I wanted to like Murdered: Soul Suspect a lot more than I actually did and I truly mean that. The game started out well with main protagonist Ronan O’Connor being violently launched out of a fourth story window then shot to death with his own gun. His tortured spirit is then left behind and he goes on the hunt to find Salem, Massachusetts notorious Bell Killer, his murderer. It looks like Ronan is sticking around until he can solve his last case. I thought to myself at that moment ‘I can get into this, let’s take this for a spin.’ Unfortunately that was the high point and the game steadily declined to a mediocre level and never really clawed its way back up to greatness.
While technically being a game in the broadest sense of the terms Soul Suspect is much more like a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ book come to life except far more linear. In order to crack the case of his untimely death players will navigate Ronan through crime scenes and collect clues to answer various questions or take the investigation further. Seeing as Ronan is now a spirit he has all sorts of tricks up his sleeve to nudge him along. He can possess living people in order to do lots of tricks like eavesdropping, peeking at what they’re reading, listening to their thoughts or influencing them to recall a memory. As well players can simply move around the investigation area to find various clues left over on the scene. Often times this results in aimless wandering, mostly due to the fact that the clues you are searching for don’t always highlight as they should.
Once all your clues are assembled you try to further your investigation by solving the answer to a question. The clues are brought up on screen as broken shards of glass and you have to choose which of them lead to the answer you’re looking for. I found on more than one occasion that I knew what the outcome was but getting the right answer was a pain in the backside. Some questions require more than one answer and you’d have to do them in the proper order to answer correctly. Vague clues at best in some puzzles and painfully obvious answers in others. Still, as difficulty goes nothing will ever stump your deductive skills for long. In the end it doesn’t matter as the only penalization you suffer for getting a wrong answer is a lower ‘detective score’ so it is quite literally impossible to fail an investigation. For what it’s worth you could easily select every single wrong answer first then the right one with no consequences. That adds too much of a hand holding feel to the game overall as I like to be challenged more than that.
At the very least Soul Suspect has a couple good things going for it which are the core story as well as the cast of characters that lead you through it. Ronan is a perfect pulp detective with his sarcastic wit and classic fedora although he does feel underdeveloped in the sense that you never see anything else but that. He’s got tattoos all over his body that are representative of his tumultuous past that convey other sides of his personality but never does he break free from the hard-nosed private eye routine. Joy, a girl who can see and speak with Ronan, is searching for her mother and partners up with Ronan purely based on mutual needs. Distrusting and quick to drop humorous insults I enjoyed her quite immensely as she reminded me of Fetch from Infamous: Second Son. On the whole the voice acting holds up from the main characters to the one and done NPCs with only a smattering of cheesy or horribly delivered lines.
In between advancing the core story Ronan will come upon other mysteries, mostly given to him by other spirits yet to see the light and still stuck in this purgatory, that serve as side quests. Sadly they play identically to what you’re already doing with Ronan so apart from having a unique side story to work through it really is just more of the same. This is where Soul Suspect will start to lose most players. Instead of thoroughly reading through each clue and collectible as you find them you’ll find yourself just picking them all up and rushing through to get to the end game portion of the investigation. I got to the point where I couldn’t be bothered to read them all because of how plentiful they are and stopping to read everything really slowed the pace of the game down. We’re talking about a game that moves at a snail’s pace already so slowing it down even further does no good at all. The pace will speed up a bit if you need to sneak up behind a demon (they hunt lost spirits in this purgatory world) and take it out which serves a minor distraction but again, never really adds up to much of a challenge.
Graphically I was hoping for more from Soul Suspect but seeing as we’re still at that point where games are catering to that last generation of consoles you can tell they didn’t up the ante much to serve the next generation market. The sombre mood that Airtight was going for doesn’t help either as everything is uninspired and drab with a washed out grey and brown color palette. It doesn’t make for enjoyable viewing but I suppose it does help set the tone at least.
I respect what Airtight tried to do in Soul Suspect and I think that with a little more refinement, some broader characters and a bit more of a fast paced story that the game would have been much more enjoyable. Unfortunately the repetitiveness and dragging narrative holds it down from being much more than a mediocre title at best. The story and acting holds up, even if it’s monotonous to plod through, so when you inevitably find this in your local bargain bin it’s still worth a play through.