This review contains some light spoilers and some heavy complaining
The story of Soul Suspect is really about the only aspect the game has going for it. You play hard-boiled criminal-turned-cop, Ronan O’Conner, who is hunting a serial killer known as, “The Bell Killer” (inbetween cigarettes, of course). In the first scene, you chase the killer to a house in the heart of Salem, MA. Ronan is promptly defenestrated then shot seven times in the chest. (I really don’t think this should count as a spoiler because the game is fucking called Murdered.) So, our hero wakes up and he’s standing over his body as a ghost. You begin following the clues left at your own crime scene and listening in on conversations of the police investigating it, leading you to find a girl that saw the Bell Killer and witnessed your murder. Well, just by happy coincidence, the girl (Joy) is a medium and is able to see and speak to ghosts. I won’t go into too much detail, since the story is the only reason to play this game, but Joy and Ronan go on a plucky adventure throughout various locales in Salem in search of the mysterious Bell Killer.
To be fair, the story of Soul Suspect isn’t all that bad. Like many other stories about serial killers, there are twists and turns throughout the game, plenty of clues to attempt to put together, and mystery surrounding the investigation you fight so hard to understand. The supernatural flair on the game is a unique take on the detective story and offers an interesting variety of ways to interact with crime scenes. The characters may be a bit stereotypical, but are written well enough to offer some enjoyable banter and emotional investment. It may not be the best story ever told through video games, but it certainly stands above your average summer release.
Here’s the real problem with the Soul Suspect: there’s not really much gameplay. When you’re investigating an area, you simply walk around the building and look for collectibles. There are certain areas that are designated as crime scenes, in which you look for clues that move the story forward. But, otherwise, you just ramble around, listen to people talk, collect trinkets, and pointlessly turn TVs on and off. You have several “abilities” that allow you to interact with the world, such as possessing people (or cats), revealing missing pieces of the ghost world, removing pieces of the ghost world, and “poltergeist-ing” electronic items like radios and fans. By and large, these abilities are pretty useless. Possessing people only allows you to read their minds or peek through their eyes to see what they’re looking at. Except for two or three situations where it is explicitly said to do, it’s pointless to poltergeist items. Sure, you can poltergeist the copier to make it spit paper everywhere, but nobody notices it and then the paper vanishes so that you can make it explosively vomit paper once again. Riveting.
Once you’re in an investigation, you have to scour the area to find every little detail. After you’ve found all of the clues, you have to pick the most relevant information from all of the clues to progress. You have a rating from 1-3 badges for each interaction. If you can select the correct clue on your first try, you get all three badges. But, each wrong choice costs a badge. The silly thing is, once you’re down to one badge, you can just guess every single clue until you get it right. You can’t fail and you can’t lose your last badge, not that the badges even matter. The puzzle solving is some of the most frustrating time I’ve spent with my Xbox One. The answer is usually the most obvious answer you’re able to pick. I got several choices wrong, simply because I was picking the clues that made sense, instead of the painfully simple answer. For example, in the beginning of the game, you posses a cop and look at the notepad he’s holding. There are three things written down and you have to select the most important information. The choices were:
1) Need to get the forensics report back to HQ.
2) The tenant living in the house where Ronan was killed is missing.
3) The only weapons at the scene belonged to Ronan.
Now, just using my common sense, I figured that the killer was at that house for a reason. So, the tenant of that house mysteriously going missing seems to be a pretty big issue. I choose that and am penalized one badge. Ok, the forensics report is probably pretty important. Maybe they found some clues that will give me an idea of who the killer is? Penalized one badge. Considering I just watched myself get killed with my own gun, I didn’t think that would be the most crucial evidence I could find out. But, Soul Suspect is filled with these situations. Very rarely is a subtle clue found at the scene the solution to the puzzle.
The only time the standard gameplay is broken up by action is when Ronan has to fight demons. See, demons are the souls of people who never move on and become angry and violent. How do they take out their furious, hateful rage? By floating slowly through certain areas, careful to never tread off of their pre-planned route. The only way to destroy a powerful demon? Walking up behind it and doing a quick-time event. That’s right. Prepare to face a new level of thrilling danger. Essentially, there are “Hides” that you can teleport into and be invisible to the patrolling demons. By holding the right bumper, you can see demons highlighted in orange through the walls, as well as what they can see in their view. You then wait until they’re not looking, walk right up to them and complete a QTE. Even when they throw three or four demons in your area, it’s a simple matter of timing. If you ever get spotted by a demon, they will chase you until you either are killed or teleport back into a hiding spot. These demons have absolutely nothing to do with the story and are only present to give a single, minute change to the repetitive gameplay.
One thing this game does right is the environment, with Ronan’s world blending with the semi-spectral ghost world. Modern day Salem becomes littered with artifacts and objects from the past. Cars drive by old gallows, streets become blends of contemporary stores and old shoppes, as well as people walking right through the ghosts lurking and watching. Soul Suspect certainly captures the feeling of being trapped between the present and the past.
If you’ve read some of my previous reviews, you may know that I can’t stand collectibles. Well, Soul Suspect‘s working title must have been, “Collectibles: The Game.” There are somewhere around 250 collectibles in the game and that is really all to do when exploring levels. So, you fart around and stumble upon little items or level-specific ghost items. These level specific items will unlock a ghost story, if you collect them all. What struck me as odd was that the ghost stories were more interesting than the game I was playing. So, fair warning, if you hate collectibles in games, then you might keep your distance. If you love collectibles, then your Messiah has come and Praise the Sun.
Visually speaking, Soul Suspect is another bland entry in the gap between console generations. Some character models and environments have great texture and detail, while others look completely untouched and flat. The character models are all stiff and blatantly repeated in the background. Nearly all of the characters walking around in the world of Soul Suspect are comprised of about seven or eight character models. Also, the use of each model seems to be laughably random. I once possessed a young man and read his mind, only to find out that he was having a torrid love affair with the old woman standing next to him. Maybe the developers know that love has no boundaries, but I’m guessing it was just lazy use of the repeated models.
As I’m sure you could have guessed, the achievement list is entirely comprised of story related events and collectibles. You get achievements for hitting certain milestones in collecting, such as 50 or 150 collectibles or collecting all of the items in a single area. Even with my contempt of collectibles, I was able to get nearly every single one. If you play with a guide open, you can easily get all of the achievements in a single run. I managed to get 815/1,000 Gamerscore without really trying. So, Achievement Hounds may want to check this game out. With a little dedication, you can get another easily completed game.
Murdered: Soul Suspect has a good story to tell, it’s the best part of the game. Unfortunately, the rest of the game is completely lacking in any sort of meaningful or interesting activity. There is absolutely no replay value, unless you feel like grinding out collectible achievements. Murdered: Soul Suspect is the perfect example of a great concept with poor execution. Hell, at least the developers were trying to do something unique, instead of another mindless shooter.
I give Murdered: Soul Suspect 2.5 “Inspectres” out of 5
By Blake Edwards