Murdered: Soul Suspect was a game riding on hype; gamers were excited and for good reason. For one it was a completely new IP from a major publisher, Square Enix, it seemed like an original and unique idea and it was a launch window game for the newly released Xbox One and PS4. Everything that was shown at events like E3 were well received. The detective ghost story seemed like a new concept and gamers were already drawing comparisons to Rockstar’s “LA Noire”. People were desperate to get some quality games for their new next generation consoles. There was major excitement and things were looking up prior to release.
However upon the release on June 3rd 2014, the game was not greatly received, with middling reviews across the board – and for many reasons. The combat was brain dead boring, the investigations were easy, and on the gameplay front there was almost no substance to speak of at all. It came out to okay sales and then disappeared into obscurity, just like many other mediocre games of the past. The developer Airtight Games suspiciously closed, a month after the game released.
That’s the story I knew coming into playing Murdered: Soul Suspect for the first time for this retrospective. I was not expecting much when I started and many of the complaints levelled at the game turned out to be completely true. However I came out of the experience with a much better impression and I think Soul Suspect is totally worth your time and money, at least depending on what you are looking for. This game is seriously underrated, and, in certain ways, it really manages to shine.
It follows Ronan, a detective, who after being killed by a serial killer that has been terrorizing the town of Salem, is turned into a ghost. He can’t move on to the afterlife without first solving the case and finding the identity of the killer. The mystery is genuinely intriguing and well put together; it surprised me how much I was invested in finding the killer and saving Ronan. The answers that await are surprising and entertaining, the reveal at the end is clever and in all, it totally surprised me. The pace is so breakneck that it never lets you go throughout the seven to eight hour experience, with Murdered: Soul Suspect coming across like a B-Movie horror thriller that’s just cheesy enough to be humorous, yet not too campy.
What helps make the mystery so alluring – and what surprised me the most about the game – was how entertaining and endearing the characters are. Especially the main character Ronan who I consistently had so much enjoyment listening to. Ronan is the quintessential “tough guy with a heart of gold” and they go so hard into it, that somehow it doesn’t feel cliche. He constantly drops these paperback noir lines that are so glorious and melodramatic; it’s great fun just to hear him monologuing. His voice work is also fantastic and is just enough smart ass, kind-hearted, and deductive.
Ronan is supported by a strong cast of other characters that for the most part are well written and performed. In particular his relationship with a younger character named Joy is sweet and a joy to watch develop as the game goes on. His relationship with brother-in-law Rex is also a highlight. There are surprising themes of family in the undercurrent of this paranormal mystery.
Besides the story, Murdered: Soul Suspect excels at atmosphere. The small open world that you have access to is not exactly filled with things to do however it does have a unique sense of creepiness and place. Salem’s past is rich, filled with horror and strife, and Soul Suspect takes full advantage of that history; everywhere you go there are references to the towns history from the revolutionary war to the famous witch trials. The art direction is just excellent, smokey blue phantom buildings, now long gone, are scattered throughout the town. Ghosts wander through the streets at night passing through the living citizens, street lights pierce through the darkness – there’s a deep sense of uneasiness. It helps that the ambient sound is also great, distant traffic and the occasional wails from spirits accentuate the unnerving feeling of the town.
This great sense of ambience and art direction is expanded doubly so in the game’s many sectioned off areas that you explore. While following the mystery, Ronan goes to graveyards, mental asylums, and museums. All of these places are excellently designed and are great to lurk through as you spend time solving the mystery. The conversations that you have with eccentric ghosts in each of these places is interesting and unique, the souls of criminals haunt the police station while the patients of the asylum still stalk its halls after their deaths. Some of these encounters are unnerving while others are just sad, yet each of the phantoms you meet has some reason why they haven’t moved on and all come across as interesting.
However, it definitely has to be said that the “combat” with demon enemies that begin to appear is absolutely horrible. Boring, in fact. You teleport from hiding place to hiding place then sneak up and kill them. It’s bad and generic, but it’s not painful. It’s just so easy that you deal with most encounters in under a minute. They also don’t show up for most of the game so you don’t really have to deal with them too often. But if you’re looking for fun gameplay that’s exciting or engaging, Soul Suspect will bore you into a ghostly afterlife. That said, mostly everything else this game has to offer is of shockingly high quality. The combat definitely takes a back seat but I almost didn’t mind because I was having so much fun following the murder mystery it presents.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is a game that surpassed my expectations – it’s worth experiencing and shouldn’t be forgotten. The strange paranormal tale and the world of Salem had me hooked to the screen the entire time. At the price it’s at now on the Xbox Store – 5 years after first release – it’s more than worth a try if you’re considering something new. In fact, I think it is quite possibly destined to become a cult classic.
Yes, it has major flaws for sure, but Murdered: Soul Suspect does not deserve to disappear like an apparition.