Square Enix is stepping outside of its comfort zone with upcoming title, Murdered: Soul Suspect, from Airtight Games. It tells the tale of a detective who must solve the most important murder of his career.
No one really sees their last day on Earth coming. After all, we are all far too busy dealing with whatever is going on in our everyday lives to truly appreciate every moment. That is perhaps what Detective Ronan O’Connor realises as he literally sees his life flash before his eyes.
Every major moment of his life is carefully selected and played out as he makes the transition to the ghostly realm. What is interesting about this whole montage is that he adds a tattoo to his body for every major moment in his life – already making Ronan far more memorable than most characters in a similar situation.
Just as he hits the ground after a rather grim fall, his slim chance of surviving is permanently taken away by his mysterious killer after he fires a few gun rounds through his chest, point blank. The first time players take control of Ronan is when he is attempting to get back inside his critically injured body in a desperate attempt to reconnect his soul to the body. This is done by using both analogue sticks to position his ghostly form in the same place as his body. What is so unusual about this is that it works in making the player directly feel what Ronan is going through.
Just as he is coming to terms with his ghostly form, the light comes for him in the form of his beloved Julia. Julia acts as an incentive for Ronan since she informs him that he must deal with unfinished business before presumably joining her in the afterlife.
This is indeed a story driven experience and one that seems intent on exploring the various ideas associated with what happens after someone dies. Oddly enough, these initial moments don’t feel like a typical tutorial. The player is introduced to the game in such a subtle manner that it’s almost as if it wasn’t even necessary to learn the various controls.
One of the main game mechanics in Murdered: Soul Suspect requires players to look around locations for clues that might help identify the killer. The first section explored during the demonstration was actually where Ronan O’Connor is found dead. The main focus here is to try and get information out of people by possessing them.
Rather than merely controlling other characters, there’s a few choices to pick from. So for example, Ronan can influence people to make them think of information that could have been overlooked. Whilst it might seem tedious, it is actually a lot better to be given small nuggets of information in this manner rather than the whole story, since it means having to pay close attention to new information obtained.
After collecting enough information, it’s time to move on to the next location. At this point, the demonstration allowed me to converse with a fellow ghost. It’s completely optional, however, and most will apparently tend to just ignore her presence – despite her appearance during a cut-scene. Fortunately, another ghost girl that was followed right before the start of the investigation section is more helpful.
There are various dialogue options to pick from whilst talking to her. However, being given control over which topics are discussed seems redundant, given that it’s necessary to eventually choose them all. Perhaps a taster of what is to come where choices picked might influence how the story develops.
Being a ghost, Ronan can walk through most solid objects and environments. But seeing as this story takes place in Salem, it is only natural that some areas are blessed. Hence, it’s necessary to wait for the right opportunity during these times – such as a character opening a door that leads inside a blessed building.
Another important factor is the use of ghost residue – left overs from particularly bad moments like gruesome murders – which Ronan can use to hide himself. This is important during the section where he must face Wraith-like Demons. The Demons can’t spot him when he is hiding inside these residue spots. Given his ghost status, Ronan can only take out these Demons by sneaking up behind them and sucking the energy out of them. Performing such a feat involves pressing two buttons at the same time, then a direction on the analog stick. It might sound easy, but it’s not always the same button combination and so it’s vital to pay attention to what is displayed on-screen.
Once spotted, it’s rather difficult to evade the demons. They will hunt down the character until he is well out of sight. It’s quite challenging to get used to these hide and seek mechanics. Specially since the residue hiding spots are not always close together, making it difficult for the character to move between them without being spotted – even if people also count as hiding spots. Yet, it’s also refreshing to play a video-game in this genre that doesn’t consist of either shooting or physically hitting enemies until they are defeated.
A second area to investigate is waiting after the Demons are dealt with. In here, it’s possible to conduct a much more thorough investigation. The main focus is to find clues within the room where Ronan had an unfortunate final confrontation with his killer. An on-screen number states how many clues are left to find, and it is very enjoyable to try and track them down. Some even involve making use of possession abilities to indirectly interact with objects in a subtle manner. There’s also a few that involve using residue spots to get glimpses of what went on.
Once finding enough clues, it’s then possible to attempt answering the many questions Ronan has by combining two of the clues. There’s no penalty for combining the wrong clues, but it’s still satisfying to figure it out on the first attempt. Answering all the questions will result in gaining a better understanding of what went down during the confrontation and uncover the next area to investigate.
At this point, it’s safe to say Murdered may not hold much replay value, but there is still a possibility that this world will open up more with story progression. The only real incentive to play through seemed to consist of a few collectibles uncovered by residue spots. On the PlayStation 4, the controller light bar will also change colour based on the current situation – such as red when character has been spotted by Demons.
Visually, it’s looking quite nice with residue particles standing out in the ghostly realm and my experience with the game is definitely an impressive start that never felt like a mere tutorial. It’s safe to say that Murdered: Soul Suspect has a few interesting ideas up its sleeve. If played out properly, this could turn out to be a superb new take on the murder mystery genre, where the hunt for the killer’s identity should make for engrossing story-telling.