Murdered: Soul Suspect is the first murder-mystery to grace next-gen consoles. You play as Ronan O’Connor, a detective with a questionable past as a thug and overall deviant. However, his life changed for the better somewhere along the line when he met his wife, Julia. Some time after that she passed away, leaving our hero as a lonely homicide detective trying to block out his past.
The story of Murdered takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, where the town is being ravaged by a brutal serial killer. Known only as “the Bell Killer”, a sighting of the suspect is called in to the police. Ronan, being the only officer in the area, ignores advice from other officers to wait for backup before pursuing the Bell Killer and decides to go it on his own.
This is where the beginning of the games events come into place. The game opens up with Ronan being pushed out of a forth floor window by an unknown assailant. Astonished that he is still alive, Ronan gets up and takes a drag from his cigarette, brushing himself off. As the player takes control of Ronan, you walk up to the front door of the building you just emerged from. Unable to turn the handle, a confused Ronan turns around to see his own body still laying on the street. In a panic, he quickly lays his ghost form down onto the street, attempting to line up perfectly with his corpse.
The killer then emerges from the building, firing multiple bullet holes into Ronan with his own gun. Helpless and watching his killer walk away, everything begins to turn white. You then start slowly walking Ronan toward the light when he comes in contact with his deceased wife, Julia. She informs Ronan that he is currently on a bridge between the real world and the afterlife. If he hopes to reach the afterlife and reunite with his love once again, he must handle the “unfinished business” of his former life. That business, as it turns out – is figuring out the identity of the person who killed him.
Murdered takes place in a small sandbox that makes up the town of Salem. As a ghost, Ronan can walk through walls and pass through objects. However the current, real town of Salem is intertwined with the spooky past town of the witch trials era in the 1600’s. The aged buildings, walls, and other parts of old Salem appear in ghost form, just as Ronan does. These walls cannot be walked through, although some barriers can be broken down. Curiously, ghosts can not just enter into any building they please. You must wait for someone to open a door or window and enter from there. This has something to do with the old buildings that still exist from long ago. However, once inside a building, you are pretty much able to move through walls as you please.
As you move around the environment, you will encounter living people in addition to other ghosts. Speaking to other ghosts will provide Ronan with clues to his case, while other ghosts hold possible side-cases that can be solved in addition to the main plot. Ronan also has the ability to possess the living people he comes in contact with. In addition to people, you can also possess small animals, such as cats, to enter small vents or reach areas that are otherwise inaccessible to Ronan.
Certain points of the game will bring you to a crime scene or point of interest, which serve as the games puzzles. When these points in the game come into play, Ronan is unable to leave the area until you are able to draw some kind of conclusion. The first of these has Ronan at the crime scene of his own murder. Other officers and witnesses are all around him. When searching around the town of Salem, you will want to search everywhere you possibly can, collecting as many clues as possible. The clues that you collect will have a direct impact on your ability to deduct the correct conclusion during these sequences.
As mentioned, you can possess the living, and you will definitely want to possess every person you can in the vicinity of a crime scene to uncover more clues and information. There are usually a certain number of clues, or conclusions, that must be uncovered. The first crime scene consists of 8. Finding them all will require a combination of examining certain parts of the crime scene in addition to possessing those present at the scene. Once a person has be possessed, Ronan can read their thoughts, influence them to give up information, or peek at something they are holding. For instance, at the first crime scene you must possess another officer and take a look at the pad in his hand, where he has written down his own clues and points of interest. Not far away, an officer is questioning a woman, but having a hard time getting information from her. Taking possession of the woman allows Ronan to influence her thoughts and ultimately tell the officer what she knows.
While there is no real combat in Murdered, there are enemy encounters. There are a number of ghostly demons floating around Salem, seeking out ghosts like yourself who are stuck in limbo to suck up their souls. Ronan can get around these demons in a few different ways. There are a number of ghost souls, or pockets, which line the area of pretty much every room you enter. Ronan can hide himself in these and teleport between them to escape from harms way. However, don’t hide in one spot too long, or a demon will sniff you out and let out a screeching noise that exposes Ronan from his hiding place. The other option is to execute the demon. The only way to do this is by sneaking up behind the demon you wish to finish off. You will then be prompted to hit the right trigger in addition to a random direction and button prompt that must be pressed to complete the execution. Hitting the wrong button will send the demon after Ronan, forcing him to scurry back into hiding.
While I enjoyed the story of Murdered: Soul Suspect, the game is certainly not without its flaws. Some of the games gimmicks (such as the ghostly version of the town) are really only there to hinder your path and keep Ronan from wandering off the beaten path. The game encourages a sort of freedom in exploration and searching for clues, yet I always felt like I was on a predetermined path wherever I went. At certain points in the game you are graded on your ability to solve a puzzle or reach a conclusion, but most puzzles can be solved simply by going down a list of answers and picking each one until you reach the right one. Which is all well and good, except for the fact that there is no real penalty for picking a wrong answer, or reaching an incorrect conclusion. It definitely takes away from the fun of finding clues, when you know in the back of your mind they are meaningless.
What Murdered really has going for it, is the story. The murder-mystery surrounding Ronan and the Bell Killer is definitely the best part of Soul Suspect, as it well should be – but as a game it is ultimately lacking. It controls fine, but there was nothing new or ground breaking that made the game fun to play. It can be tedious, and even rather slow at times, but the story is what kept me going. I also liked Ronan as a character, along with Joy and some of the other supporting cast. The music and sound effects of the game were also genuinely creepy at times. If you are the type of person who enjoys a good murder-mystery, then you might consider 10 hours with Soul Suspect a rewarding experience. However, if you are looking for something with interesting gameplay mechanics or a fun combat system – look elsewhere.