‘Murdered: Soul Suspect’
(Rated M; $59.99) Doesn’t carry itself like a blockbuster. That’s for the best, really.
It starts with the story of Ronan O’Connor. Very quickly we learn of his distant and recent history as a down-on-his-luck criminal-turned-detective who was well on his way to turning his life around before his true love was mercilessly killed before his eyes. Inconsolable after such a tragedy, O’Connor’s approach to his detective work becomes ever more reckless, to the point where he goes into a building after a dangerous killer, gets tossed out a window, and then shot a whole bunch of times with his own gun.
O’Connor dies, gruesomely and unceremoniously. That’s where the player steps in.
Because O’Connor had some unfinished business, his ghostly form pops up out of his body. The player – as O’Connor’s ghost – then begins the slow process of investigating his own murder.
Searching for clues
These investigations generally take the form of hunt-and-peck exercises, with clues that are spread out across each scenario. An awful lot of the game’s playtime is spent walking around and looking for the little trinkets and irregularities that might be pertinent to the investigation. In a welcome twist that benefits the player, there are many cases in which not all the clues must be found in order to advance the story. As long as you find the important ones, you can move on.
By requiring a slow, measured approach to play, “Murdered” recalls not just contemporary mystery games like “L.A. Noire,” but also the point-and-click PC adventures of the 1990s. There is very little flash here – beyond the gimmick of inhabiting a ghost – and the matter-of-fact approach that the game takes to that gimmick fits perfectly with the urgent but largely calm gameplay. You look for clues, you solve puzzles, and every so often, you sneak up behind a demon and execute it.
This last bit is by far the weakest part of the game, as investigations are routinely interrupted by the sometimes infuriating presence of these demons. The demons don’t speak and don’t add anything to the story. They merely float around and attack if they see you, as if they were sloppily inserted for the sake of adding tension. Knocking the demons off is admittedly satisfying, but mostly because it allows for a return to the good stuff – the investigation.
Playing with ghosts
While it doesn’t take all that long to get from the beginning to the end of the game’s primary mystery, there are plenty of other investigations to take part in as well. In the course of looking around any given scene, you’ll happen upon lots of ghosts, some of which are spending their extended time on this earthly plane just waiting for a helpful detective to come along and solve their murders so that they can “move on.”
Conveniently ignore the combat, and “Murdered: Soul Suspect” is an absorbing, well-designed game that will reward whatever care you put into it. Let it draw you in, and you’ll discover a fine place to spend a few hours.
And remember: Like any good ghost story, “Murdered” is best experienced in the dark.
“Murdered” is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.
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