Anyone who lives in Canada has no doubt noticed that in recent months, the price of video games, both in physical and digital form, has gone up between 5 to 10 dollars across the board. When this started, I quickly went on Amazon and pre-ordered a ton of games, locking them in at the cheaper price just to be safe. One of these was Murdered: Soul Suspect, which at the time I knew nothing about other than the basic premise of being a dead detective trying to solve your own murder. When the reviews came out and weren’t so kind, I took a chance and let the pre-order ride.
For the most part, I am happy I did so.
Up front, I need to once again reiterate something I have mentioned on this site numerous times in the past. I am ridiculously into mystery and crime games. I don’t mean that hidden object bullshit that disguise themselves as actual crime games, but the real deal. I have gone on record as enjoying all of the CSI games that have been released (where did those go by the way? I will happily kickstart some PS4 CSI action Ubisoft!), will purchase any PC mystery game my archaic PC will allow me to run, and felt that LA Noire was some sort of dream game that was made just for me personally. As a result of this affinity, my view on this game is likely a little skewed. It’s certainly no LA Noire, but it definitely goes above the CSI titles.
You are Salem Detective Ronan O’Connor and you are killed in the opening scene of the game, a pretty effective sequence where his life flashes before his eyes after being pushed out a window by local serial killer “The Bell Killer, named that because, why else, he leaves a drawing of a bell at each one of his murder scenes. From there you become a ghost who can’t move on until he has solved the mystery of his murder. Also he is still smoking a ghost cigarette the whole game which makes me wonder how the hell that works. How does he still get to smoke? Did the cigarette die as well? Does that mean that cigarettes have souls? Sadly we may have to wait until the sequel for those answers.
You are introduced to a wide variety of abilities in the early portion of the game. As a ghost, Ronan can hop into peoples’ bodies in order to read their minds, and occasionally do other things like influence their thoughts to get more information or peek at something they are looking at to see what it is. It all has a lot of potential but unfortunately it’s not used as well as I hoped. The mind reading stuff is cool, the spirit’s way of talking to NPC characters in the game. However all the other abilities are sparsely used and only at very specific moments. You’ll only influence people or peek or possess them to traverse the environment a handful of times and its 100% spelled out for you on each occasion. It’s too bad as it’s certainly a unique approach to this genre.
Linearity is actually one of the bigger issues with the game. Granted I’m kind of used to it since the CSI titles aren’t exactly exercises in free will, but it’s still too bad just how determined Soul Suspect is to ensure you don’t fail. At each new location you will be given several investigations to solve. Primarily you are searching the contained environment for a series of items that you are able to investigate/click on. Occasionally you will be asked to piece some of the evidence together to form clues, with the game giving you several options to choose from. At first I thought this is where the element of failure would come in since they show you three police badge icons, one disappearing every time you select the wrong answer. Imagine my surprise the first time I guessed wrong for the third time, and then nothing happened. The final icon didn’t even disappear; I was just able to keep right on guessing. Why even include that if it means absolutely nothing? In LA Noire you were able to botch up your investigation quite thoroughly but here you are always being led to a path that is near impossible to stray from. It’s as though the game’s biggest fear is that you will get stuck and is doing everything in its power to ensure that never ever happens.
Although the investigations take place within small sections of each of the larger environments, you are given plenty of reason to explore in the form of many, many different kinds of collectibles. I believe the final count is somewhere around 250 items to find and collect. Thankfully they are not just there for the sake of it, each one actually adds a little extra to the overall back story, whether it be the Bell Killer himself or Ronan’s relationship with his deceased wife. My personal favourites are the location specific ones you can hunt down in each place that once you have them all, treat to you to a narrated horror story by one of the residents of Salem. They are appropriately creepy and it’s always nice to be rewarded for tracking down these items.
Outside of the investigations there are “action” sequences when you encounter demons that look like the bad guy from The Frighteners. You can’t take them on head on, you have to sneak up behind them and perform a finishing move. You can get close to them by hiding in….I forget what they are but essentially these like spiritual outlines, and every now and then there’s a crow nearby that you can use to distract them. These sequences aren’t too numerous which is good because they are not very fun. It often felt unbalanced, that sometimes a demon would notice me and the next time it wouldn’t despite doing the exact same thing. I’m guessing these sequences are there to give the game some more action but I personally would have been happier had they been removed entirely.
The best part of the game is Salem itself as it feels much more alive than I expected. There are people everywhere going about their business and it really makes the overall world feel lived in. You catch quick glimpses of conversations and while reading peoples’ minds usually leads to mostly inane comments, it helps that there are at least lots of people and most have something unique to say/think (though there are definitely some repeats in there as well). You occasionally get to help out another ghost find out why they died though these sequences are very limited in scope and very few and far between. I did have fun though hopping into every person in sight and seeing what was up with them.
I did also enjoy the story. Sure the big reveal does play its hand a little early and I can’t believe (the next sentence is pretty spoiler-y so you have been warned) that a bunch of cops working in Salem didn’t connect the dots in regards to the killing methods after working this investigation for months, but I still liked the general plot. The central characters are surprising well developed and there are a few genuinely surprising twists mixed in with the predictable ones.
I should mention that the game is quite glitchy. Twice I had my save file get corrupted, though that could be on the hardware side and not the software, I’m not entirely certain about that. Even still, I had instances where events wouldn’t trigger properly, characters would get stuck in the environment, several instances where characters would walk through objects as though they too were ghosts, and an early game objective simply remained my main objective for the remainder of the game no matter how much other shit I did. Outside of the corrupt saves (which again, may not be the fault of the game itself), there was nothing too crippling but it’s still worth mentioning.
I would say I enjoyed Murdered: Soul Suspect in spite of itself. It’s very linear and far too easy but I liked the story and genuinely enjoyed exploring the various environments and learning more about the town of Salem and its residents. It’s not a title I could recommend at its full price (which in Canada is almost 80 bucks after tax right now) but once it hits around 30, it’s a solid pick-up. It’s an easy platinum trophy too in case you’re into that kinda thing.