One of my favorite things about video games is that, despite the abundance of first-person shooters and tired franchises, every once in a while there are still pleasant surprises – unique new games that unexpectedly impress and enthrall. Murdered: Soul Suspect (published by Square Enix and developed by Airtight Games) is one of those experiences. I pre-ordered the game, but decided to rent it instead after seeing the less-than-stellar reviews. Expecting disappointment, I gave it a shot and proceeded to be absolutely and completely gripped by this game from start to finish.
The main character is an ex-criminal turned detective named Ronan O’Connor, and he dies in the first ten minutes of the game. Tracking down a lead on a case, Ronan is thrown from a third-story window and shot several times in a confrontation with The Bell Killer, a serial killer terrorizing the city of Salem, Massachusetts. Ronan is then thrown into a realm between the living and the dead where ghosts with unfinished business just hang out. Quickly realizing he must catch and stop The Bell Killer to move on to the afterlife (where his late wife is waiting for him), he teams up with a living young medium named Joy who can see and converse with ghosts. Seeking her mother (who was working with the police department to find the serial killer), Joy believes The Bell Killer to be the cause of her mysterious disappearance.
Together, Joy and Ronan explore all manner of creepy areas of Salem, including a cemetery, a mental asylum, and an old, abandoned courthouse to track down The Bell Killer, learn his identity, and put a stop to the killing sprees.
The game takes place over the course of one night in Salem, Massachusetts. Because of this, the game is all fairly dark and grey and creepy. Even creepier are the luminous people and buildings that once existed in Salem, and now only appear to your ghostly character. Despite some issues with the graphics (such as textures loading slowly), the setting is successfully visually appealing and eerie.
Many of the locations visited by the protagonist are also sufficiently creepy. At different points, you chase a drowned girl’s ghost through a dark cemetery or find your way through a mental asylum to interrogate a patient furiously drawing cryptic messages on the wall of her cell and muttering.
Gameplay is perhaps where this game lacks the most. Investigations are as simple as examining clues in a small area and then using those clues to put together an answer. To conclude an investigation, you select answers to the question that initiated it based on clues discovered at the scene. There didn’t seem to be any consequences for wrong answers though; you get seemingly unlimited chances to put the answer together correctly.
While the investigations didn’t really offer any challenges, getting past demons was often quite challenging, but in the wrong, frustrating way. Demons are creatures that lurk in the ghostly world and can destroy your character if they catch him (despite the fact that Ronan is already dead). To destroy a demon, Ronan must sneak up behind them and perform an “execution” via a quicktime event involving various button combinations.
Demons were fairly frequent in the game, and it often took several tries to get past them since their radius for detecting your character never seemed all that consistent. Sometimes they saw me through walls, and other times they couldn’t even see me in the same room.
Besides the investigations and demons, gameplay is otherwise pretty basic. There are some collectibles to pick up throughout the game, some of which offer interesting historic information, and Ronan gets some unique abilities, such as possessing people and cats (yes, CATS!) and teleporting across ledges or through small cracks in walls.
I am well-aware that this is far from a perfect game. The gameplay and investigations are too simplistic, the stealth mechanics are frustrating and probably unnecessary, and navigating the town of Salem is too difficult and confusing at times.
However, the gameplay was still refreshing enough to overlook the simplicity, and the story was so interesting that I wasn’t able to set the game aside. It took twists and turns and kept me so enthralled that I had to see the game through to the end, which very few games have done for me recently. Overall, I definitely found this game to be a must-play. The lack of replayability is the only reason for me to recommend perhaps picking this game up at a price tag lower than the current $49.99 (for previous generation consoles and PC) or $59.99 (for current generation consoles).