Review Context: I enjoy narrative driven games such as Telltales The Walking Dead, and The Wolf Among Us. I also enjoy survival horror adventure games like Silent Hill and the Resident Evil series.
Date Playthrough Started: 6/3/2014
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Airtight Games
It’s no surprise that Murdered: Soul Suspect had very little hype surrounding it. After all, it’s not a first person shooter or action game. It’s not a graphical powerhouse, and it’s extremely slow paced with a concept that is quite different from many other AAA titles on the market. If anything the lack of marketing for this game made me even more eager to see what it was all about, as I tend to enjoy a lot of games that receive very little attention. However upon playing and completing this title, I came out much more disappointed than I had expected.
You play as a detective named Ronan who is killed by a mysterious hooded man he was following, known as the Bell Killer. Ronan rises from the dead as a ghost and learns that the only way he can move on to the afterlife is if he finds his killer and brings him to justice. The basic premise is very interesting with lots of twists and turns that keep things engaging. Unfortunately I can’t say the same about the actual gameplay.
Being that this is a detective game, you’ll be spending a lot of time walking around looking for clues to put together evidence of certain crimes. The problem is, these “investigations” require little to zero thinking on the players part. There’s no penalty for picking the wrong answer, and some of the investigation clues are so ridiculously easy to solve, a five-year-old could do them. There was one section that clearly showed a picture of two girls holding hands, and one of the clues asked me whether or not they were male or female. At that point, I immediately checked the box art again to make sure I was playing a mature rated game, because it had seriously reached Dora the Explorer levels of deductive reasoning at that point.
As stated earlier, I enjoy narrative heavy games like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, but while those games weren’t necessarily challenging, they still gave the player a sense that they were affecting the story and characters in some way by altering certain character development and narrative paths depending on what options the players chose. The chief problem with Murdered: Soul Suspect, is that there isn’t any sense of player agency. Being that there’s no narrative changes or consequences for getting the wrong answer, I never felt like I was solving the mystery. I felt like the mystery was being solved for me, which in that case I might as well be watching a movie. It also falls into the same trap of less than stellar narrative driven games like Beyond: Two Souls by severely limiting the players actions. Ronan can only pass through walls and use certain possession powers when the plot thinks it’s convenient. These types of limitations hinder the sense of freedom of being a ghost and just makes everything feel scripted.
The game does occasionally switch things up with stealth gameplay against demon enemies which consists of walking up to one of them and pressing a QTE(Quick Time Event). Aside from being oversimplified, these sections feel completely out of place with the rest of the game and I saw no reason for them to be included. The demons are oblivious to your presence as long they don’t see you. Yet once you’re spotted they can sniff out your hiding places like hunting dogs. Avoiding them just becomes an annoying chore after a while. These sections might have been better had they given the player more options for taking out the demons, or avoiding them completely, but instead they’re just a frustrating obstacle that hinders the investigation. There are also a few technical issues like NPCs walking in and out of walls and ghosts randomly respawning into an area after completing a side quest, that can occasionally break immersion.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is not a terrible game. As mentioned earlier the storyline is interesting and I liked the art direction. Cat possession was also a highlight for me. I’m not saying you should avoid this game at all costs. But it simply isn’t worth the retail price it’s going for. There are definitely some highlights, but they are unfortunately brought down by uninvolving gameplay, technical issues, and tacked on stealth sections. I would recommend renting this game if you are interested in trying it out yourself. The concept and story alone are worth experiencing at least once.