At the end of the night 'Murder Soul Suspect' on the PlayStation 4 was a bit of a disappointment, when we finally pushed our controller away, we felt that we had found a title that refused to cater to us. Sure, the game itself wasn't difficult but nothing was played up or down played in order to appeal to us.
'Murdered: Soul Suspect' on the PlayStation 4 is a stealth based video game developed by the guys over at Airtight Games (Quantum Conundrum, Dark Void). The title was published by Square Enix in 2014. We got a chance to check out the PS4 version of the game before ever really getting to hear too much about it. What we found both surprised us and made us hopelessly excited about what to expect from the franchise going forward. before we delve too deeply into the review let's take a moment to discover just what the game actually is about.
Detective Ronan O'Connor has had a pretty rough time of it lately. Not only was his wife, Julia, killed many years ago, but O'Connor starts the game off suffering the same fate. Set in Salem, Massachusetts, we begin our adventure following the erstwhile detective as he chases down the brutal serial killer known only as the 'Bell Killer'. Needless to say O'Connor doesn't take out the man and instead gets throw out of a window during a pursuit. The bell Killer goes and finishes O'Connor off by letting lose some lead into the poor detectives body. For most officers killed in the lien of duty, that would be the end of the tale. Not here, though. Ronan instead finds himself revived as a ghost. And upon revival he comes into contact with Julia, his dead wife. She tells her ghost husband that he can't join her in the afterlife until he settles the score he has left on Earth. Ronan has to go BACK and find the man who killed him. In order to do so he will have to team up with the one woman who saw his murder: a young psychic girl named Joy.
We've all seen video games and movies that use Salem as a setting in order to pull off the paranormal/supernatural vibe. Despite that common trope we found that 'Murdered: Soul Suspect' managed to still intrigue us enough. After first reading the synopsis we feared some unholy mash up of 'RIPD' and 'Sherlock Holmes' but what we found was instead something interesting in its own rights.
With the slightly over the top setting we were fully expecting the game to be full of hammy acting and cheesy dialogue. While the synopsis itself reads pretty cheesy, the game never lets itself go 'over the top'. Though we follow a deceased detective and his ghost whispering partner, the whole aura of the game is handled in a mature fashion. Now this wouldn't have been possible if the writing in the game was bad. The straight faced nature that the characters take the experience could have devolved into unaware self parody, but it never does that.
Instead we come to identify with Ronan and really appreciate the character almost immediately. Yeah, he fits into the archetype of 'troubled, grizzled cop with a heart of gold' but he slides into it gently, not in an over the top Nicholas Cage type manner. The fact that he is a ghost, while central to the storyline, never really works itself into the story as a gimmick. Instead we learn more about who Ronan is and what he was and from there we manage to even summon sympathy for his plight. Ronan isn't a man operating out of violent revenge fantasies. He just wants to be with his wife again and that is heartbreaking on a level that we shouldn't be comprehending in a game about ghosts.
Joy herself could have also, easily, jumped the shark into completely unbearable territory. In the story she is a snarky character that isn't afraid to sink her teeth into banter. Always afraid of the 'Kat Dennings' type sidekick (From the 'Thor' films) we were prepared to dislike her almost on sight. But instead we found her to be appealing in a way that has nothing to do with her bad attitude. She's a lost girl who grudgingly works with the dead to help them find closure. She doesn't love what she does, but most people don't.
Getting past the main characters lets dig into the meat and bones of the gameplay. 'Murdered: Soul Suspect' works as a stealth/detective game not completely unlike 'L.A. Noire'. No, 'Murdered' isn't as smooth or polished as that title but there are sections that are comparable.
We find out early in the game that ghosts have the amplified abilities of what they had when they were living, breathing humans. So as an already astute detective, Ronan quickly finds himself charting pretty special territory with his investigative skills. You'll find clues with Ronan and then compile them together to help push your investigation. This is where the heart of the game spends it time. You'll investigate multiple crimes throughout the game but all of them run the sort of same direction: find the clues, piece together the information, and re-create events of the past by using your psychic's ability. One of the perks that you will use to great effect is your phasing ability. Since Ronan is a ghost, there is nothing off limits to him. Walk through walls or doors or whatever you want.
Some of the quirks that keep the game going involve helping OTHER ghosts find out how or why they died. These work as essentially side quests and they give you a broader glimpse of the world that 'Murdered' has created. You'll learn more about the morbid pasts of these other characters and some of them will even make you feel for them. others are just dark and morbid, which we suppose is a feeling. You'll also have your own fair share of escort missions and 'exorcisms' as well. We won't delve into either mission type as they are totally fun to walk blindly into. We aren't even being sarcastic.
At the end of the night 'Murder Soul Suspect' on the PlayStation 4 was a bit of a disappointment, when we finally pushed our controller away, we felt that we had found a title that refused to cater to us. Sure, the game itself wasn't difficult but nothing was played up or down played in order to appeal to us. This was a simple and entertaining title.