Article first published as PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Murdered: Soul Suspect’ on Blogcritics.
I first got a look at Airtight Games’ "Murdered: Soul Suspect" at Square Enix’s booth, at the 2013 E3 Expo. It was actually the second year in a row that I watched an Airtight Games presentation at Square Enix’s booth, and the highlight of my time there. "Murdered: Soul Suspect" is essentially a narrative driven, supernatural detective thriller. Players take on the role of Ronan O’Connor, a rough-around-the-edges Salem police detective whose just been murdered by the town’s brutal serial killer. Unable to move on in the afterlife, Ronan must get to the bottom of the events that led up to his death.
As fan of immersive narrative in video games, it’s not a surprise that "Murdered: Soul Suspect" piqued my interest. The playthrough I witnessed at the 2013 E3 Expo was essentially the beginning of the full game, so there were few initial surprises when I began my time with the full release. For the most, the game controls just like any other third-person action adventure game, though there is no combat, or even jumping, when you control Ronan. Ronan does grow in his new form and quickly learns the art of possession and teleportation. His street smart past also allows him to influence the thoughts of the living and unlock hidden memories.
The majority of your time in Salem with "Murdered: Soul Suspect" is spent finding clues and reading minds. Except for the occasional demon slaying, the game is essentially a point and click adventure with third person action game controls. Luckily the main plot is interesting and there are a handful of side quests and unlockable ghost stories for the completionists to experience. While the town is adequately populated, there really isn’t that much to do in the game. Though, "Murdered" isn’t priced like an episodic installment, and Ronan’s story is appropriately concluded, the game really begs for a continuation. I would have loved to have spent more time in the town, but unless you didn’t find all of the artifacts, there’s not much reason to return.
The relative lack of action, is likely to cause many gamers to dismiss the game, because what action there is, like dispelling demons, is relegated to quick time event sequences. After spending a good amount of time with TellTale’s adventure games, I am fairly familiar with this tactic and it’s not a real deal breaker for me. What I will say, is that beyond the higher production value, "Soul Suspect" is essentially on par with TellTale’s recent entries and in some ways, reminds me of a bigger budget version of Zombie Studios’ "Daylight." While "Murdered" is longer than a single TellTale episode and a single playthrough of the indie game "Daylight," it isn’t the length you would expect from similarly priced games.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with "Murdered: Soul Suspect," but it’s really too short of an adventure to justify the investment. While the game utilizes a good amount of motion capture, voice acting, and a number of other big ticket technologies, it’s still essentially a pretty small game. The simple puzzles and overall lack of gameplay depth, leave narrative as sole reason to buy this game. To be fair, it is a pretty good story, particularly if you’re a fan of thrillers and dark fiction like Edgar Allan Poe. Again, that narrative is really all you’re paying for, and unfortunately, with a handful of bigger titles just having been released, "Murdered" is likely to be lost in the fray.