“I had two guns, and couldn’t take this guy down. Wow, I really suck!” – commented the main character of Murdered: Soul Suspect on his own death, after being murdered by the killer he was chasing. We couldn’t agree more…
In theory Murdered: Soul Suspect had all the ingredients to become a terrific game. Ronan O’Connor, the detective hero of the game gets killed and in a ghost form he investigates his own murder. Also the aim of the game was to provide the same kind of experience like the one we got from Heavy Rain and LA Noire: we could expect a moody detective thriller, lots of investigations, lots of dialogues, an ambience reminiscent of classic Hollywood movies, and exciting action sequences when we fight hair raising demons.
The main idea was excellent indeed (even if it’s just a rehash of the old Commodore Amiga game Scapeghost – thanks Berrr for digging out this information!), but what about the execution?
The fall of Ronan O’Connor
Our main detective hero’s fall is meant to be in a literal sense: after being beaten by a mysterious killer, he’s thrown out from the window, and most certainly breaks his back. The killer also wants to make sure about his job being done well and shots down O’Connor several times with his own gun at point blank range. In normal instances, this beginning would mean the end of the story, but our hero becomes a ghost and begins to investigate his own murder.
As a supernatural being he has actually more possibilities at his disposal then in a living form: for example he can enter the bodies of other people, influence them to think about certain things also say other things. He can also take a look at their notes and at the evidence presented and make his own conclusions.
Even cooler is the fact that our hero can see events from the past (like his own murder) and link together what happened. He can also speak to other ghosts and walk through “non-consecrated” buildings. It’s all sounds very, very exciting, isn’t it?
The harsh realization…
… of your limitations is even more cruel, when you gradually learn them. It’s actually a bigger letdown to experience that than if the game was just about a mundane detective doing his investigation.
First, lots the walls are consecrated (there must have been such an army of priests taking care to consecrate the wall) so that means that you cannot traverse those.
Second, possessing people isn’t actually that helpful, nor interesting: almost every time you do it, they just mumble some boring, banal line so you can move on. Even when it comes to more important characters, Ronan can usually only influence them to think of certain things by triggering specific topics. Basically if you were a living detective and you just talked to people, this part of the game would conclude to the same thing.
Detecting the detective work
And that doesn’t makes any difference when it comes to other kind of detective work since the basic gameplay is rather about scouring the environment for clues and objects. It’s like a dumbed down classic adventure game, where you have to literally swipe the area in search of interesting objects without actually using them together or at some other place. And it’s such a pain as it sounds: the worst thing about classic adventures was always the “area swiping” process and the developers made the mistake to incorporate this flawed element here as well.
After founding those objects, you must possess different persons so you can stimulate their memory or way of thinking and somewhat influence them to say certain things which will help your investigation. Then you have to piece it together with the evidence, or the events which happened in the past which you could see with your ghost eyes. Again, it’s a nice concept, but the developer’s big mistake was that instead of letting you to lead some kind of an investigation to find out the events, you have to actually prove that you understand what’s going on. If the game doesn’t believe you, you are stuck. It’s simple as that.
Sometimes even if you understand what happened you still lack some ingredients and you have to stay at some place trying to look for other, less interesting objects, just because the game won’t let you move on. Sometimes you really do get things wrong and in this case you’re simply told to have another go instead.
In any case it’s frustrating and boring at the same time. Unlike an action game, where dying at a certain point and having to fight your way back can be fun, restarting from an earlier stage in Murdered is a big punishment since doing the same actions and listening to the same conversations is just boring as hell.
Besides not finding out what the game wants from you another way to redo the same things is just… die! You would think that at least, if you are ghost – meaning that you are already dead – you won’t die anymore, right? Wrong. There are the so-called “demons”, which can attack you in some action sequences, and if they “eat your soul” – or whatever nonsense they call this in this game – the game happily puts you back to some far away checkpoint.
Of course it wouldn’t be a big problem, if those forced action sequences were at least slightly fun, but that isn’t the case. When a stupid looking demon is chasing you and you are stuck to one level (since the other way to get rid of the demons is just running through to a next level), all you can do is hide in some soul “artifact” and jump between those if the demon gets too close and tries to sniff you out. You can also play the assassin and try to “kill” the demon when they are turning their back using a combo with the gamepad.
If you are lucky, you can vanish those demons in this awkward fashion, if you are unlucky the demons turns back to you sooner and after running from them all you can do is restarting the hiding process once again. And if you are even more unlucky the demon catch you and kills you so you can start again from some checkpoint. Words cannot describe, how all this demon fighting is flawed and extremely retarded at the same time.
I am my dad’s Humphrey Bogart
At least the story is interesting, right? Wrong again. While it starts rather interesting in the beginning it gets pretty dull after a while, with badly written dialogues and shallow characters. The main hero tries so hard to be a cool “hard-boiled detective” that it’s almost a pain to see him (and also the guy who wrote his dialogues) struggle as hell with it.
All this shallowness as even more accentuated by the fact that the story is rather plot heavy. Sometimes it’s even less interactive than a Telltale game and unlike their Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us, storytelling here is pretty poor.
It doesn’t help either that in this age when have already next-gen consoles and powerful PCs at our disposal, the game looks a lot more dated then Heavy Rain in 2010 on the PS3, which was some four years ago on the old generation. Bland textures, poor details in characters and we could go on.
Guilty of first degree of frustration and boredom
It would be hard to recommend this game to anyone. The cool main concept is butchered by sloppy execution, frustrating gameplay, a lackluster story and a boring main character who strangely reminded me of Tex Murphy from the interactive movies era. At least Tex Murphy’s adventures were somewhat funny, but not this one. The biggest mystery in this game was how the developers could make such a disaster from such a good idea.
+ Ghost detective concept
– The whole execution
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Airtight Games
Genre: Investigation, action-adventure
Published: June 3