THE latest IP from Airtight Studios is presented as an adventure title, but in truth, it is an unsatisfactory description of a title that melds a dizzying variety of genres. Part police procedural, part supernatural thriller, its plot is akin to an HBO adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible by a screenwriter with a predilection for psychotropic pharmaceuticals.
Game review with tips and tricks: Murdered: Soul Suspect
Platforms - Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / Xbox 360 / Playstation 3 / PC
Score: 6.2 / 10
As a game, it combines the investigatory mechanics of Team Bondi’s entertaining if flawed 2011 title, LA Noire, with the Resident Evil series.
The player steps into the ghostly shoes of Ronan O’Connor, a chain-smoking detective wizened before his time thanks to an iniquitous past. No sooner does Soul Suspect begin than he is killed off, pushed from the fourth storey of a Salem apartment black before being shot repeatedly with his own gun. O’Connor dies, but his spirit prevails, tasked with solving the mystery behind his killing and how it might connect with that of the Bell Killer, a serial killer on the loose in the Massachusetts city.
Clues and potential leads
The crux of O’Connor’s quest for answers centres around investigations similar to the detective work in LA Noire. Presented with a scenario, the player is asked to peruse the area for clues and potential leads. The lead character’s ghostly form has its advantages, allowing him to possess investigators and witnesses and read their minds or prompt them into disclosing useful information. Gradually, a patchwork of answers begins to form as O’Connor plays once item of evidence off against another.
Skill and judgement, though, are not essential to success. Unlike LA Noire, making the wrong hunch goes unpenalised and the process of deduction is essentially one of trial and error, repeated until you stumble upon the correct answer. Doing so first time results in a perfect score, but it represents a curiously underwhelming incentive in a game based upon logic and puzzle solving. There is even a tally of clues provided on-screen, meaning that you will never unwittingly leave a stone unturned at any given point.
Spectral underbelly of Salem
Perhaps the best idea in Murdered: Soul Suspect is having the player take the form of a ghost. It fits in well with the spectral underbelly of Salem - the location of the infamous 17th century witch trials - and although the urban setting is in no way a graphical tour de force, it musters a foreboding tone and mood. The gameplay, unfortunately, is hampered by the conceit. O’Connor can pass through some walls and structures, but others - so-called consecrated areas - are off-limits, meaning the player is always coming up against dead ends. Airtight attempt to solve this by allowing the hard-boiled detective to possess cats and make use of their agility in the corporeal world, but it feels misplaced.
Although Murdered: Soul Suspects employs several praiseworthy concepts, the ambition of its ideas is hampered by some frustrating mechanics that simply slow down proceedings and rob the game of its pacing. The overall package feels strangely dated and prohibitive, with more in common with the early 1990s spate of point and click graphic adventures than a next generation game.
TIPS AND TRICKS
1) O’Connor’s many encounters with demons in Salem require some fast reaction times in order to survive. The QTE prompts arrive a little too late sometimes, but memorise the patterns and be ready to press the right buttons at a moment’s notice.
2) Tempting as it is to let your mind wander during an investigation, don’t try to overcomplicate things. The police work in Soul Suspect is a relatively straightforward affair and if an answer seems obvious, chances are it’s correct.
3) Similarly, if your investigations at a scene lead you to have a good hunch, there is little point wasting time searching for every clue. Answer correctly and you will be able to progress to the next chapter. Sometimes, even a well-judged guess is enough.
4) If you pre-ordered the special edition of the game, it is worth logging onto the title’s official website, where an interactive strategy map is available. It is not necessary to complete the game, but given the welter of collectibles scattered around Salem it is a useful reference point.