Sunday, 29 June 2014

Murdered: Soul Suspect

Four years ago Dark Void was released, the third-person adventure that was kind of a rip-off of the 1991 film The Rocketeer. Set some time before World War 2, Dark Void not only gave the player the ability to get into some top notch action on the ground, but also let them take off into the skies for some pretty neat aerial action. Developed by industry newcomer Airtight Games, I felt that Dark Void was hugely underrated. Sure, it didn't exactly reach the thrilling heights it should have, but it didn't squander its potential either. Since its release I have been keeping a close eye on what Airtight Games has been cooking up, and after seeing their latest title at E3 2013, I've wanted to play this game for quite awhile.

Developed by Airtight Games and out now for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 comes Murdered: Soul Suspect, a game that places you in the shoes of a dead man. The set-up is rather simple yet effective. Set in Salem, Massachusetts, you play as Detective Ronan O'Connor, a hard-boiled cop that even the cast of Sin City could be proud of. Unlike most games where you're trying to ultimately prevent death, in Murdered: Soul Suspect that idea is quite literally throw out of the window, as at the very start of the game Ronan is hurled out of a three story building. Then, to finish him off, his killer pumps some bullets into his chest. Ronan's killer is the Bell Killer, a serial killer the Detective was investigating for some time, but despite his untimely demise, Ronan finds that before he can pass on he must resolve some unfinished business. That unfinished business is finding out the identity of the Bell Killer. Now in control of the ghostly version of Ronan O'Connor, the player must discover the truth behind the Bell Killer, thereby allowing Ronan pass on to the other side.

The story set in place even before you control Ronan is powerful and attention grabbing. However, once into Murdered: Soul Suspect, the gameplay itself doesn't reflect the narratives impressive promise. As Ronan the player will need to explore the town of Salem, which is presented as an open sandbox world, one that’s a little small. As Ronan the player can move through the environment, objects and people. While walking around, the player can often eavesdrop on the various inhabitants of Salem too, which can often lead to some interesting tidbits. However, Ronan's very physical looking form kind of kills the thrill of being a ghost at times, as apart from being able to walk through objects (which at times just looks like a glitch) and the fact that your character is grey and see-through, there's nothing spooky or paranormal about how your character looks, acts or moves. This extends to the general mischief you can cause, which purely relies on terribly scripted sequences with equally painful scripted character responses.

Ronan is able to use his ghostly powers to help him in his detective work, though sadly many of these powers are not only boring, but rarely used in any surprising ways. Though teleportation and possession sound interesting on paper, within the game they end up just being powers to mark off your list when aimlessly trying to solve a mystery. When you arrive at a new case the answers are generally right there in front of you, and it just takes time to put all the pieces together, as opposed to, you know, intelligence! It's because of this, the bland cast of characters, the various useless plot-lines, the limited powers that aren't even implemented properly, and the awful stealth segments in which you kill demons, that Murdered: Soul Suspect not just undercooked, but a major, major disappointment.

Murdered: Soul Suspect is one of those games that had such an imaginative idea, such a wonderful potential packed angle, that it should be fantastic. It should have, but it's not. Instead of a game that could have open an interested dialogue about life and death, we get a clumsy “whodunit”, with the paranormal/ghost angle used purely as a veneer. It's not bottom-of-the-barrel material, but it's not exactly good either.

Murdered: Soul Suspect is DOA and gets a 2/5.


Denis Murphy

Murdered: Soul Suspect at CeX

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