Imagine being given the chance to come back to Earth as a ghost after being murdered by a mysterious person, then being given the chance to figure out who it is to bring them to justice and move on to the afterlife. This is the ridiculously cool concept that Murdered: Soul Suspect introduces the gamer to, as you control detective Ronan O’Connor’s ghost following the events of him being thrown out of a window by a serial killer known as the Bell Killer.
As would be just about anyone in this situation, Ronan is pretty shocked as to what is going on and why, but a meeting with the spirit of his long-dead wife Julia gives him purpose. She tells Ronan that he can’t join her in the afterlife until he completes the unfinished business that is binding him to the living world, which sends him on a hunt for clues regarding who the Bell Killer really is. What’s to follow is a supernatural noir thriller with no shortage of brooding atmosphere and bizarre occurrences.
The setting of Murdered: Soul Suspect is immediately engaging, as we are thrown into a late 60’s era of Salem, Massachusetts. This is where the infamous Salem Witch Trials occurred, which serves as the backbone of the story. As Ronan wanders the streets of Salem in search of his killer, he comes across other ghosts who died and are usually unsure how they died or are completely oblivious to the fact that they are dead. Many of these characters are very interesting and add a lot to the lore of the game and town of Salem, and the game leaves it up to you whether or not you want pass them by or help them move on to the afterlife.
The core gameplay component of Soul Suspect plays out in a series of detective puzzles that must be completed to learn new information pertaining to the case. These will require you to search every nook and cranny of a particular area or room, and when you think you have found enough information to come to a worthwhile conclusion you are then able to progress the story. While definitely not the most action oriented gameplay, I really enjoyed snooping around the game’s gloomy environments, as it proved to further immerse me in the game’s world and made me more interested in its inhabitants.
However, those looking for a challenging detective puzzle experience will be disappointed, as the game is very straightforward with its puzzles and contains no penalty if you fail to complete its puzzles in the suggested amount of tries. There was one time when I picked just about every wrong clue when the game said it was giving me three tries to find the right clues, but it still kept going and then successfully concluded when I happened upon the correct clues by process of elimination. These scenarios definitely could have used some more time for polish, but even though they aren’t challenging it’s still interesting to see how the following occurrence plays out that the clues relate to.
The developers did add a sort of tense action element to the gameplay, but it seems more tacked on rather than fully fleshed-out. You will come across certain areas where poltergeists are present, and you must hide from them in certain locations in order to move on. If you are caught you will hear an ear-piercing scream and then poltergeist will hunt you down until you’re dead. These encounters can create some really tense situations, but I only wish they were a little more challenging. Most of the time it’s pretty easy to sneak past the poltergeists, and if you are spotted getting away from them isn’t much of a challenge.
Visually, the game looks solid as the game captures the creepy and ominous tone that the story calls for wonderfully. You’ll come across museums, police stations, cemeteries and abandoned buildings throughout the course of the game, and there’s always a sense of unrest in each area to traverse through. Sometimes it will be a bit of information you come across, a conversation you overhear or ominous imagery that will make you feel continuously uneasy, and that perpetual tension only builds throughout the course of the game.
Unfortunately, the game could have used a lot more polish. There will be graphical glitches, command prompts that fail to come up when you want them to and other matter of nagging issues that do hamper the overall experience. In a game whose main source of immersion is its setting, visual glitches are that much more noticeable and annoying. Considering developer Airtight Games just closed down after the game was released, it seems like they simply didn’t have the resources to completely finish what they started and that’s a shame.
Murdered: Soul Suspect comes up short in a few important areas, but the solid concept and well-realized setting and characters make up for it. Walking through the streets of Salem, Massachusetts in search of your killer is always endearing, and the characters (living and dead) that you come across along the way usually add a lot to the experience. It would have been nice if the game received a bit more polish both technically and mechanically, but even despite its shortcomings it’s able to deliver a solid ghost thriller experience. It may not be a complete success, but Murdered: Soul Suspect is nevertheless an engrossing tale of a murdered man searching for justice and closure.