Murdered: Soul Suspect is what I would describe as a paranormal thriller set in the town of Salem, Massachusetts. You play as detective Ronan O’Connor, a guy who knows the streets from both behind a badge and behind bars. You’re thrown out of a window by the Bell Killer and fall to your death. Soon after you find yourself stuck in an alternate world as a ghost with some unfinished business. The game evolves around Ronan as he tries to find the truth behind who killed him. The game has a genuinely interesting storyline with several plot twists thrown in for good measure.
The game is the lovechild of Supernatural and any one of your beloved cop shows. Not long after your death, you come across a young girl, Joy, who can converse with the dead who becomes your living sidekick. The two of you set out on a journey to help Ronan find his killer, find out who the Bell Killer is and help Joy find her mother who has been connected in previous investigations with the town’s police with her skills as a profiler.
The game plays out similarly to L.A. Noire with respect to detective gameplay and here you must gather evidence at crime scenes and side mission locations to come to reach a final conclusion. You don’t need to find all pieces of evidence at a location and can usually solve questions as you begin to look or soon after watching a cutscene, there’s no challenge in most parts of the game and that deducts away from the gameplay. Sadly, there aren’t any penalties for getting answers or conclusions wrong, instead, you are demoted in your performance review and none of this makes an impact on how the story progresses.
Alongside the main story, you can solve the deaths of several other ghosts, helping them to move on. Each side mission revolves around asking questions, searching for evidence or clues and then coming to a conclusion which you then ‘hand in’. Some of the side missions relate to Salem and its past, whilst others seem like random events to flesh the game. None of them are particularly interesting, bar one for which I had to use some brain power and some moving back and forth to do.
Collectibles will take up most of your free-roaming time, though many are placed in locations that are easy to find as you travel from point to point. Some of these collectibles tell a story about the Bell Killer, others reveal notes left by Ronan’s wife and most give you a general overview of the history of Salem and its Witch Trials – a major role within the story. History buffs and those who enjoy a little read between gameplay will love the addition of these pickups, though for some it might not be worth the hassle.
Even though you are a ghost, you’re not completely useless. As you progress through the story you will learn new tricks such as teleportation and how to remove objects blocking your way. Quite simply, you will use these to progress the story and other times you will use them to gain access to collectibles. Possessing humans or animals is another trick you will use throughout your time in Salem, allowing you to manipulate people, look through their eyes and get around Demons and other deadly creatures safely. You can even possess cats.
The town of Salem, for the most, is visually interesting the first time you encounter the game world. It includes a mix of ghostly shadows of the town in a previous life and how it stands now, meaning there is plenty to feast your eyes upon for the first few hours of gameplay. A few hours in that can become a different story, especially with constant backtracking.
Visually the game holds up well, but I did notice a drop in frame-rate each time I entered a new location and just before cutscenes. From time to time I would find myself getting stuck on pieces of the environment, or being allowed to walk through things I shouldn’t be able to – including fall through the floor and popping back up again in one location.
There is no combat as such in Murdered: Soul Suspect, instead you must dodge and weave between ghastly phantoms known as Demons. You are able to banish these eerie looking creatures by sneaking up behind them and pressing the corresponding buttons/keys, though this can be a hassle and in some cases, you’re better just sneaking around them. To hide from them you can either use residues left by other souls and jump from one to the next, or you can be crafty and use your surroundings to your advantage. Demons can only see what’s in their line of vision and that doesn’t include what’s behind walls. Being caught by one of these bad boys isn’t such a treat and escaping from them isn’t something you want to worry about, so try and avoid it.
There are also hellish looking holes in the ground, and if you get too close hands will appear and will attempt to drag you down into the depths of what I can only describe as an opening to hell. These are strategically placed in locations so you have to find other routes and are also used to block off locations you think you can’t travel in. Many times I found myself forgetting that I could walk through walls and other objects and around these hell pits.
Another positive is the voice acting and it’s above average. The characters are intriguing for the most and emotions feel true, nothing feels wooden or as though it is, in fact, being read from a script. From Ronan’s knowledgeable and deep voice to Joy’s teenage sighs and outbursts of anger, everything feels just right.