Murdered: Soul Suspect offers you a new take on a crime-solving thriller. In it, you play as the ghost of Ronan O’Connor, a detective who has been murdered by the Bell Killer. This serial killer has been terrorizing the citizens of Salem, Massachusetts, and you can’t move on to the next life until you discover their identity.
This is a game that promises a lot. You’re offered an immensely cool skill set with which to solve your murder – the ability to possess people and listen to their thoughts, walk through walls, affect various objects throughout the world and view ghostly elements of the town’s past. All of this sounds great, except that there seems to be a caveat to each of the skills that you’re offered.
You can walk through walls – but only those that the game wants you too. Likewise, you can possess just about anyone to hear their thoughts, but you can only affect those humans who the game deems necessary to your current case or side quest. You can view ghostly elements of the town’s past, but at times these elements are more of a hindrance than a help.
Don’t get me wrong – the ghostly powers your character has are extremely fun to use. The problem is a design choice that severely limits when and how you can use them, resulting in a story that feels (for lack of a better word) extremely scripted. If you’re hoping for an open-world afterlife gallivanting through the town and causing mischief, you’re going to be severely disappointed. You may occasionally get to cause a vending machine to go haywire, or smack some papers off a desk, but the overall effect on the surrounding NPCs is disappointing. It seems that causing a radio to turn on or off by itself can’t shake the unflappable residents of Salem. Perhaps they’re too used to the supernatural hanging around.
That being said, the storyline of Murdered: Soul Suspect is compelling, and in places, very surprising. This is in part because you’re not given much of your character’s personal history off the bat – you begin to learn more about who Ronan O’Connor is as you play through the game. By completing some of the side quests, you learn not only more about him, but about his wife and their relationship, as well as some of Salem’s history. While these side quests aren’t strictly necessary, they do help the overall storyline and main character’s motivations make more sense.
The play mechanics of the game are pretty straightforward. The only thing that I found somewhat difficult to get the hang of was the particular button combination needed to hide from the demons. As it turns out, traversing the afterlife as a ghost instead of moving on isn’t for the faint of heart. Demons lurk around every corner, waiting to devour your essence. Fighting them is almost impossible – unless you can manage to sneak up on them (a somewhat difficult task). Hiding from them is the choice the game prefers you take, but this can be difficult, as once the demons have gotten your scent, they will continue to search for you, and you must constantly move in order to stay off their radar. This is how the game adds not only some difficulty, but some horror/suspense elements.
Overall, Murdered: Soul Suspect is a fun game to play. A single play-through, including completing many of the side quests only took me about three days, so it’s good for a series of quick sessions if you’d like to stretch it out, or a weekend marathon. The limitations can be frustrating, but the overall storyline is fun and compelling. The side quests dovetail nicely, and aren’t overly time-consuming, making them well worth the effort. They also make a nice break from the heavier main storyline.
– Jenn Bentley