I’ll say this much for Murdered: Soul Suspect; it does not beat around the bush. In the first hour you’re thrown into the action with gusto, from a hasty introduction of the main character and his motivations, to his death by window/point blank shooting. It’s impressive, in a world where tutorials are a necessity and every game tends to stuff you with an hour of them, that Murdered: Soul Suspects manages to alleviate some of that pain without completely throwing you into the game headfirst.
In a meaty demo presented by Airtight Games in the Backlot Studios of Melbourne, Press Start were able to get a hands on feel of the game on the PS4 in an hour-and-a-bit demo, which is due for release on June 5th. While I cannot vouch for the game since it was only an introduction, I can give my initial thoughts and feel for what would ultimately be the final version.
The streets of Massachusetts are dark and grimy, but we were limited to specific areas in the demo. Your murderer; a masked serial killer, screams of inspiration from games like Condemned, but I felt none of the horror that Condemned so effectively wrought upon the player. Nevertheless, I was quickly led to the first puzzle of what would take up most of the game (hopefully), figuring out the elements that led to my character’s (Detective Ronan O’ Connor) death.
With death come supernatural powers, as O’ Connor is left between the real world and the next world, walking a sort of ‘bridge’, unable to move on until he can resolve his death. Being able to walk through objects is interesting, but of course you can only walk through predetermined paths and very specific objects. While this is done for obvious reasons (can’t have players no-clipping everywhere) the lack of freedom was made evident in the demo. Hopefully the game opens up later on, as what we played hinted at a sort of hub world. After some cutscene heavy exposition we moved on to our first case.
From here it becomes a sort of point and click (albeit in 3D), L.A Noire style puzzle. Being dead, Ronan is able to search the area for clues in a ghostly form. Some clues were simple to figure out, but others required the supernatural powers of Ronan’s newly acquired form, such as possessing human minds and unlocking memories, or to eavesdrop on conversations. It’s a hodge-podge of neat ideas with a decent execution, but one must worry about the amount of leeway given to the player. Obviously there has to be a fail state, but whether that fail state meant you moved on regardless of how little clues you’ve figured out and altering the plot, or whether you merely restart from the checkpoint, we didn’t find out. Nevertheless we managed to scrape by the first investigation (which was solved finding only half the clues) and figured out how to proceed forward by matching the right clue to the question.
While the puzzle solving was enjoyable, the game was a little too restrictive for my tastes. In the next sequence, you had to figure out how to make a cop move a file by possessing his mind and unlocking his memory with the right piece of evidence, but despite the 14 clues we amassed it was one, and only one clue that allowed game to acknowledge as correct. I feel like in a game like this, more leeway should have been given especially since any number of those clues was significant enough for the situation. The game walks a fine line between linearity and freedom, and here it favoured the side of hand holding.
And of course there needs to be action, but here at least it doesn’t come in the form of bland third person shooting action. Rather, demons infiltrate Ronan’s dimension, and it becomes a sort of stealth game, having to hide in predesignated spots, and sneaking up on the demons, and then banishing them. It’s a weird premise, and it’s not given much explanation, but we rolled with it. Here lies Murdered: Soul Suspect’s horror motif as well; it was quite unnerving hiding from these demons and when one snuck up to you and shrieked a godawful sound, it was a huge jump scare.
Our time with Murdered: Soul Suspect was flawed, but refreshing. While I didn’t feel for the main character (one quick cutscene showcasing his life and his motivations felt too quick and light to really get a feel of his emotions) and the hand holding felt a little worrisome especially if it extended to the whole game, I did love the premise and unique structure. A good mystery is something that will keep you playing until the end, and I do look forward to continuing the plot. What we have here could possibly be the next big cult hit after the wonder that was Deadly Premonition.
Murdered: Soul Suspect will release on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360 & PC on June 5th. Stay tuned for our review.