Being a cop is hard work, especially when you’re dead. For Detective Ronan O’Connor, death came early one night while in pursuit of a serial killer in his hometown of Salem, MA. Murdered: Soul Suspect is a paranormal adventure game in which you control the ghost of Ronan, doing a little old fashioned detective work from beyond the grave as you attempt to solve the mystery of your death, as well as discovering the identity of The Bell Killer. Those looking for a bit of action or survival horror will be sorely disappointed, but fans of the paranormal and the adventure genre may find it easier to swallow.
As an adventure game, know up front that Murdered: Soul Suspect will not be full of action. There will be no shootouts, no high-speed chase scenes, no explosions and absolutely no boss fights. It’s best described as a point-and-click adventure game, sans the whole point and click thing. You’ll control Ronan in real time, but will spend a majority of the game hunting down clues, reading a bunch of text documents and using your new ghost powers to solve a series of crimes.
Each area of interest has some sort of mystery to unravel, which generally consists of scouring the area for interactive objects within the environment. After you’ve gathered all available clues in the immediate vicinity, you’ll then pick from the list of them and decide which is most important to solving your case. As that sounds rather drab, things are made slightly more interesting by using Ronan’s ghostly powers to possess NPC’s and either influence their decision making or sneak a peak at whatever documents they may be obscuring.
Once one mystery is solved, it’s on to the next.. and the next.. and then the next. And that’s one of the major drawbacks of Soul Suspect, as it never really injects variety in what you’re doing over the course of the entire game. Ronan does gain a few new tricks to explore a little more, like possessing cats to enter crawlspaces, teleportation and (yes, you can possess cats, I know you’re still on that) adding or removing certain objects likes stairs and doors, but never really obtains new crime solving tactics. As being a detective is the primary focus of the game, I found the lack of improvements to be a bit boring. I loved reading about the cases, learning about the killer and the history of Salem, but the actual detective work was a little bland in retrospect. I also found it odd that you can poltergeist objects to distract NPC’s, but they never actually noticed unless it was a scripted event.
Salem has a tainted history and there are plenty of other ghosts who could use your help crossing over, as well as an Assassin’s Creed-level of collectibles to find scattered about the various environments. During your time in Murdered: Soul Suspect, you’ll find yourself navigating a hipster version of Salem, complete with coffee shops and snobby inhabitants, both alive and deceased. You’ll also visit typical paranormal fare, like a church, a graveyard, an asylum, etc., so it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, but Soul Suspect does do a good job of not only making each environment fairly interesting, but providing history lessons in tiny snippets.
As with many new IP’s, Murdered: Soul Suspect sticks its nose where it doesn’t belong on a few occasions. At what seems like random intervals, Ronan encounters shade-like demons that act as guard dogs, patrolling areas in a set pattern as they wait unknowingly for death. We’re never really told why these things exist, or why Ronan can somehow exorcise them, but they provide the most annoying portions of the game by far. Ghosts in the area leave behind a residue that allows Ronan to hide within them, using them for cover while you inch closer and closer to the demons before quick-time event’ing them back to hell. Stealth mechanics are a tricky beast to pull off, and Murdered: Soul Suspect failed miserably. Thankfully these portions of the game are few and far between, but are nevertheless equal parts frustrating and uninteresting.
Graphically, Murdered: Soul Suspect fared well on the Xbox One version that I played for this review, although friends playing the Xbox 360 version did complain about consistently stuttering frame rate issues for the entire game. The Xbox One version rarely encountered graphical hiccups, aside from very rare occasions at the beginning of scripted cut-scenes. I enjoyed what the developers did overlapping historical parts of Salem with the present time, especially when I took the time to read all of the documents or speak with ghosts in area that would provide a reason for it appearing that way; a burning building or a makeshift triage, for instance. My favorite part of the game though, is how they included ghostly apparitions from Salem’s past almost everywhere. Trekking through the library and seeing through the corner of my eye the ghosts of small children, even for just a split second, was not only slightly terrifying, but really exciting, especially as a paranormal enthusiast.
I found Ronan’s character model to be memorable, hitting all of the right notes and resembling an old film noir detective, but I felt that his medium sidekick Joy stole the show. Sure, she’s a bratty teen, but she was emotionally more interesting and a good Robin to his Batman. As a young medium, she’s constantly approached by other ghosts and finds them intrusive and annoying, but against her better judgment she agrees to be Ronan’s hand in the living world as long as he helps find her mother. The characters were fine by themselves, but worked better as a team.
I wasn’t so much disappointed by Murdered: Soul Suspect as I was slightly bored. When I was solving crimes and progressing the story, I was entertained for the most part, but the predictable build up and lackluster ending kind of soured the experience for me. The repetitive detective work wasn’t poorly executed, although it’s been done better by games like L.A. Noire. It’s a decent premise that lasts around 7 or 8 hours, but I find it hard to recommend to anyone who isn’t a fan of the paranormal and adventure games. The history buff and bookworm in me loved reading about Salem and Ronan’s past, and ultimately that’s what kept my interest through the whole game. Murdered: Soul Suspect is nothing special, but provides something a little different. Sometimes that’s the most important thing.
Recommended for fans of: L.A. Noire, paranormal mysteries, horror-themed adventure games.
*This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game. Murdered: Soul Suspect is also available on PC, PS4, PS3 and Xbox 360, but unless we find significant differences between each version, consider this our definitive review.
Bradley Keene is an avid gamer & aspiring writer from Baltimore, MD that handles news, reviews and editing here at What’s Your Tag?. If he’s not writing or knee-deep in an MMO, he’s usually watching low-budget horror films or following Orioles baseball. Follow him on Twitter, Twitch or contact him by e-mail. Love gaming? Join TEAM XBRO today!