In small tourist towns, you can usually find a crappy ghost tour. They cost about $70 bucks, and usually consist of you being carted around to cemeteries, haunted houses, and abandoned prisons, where you hear tales about long lost loves, unjust executions, and spirits who still call out from beyond. Sometimes your tour guide wears a funny wig, sometimes the stories make no sense at all, other times a random person walks by with their dog and forgets to bring a pooper scooper, but nothing changes the simple fact that crappy ghost tours are kind of the best. With a name like Murdered: Soul Suspect, I can safely say Airtight Games and Square-Enix have succeeded at checking off all the requirements for an awesome-crappy ghost tour.
The story is set in Salem where a serial murderer, the Bell Killer, has been causing panic throughout the city. As Ronan, the new detective on the force —one who’s seen a thing or two on the streets— you quickly take-off after the killer without backup and find yourself dead — a ghost with unfinished business. It’s not exactly a fresh take on the whodunit, but it’s campy enough to be fun and sets up the supernatural elements of Salem without feigning any realism. The narrative never goes anywhere terribly surprising, and it could do with higher stakes than, “quickly before he kills again!” but its such a cheesy, comforting murder-mystery, that by virtue of being cohesive at all it is successful.
The only real sore point narratively is that Ronan O’Connor doesn’t have any particularities that make him interesting, and he lacks the kind of humbling qualities that make other fictional detectives so appealing. Also his clothes, I don’t like them.
Most of the game is made up of walking around crime scenes, looking for clues that will help Ronan solve the case of the Bell Killer. It’s extremely similar to L.A. Noire, except that the scope of the world is so much smaller that every case feels intimate without feeling too sectioned off. Salem is surprisingly fleshed out, and the many nuances of the town go a long way to making it feel as old as its witch-trial theme expects it to be. Because Ronan is a ghost he can’t interrogate the living —although you’ll have many conversations with the undead— so lots of his detective work involves peering over people’s shoulders, or in some cases, possessing them in order to see straight through their eyes. It’s not especially different from just finding a clue on the floor, but it creates enough variety in the way that evidence manifests itself that you will sometimes overlook obvious information.
But really, the best is part is that there’s no shooting. None. Unfortunately the lack of gunplay is offset by forced stealth sections, which really aren’t so bad, but they ideally wouldn’t exist whatsoever.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is quaint. The story doesn’t try to be a cinematic tour-de-force, the gameplay doesn’t try to reinvent the adventure genre, but it’s all very comforting. Bizarrely, I kept flashing back to myself playing PlayStation 1 and 2 games, not because Unreal Engine 3 suddenly feels ancient, but because it feels like a game from an era before everything had to be a smash-hit. The kind of gem you find for cheap and end up loving because you had no expectations. It may sound like a backhanded compliment, but Murdered: Soul Suspect is a throw away novel, something you enjoy while it lasts and never think about again. Just like a ghost tour, I love it for what it is.
- Every time I solved a crime I imagined Murder She Wrote. Doo do do do do, do do do, do do –DODODO– do do do do dod…
- I spent the first two hours waiting for a shootout to break out, isn’t that sad?
- The stealth is only terrible if you fail, if you’re super good at games (which I’m not) it’s easy to ignore the issue.
- The opening scene of the game has you twisting objects with your wrist like L.A. Noire. The mechanic never shows up again.
- Sweet lord, what is he wearing?
- Getting all the collectibles in an area unlocks a small ‘ok’ ghost story.
- I think Salem is cool. I like all the colonial remnants.
- It’s rated ‘M’, and has some violent murders, but I swear it’s tamer than a Ray Bradbury book.