The Average Gamer

Murdered: Soul Suspect Review (Xbox One)

Murdered Soul Suspect - Ronan O'Connor
Murdered: Soul Suspect feels like a game that’s afraid of its market. Inspired by detective films such as Se7en, it’s deliberately cinematic, with every item in a scene telling part of the story. Eschewing console conventions like glowing hotspots, you’re forced to investigate your surroundings as a detective would but the game’s mechanics are too much on show to get really invested in the role of murdered detective Ronan O’Connor.

This ghostly version of Salem, Massachusetts is a beautiful, eerie world of shadows with mournful ghosts and old burned-down buildings standing alongside the present-day residents. Ronan can take possession of everyone in the game to read their thoughts or stop to have a chat with other spirits who are haunting about their unfinished business. You can also jump into and directly control cats because it wouldn’t be a real game without crawling around in the air ducts. Each ghost has a their own side-quest story to solve, a pleasant diversion that reveals little insights into their worlds.

All the side-characters are marred by lack of personality, though. Every conversation is entirely focused around the spirit’s dilemma, which makes ghost-Salem a lonely and rather po-faced place to be. Hopping into the living people’s bodies is amusing for a few minutes, until you realise that Salem is populated by the same dozen people in every location, thinking the same thoughts over and over again. Ronan does have some great cinematic moments and his relationship with medium Joy can be fun when it’s not relentlessly driving the main plot forward. Over the course of this ten-hour game though, the character moments are few and far between.

Murdered Soul Suspect - Dinner TableYou’ll be going to various Salem locations trying to track down your serial killer. For the most part, Ronan presents a question for each investigation and you need to search for clues to the answer. I very much like that when analysing a scene, you need to look carefully at the world and really think about what the clue shows, be it drawings on a wall or a dead body on a river bank. Makes me feel far more like I’m a detective than I would simply searching for glowing hotspots.

That sense of careful investigation is broken by a couple of things though. The hotspots for items are quite small and awkward to find, so you can be stuck running past clues you thought were unimportant because the button prompt didn’t trigger. The conclusions interface breaks immersion as well. Generally, you’ll need two or three pertinent clues among a dozen or so. If you haven’t found the pertinent ones, your investigation screen shows a glowing red “I don’t have the right clue to answer that yet” message. There’s also a “3/17 clues found” meter.

Murdered Soul Suspect - CemetaryFor a game, these are useful things to know but putting them so boldly on display detracts from the story-driven atmosphere that’s so important to this game. It feels as if Airtight Games wanted to a make a murder mystery whodunnit and thought their audience would lose patience without immediate feedback. I would have much preferred these game elements be hidden behind a hints button or similar.

Much like Bound By Flame, Murdered: Soul Suspect feels like a game that was too ambitious for its budget. There’s an intriguing story there, buried beneath superficial side-quests and design decisions that undermine the core philosophy.

Throughout each location, you’ll come across collectibles that tell the story of another grisly murder once you complete the collection. These stories are fascinating, but presented in the form of audio narration over a single still picture, which isn’t really what I’m looking for in a video game. Murdered: Soul Suspect is an entertaining package, with lots to do and an interesting, grisly story. It’s a shame that the side quests and flavour are were so limited.

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