Mystery is everywhere in Murdered: Soul Suspect. The game has you wondering how the story will play out, and has you wondering how a game can be released with such blasé gameplay and detail in contrast with the story. I think the good idea for a story blinded the developers into thinking their game was totally awesome when it could have used some more polishing and brainstorming. But I have to say, there were great parts of this game experience too.
First of all, the story is very creative and has a satisfying mystery. I love the idea of a cop investigating his own murder. While playing the game, I was always excited to hurry and find out the next part of the mystery, and the next, and the next… and the next. A good mystery, once you finally figure it all out, has you marvelling at the little details and foreshadowing that you missed during the journey. Murdered checks that box. Ronan, the main character, is charming and rough around the edges, which makes his drive and personal story intriguing. And I have to mention, collecting certain items in the world reveals a lot of the backstory which is also a pretty good one. The other main or supporting character (I can’t decide which) is a teenage girl named Joy. When I first saw the trailer for Murdered, the first thing that stood out was the voice acting of Joy. It sounded very natural and emotional, and not scripted at all. I was excited to play the game and hear more, and I still hold Cassidy Lehrman’s voice acting of Joy in high regard after completing the game.
The experience of being a ghost was one of the great unique parts of the game. Walking through walls was so refreshing. Sometimes a game’s world can feel tight and restricting, especially if the controls are 3rd person with a tight camera angle to be able to see small details in the world. Being a ghost virtually eliminates that problem (with “ghostly” exceptions explained in the game). And you can see through walls if you need to pinpoint a demon’s whereabouts. It’s also pretty fun to posses any person in the world and hear what they are thinking. Sometimes it’s a funny situation (like a poker game), and sometimes it can add story angles that you wouldn’t have learned without going around and possessing people.
With the aspects that worked out of the way, now I’ll explain the dumb parts of the game. I just mentioned the benefits of possessing people in the world, but that is severely cheapened by the fact that people’s speaking voices are not voice acted by the same person that acts their thoughts. Why is that? What logical reason is there for that? It kept annoying me over and over. Also, any person only ever thinks two things. You press a button to hear their thoughts while possessing them, and no matter what part they play in the story, they only ever have two thoughts. That’s kind of sad, and you are stuck listening to their sound bite until the thought is over. That is highly annoying when you just want to see if they have something of value to add to the scenario or not.
Another disappointing part of Murdered is the environment. Everything is well planned out on a large scale, but when you zoom in to the details, the world is very repetitive and monotonous. Sure, this certain building’s floorplan is creative and detailed, but every room has the same assets in it, just rearranged. A game developed in today’s world needs to have thoughtful environments to show that everything was given attention in the development process, and not just cheaply glossed over. The “poltergeist” ability was also glossed over in the same way. For example, you can make TVs flicker, but that doesn’t actually do anything in the world. There is no reaction from anyone that happens to be nearby. Even people watching said TV. Really? So, the people in the game can only think two thoughts and that doesn’t include thoughts about their TV suddenly going haywire? Sadly, exploring the world became very boring.
Now I have to talk about the demons. You randomly run across demons in certain “levels” and have to dispel them or they will eat your soul. And that’s about it.
Something that really irked me was the way the menus were set up. They were kind of confusing, but perhaps worst of all, they were in this tiny handwriting font that made it hard to read! It was supposed to be like Ronan’s investigation journal, but it wasn’t done very well. And, similar to being forced to listen to the entire sound bite of a person’s thought, your journal would list every single clue and make you go into the menu to read Ronan’s added thoughts about each one (which add a lot to the story). Why can’t he just say his thought out loud while I continue running around looking for the next clue? Or even just display it on the screen so I have the option of easily reading it while still playing? I didn’t like my time spent in the menu system, yet there was a lot of it.
The open world isn’t really open either. It’s just a hub point, with buildings you can enter to initiate the next chapter (that keep you inside until you finish) spread out around the city. But I will say, the world and the assets used in it have a certain gritty noir style reminiscent of old cop investigation movies mixed with haunted horror movies. There were multiple times when I would see the flickering ghosts in the distance that Murdered pulls off really well and think it was a real “person” there, only to turn to check them out and find that I fell for it again.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is a really great idea for a game. It could have been really high quality all around, but maybe certain things were overlooked while focusing on the story rather than getting feedback about gameplay during development. This title feels like a tween game (to use Dan’s term). It’s in between console generations, where it could have been a lot more but still had some good points. I feel like I could have bought this game in 2011 just the way it is, But now it’s 2014, and I expected a lot more. So, if you are usually interested in the stories that games have to tell more than anything else, go ahead and try this game out (maybe once it goes on sale), but if you don’t think you can overlook somewhat boring gameplay just for an intriguing mystery, you might want to move on to the next game and leave Murdered an enigma.
Review copy provided by publisher. Also available on PS3. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.