After catching a hands-off presentation of Murdered: Soul Suspect during E3 2013, I was certainly eager to try the title out for myself, but it’s not until nearly a year after that I’ve finally managed to get some hands-on.
Whereas other games tend to take a much more standardised gameplay approach – aim, shoot, repeat – Murdered takes the backseat, offering a more detailed and subdued approach. In order to address the most recent criticism regarding its pacing, we first have to first look at its overall presentation, next to the gameplay style.
It’s true to say that the beginning of your journey is more ‘tutorialised’, particularly as there are multiple ways to go about completing certain tasks. I should probably make you aware, however, that you play as a ghost. No, this isn’t Casper, instead your backstory and character are a bit more complicated. Formerly a troubled detective named Ronan O’Connor, meeting deaths’ door isn’t as simple as passing to the other side; you have to find out who killed you, alongside the reason why. During my viewing of the game at E3 there was no detailed explanation as to whom Ronan O’Connor was.
Luckily I was given a short introduction this time, featuring a quick montage of his life and past experiences. In a round about way – without spoiling too much – Ronan has had a troubled past, littered with minor criminal offences and a bumpy family history. At one time or another he lost the one he loved, and so after the point at which you die (which has been shown to death in all the promotional trailer for the last year, excuse the pun), you actually get to enter the path to afterlife, however, though you meet your loved on amongst the mist, she explains it’s your task to take care of unfinished business before you can cross the bridge. It’s here that you set yourself the goal of solving your murder, hopefully gaining access to the other side once everything is done and dusted.
When it came down to actually controlling the action, it’s very laid back, at least from the beginning. After trying to realign my legs, arms and head with my lifeless body, I soon realised that my death was inevitable – least of all because I then get shot seven times in the chest. It was, therefore, time to explore my surroundings and talk to the ghostly figures that pave the streets of Salem, which many people will no doubt link to many super natural anomalies. You’d think that as a ghost you’d have no problem walking through anything in sight, but since this is Salem, and not your typical town, near enough every major building has been consecrated. This of course means that you’re not able to walk through buildings that have this ‘blessed’ as it were. It might be a cheap way of overcoming certain technical hiccups, but frankly it makes sense.
Over the course of my starting moments, I began to piece together the puzzle of my death. After getting filled in with the rules of afterlife by a young girl (supposedly from the victorian times, given her dress) I arrived back at my crime scene, which was now teeming with police and reporters. When you encounter people in the real world you’ll often get given the choice to possess them, with the ability to influence a character, even see through their eyes. Through various methods you’ll get access to new evidence, even being able to further your ex-colleagues down a particular path, should you engage them in the right way. I found it rather interesting, being able to find out new details about my murder, looking directly through someone else’s eyes. But even though I might aim to help myself, there were multiple souls around every corner looking for help too. Fortunately for me, the demo I played was the exact same as the one showcased to me during E3 last year, so to some extent I knew where to go and what to do.
At its core, Murdered seems incredibly traditional with its values and gameplay mechanics. There’s not a lot of combat involved, but that’s kind of to be expected from a detective thriller. In between solving other people’s murders and uncovering more clues for yourself, there are enemies to be dealt with, though. Among the corridors of houses you enter, multiple demonic creatures will be on the look out for any lonely souls, ambling about. Midway through my demo I was introduced to one, being shown how to take them out, as well as how to hide. I’m not expecting to come across anything too major in terms of threats, however I am looking forward to what lies ahead. I kept following the bread crumbs, before I pieced together clues that I’d found and selected them in the order of importance. It’s not entirely necessary for you to uncover all the evidence available in order to proceed, which was fun to realise, especially as I could challenge myself with how little I needed to know before I solved a case. Just like a true detective, I guess. I’ll only touch slightly upon the graphics, but as I played on PS4 I couldn’t help but feel that we should be seeing more of a graphical showcase from a title like this. It’s fair to say that the decision to bring the game to next-gen was a late one, but it’s nice to know we can keep our eyes fixed on our new consoles, without turning on our old kit.
Just like Ronan’s current mind set, I left my hands-on with countless questions as to how my journey would progress. With such a tight and controlled beginning, how much real freedom will I get going forward? It may seem quite stiff and traditional at first sight, but underneath I believe we’re going to be a multi-tiered detective story, or at least I hope we do.
Murdered: Soul Suspect releases on a plethora of platforms including: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, PS3 and PS4 on June 3rd in North America and June 6th in Europe.