway, so there’s no real consequences for failing an investigation outside of missing a possible achievement/trophy for solving all of the crime scenes with three badges left.
Most of these issues could be overlooked if Murdered: Soul Suspect featured an amazing narrative that kept your imagination locked in its grip throughout its meager 5-7 hour runtime, but after a strong start the story just kind of fizzles out into a completely guessable conclusion that should’ve been a masterful surprise. Ronan must find his killer to cross over out of Dusk, and along the way he meets Joy, a teenage girl that has medium capabilities and can see him in ghost form, so the two work together to solve the crime because her mother is somewhat involved.
This leads to some cooperative stealth gameplay moments as Ronan must possess things to allow Joy to move to the next location, but these moments like the other action moments don’t really make the gameplay that much more compelling. As the two get closer to discovering the identity of the Bell Killer the plot gets even more predictable, so what was once a mysterious journey to find Ronan’s killer’s motivation for offing him, quickly turns into a rushed affair that doesn’t offer any sort of “Oh Shit!” moments by the time the credits roll.
Murdered: Soul Suspect has all sorts of potential, but it is wasted on a rather short and forgettable experience. The lack of an in-game map (can download one on a 3rd party site) makes it difficult to know where you should be going during cases, as well as when traversing the town of Salem. The game’s best feature, its narrative, is tarnished by the lack of actual gameplay, so what could’ve been L.A. Noire with ghosts, quickly turns into an easy to figure out murder mystery with paranormal elements that doesn’t manage to keep you engaged until the end of the story. Airtight Games had a great idea for a game with Murdered: Soul Suspect, but due to one reason or another the finished product lacked a cohesive experience that ultimately makes it an uninspired title that isn’t worth a $60 investment.
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Review Statement: The author of this review paid for a retail copy of the game for the PS4 platform for the purposes of this review.