Not all video game heroes are, well, heroic. We've seen a well-dressed creeper who couldn't let his ex-girlfriend get on with her life, a boy who can't touch salt because his body lacks protective skin, and an extreme hedgehog who has a gun. Video games are strange. In Murdered: Soul Suspect, you embody a ghost who was a detective in life, but in death is more ethereal voyeur than law enforcement officer. It's not often that an invisible peeping Tom takes the limelight, and the very nature of this unusual setup is enough to draw me in. After three hours, I don't feel comfortable giving my full assessment of Square-Enix' underhyped release, but I certainly have thoughts I wanted to share for those curious about Murdered: Soul Suspect.
Usually in games, once a hooded thug plugs you with seven point-blank bullets to the chest, you duck behind cover to regenerate your health or, if worse comes to worse, you promptly reappear at the last checkpoint. In Murdered, bullets mean death (hence the name), and as you watch your corporeal body become riddled with bloody holes, you can take solace in the fact that ghosts don't feel pain. Ronan (that's the criminal-turned-cop you play as) has "unfinished business," so he stays in our world as a spirit to hunt down his killer, using the only method an up-and-coming ghost has at his disposal: surveillance
Murdered isn't one of those games which will test your skills or strategic abilities. Rather, you walk through derelict churches and haunted apartments to gather clues that could lead you to the answer you've devoted your death to solving. Walk through walls into a person's locked bedroom to see what stray objects you can find, or poke around in the boiler room to see if there's a hint toward your killer's motive hidden in the moldy dampness. Any stray tidbit beckons you to click on it, to find out how that piece fits into the obituary puzzle you're constructing, so much of the action involves scanning the environment to see what secrets are waiting to be collected.
The deliberate pacing immediately pulled me in, because I do love slowly figuring out how and why a crime took place. Murdered is similar to Ghost Trick in that regard, only without the titular ghost tricking, or like L.A. Noire, but without the aggressive interrogations. So there's not a hook that demands your attention. Rather, it's the story that bears the brunt of the weight, and that's where Murdered struggles so far.
Call me a prude if you want, but I can't relate to Ronan, the tattooed criminal that you inhabit. And it's not for the reasons that you might guess. His life of crime before he discovered the errors of his ways doesn't turn me off; rather, it's his stoic personality. In fact, using the term “personality” to describe his disposition is being generous. He's tough, I guess, but other than that nebulous trait, there's little else to Ronan. So, even though the setup is intriguing, I don't actually care who killed him, why they did it, or how amazing his relationship with his ex was before she (and then he) perished. Granted, he may become more developed as I plow deeper into the adventure, but it's not the best first impression.
So what is keeping me playing, other than that reviewing Murdered is my job? Well, like Ronan, I am curious how people live. Much of the appeal so far is getting into the heads of the living you encounter to see what thoughts they have bouncing in their heads. Hearing a wife complain that her husband cares about the television more than her, or that he's annoyed with her staring out the window all the time, isn't giving me particular insight into the human psyche, but I'm so much of a snoop that I don't even care. The same is true of the ghosts you meet who need help. These lost souls want to figure out why they died, and you piece together the details of their deaths just like you do your own. When I discovered why a woman perished in a boating accident, it wasn't fascinating, but the allure of knowing everyone's personal business is powerful enough that I care even about mundane things.
And it's that reason that I still want to see the many secrets that Murdered: Soul Suspect hides. Even though the individual parts of the story aren't particularly interesting, and gathering clues requires no more work than walking and tapping a button, being inside the body of a snooping ghost still keeps me invested. I'm not saying that my one wish would be to have Ronan's unsavory powers, but as long as I'm given the chance, I might as well take advantage of it. Check back on GameSpot tomorrow to see my final thoughts on Murdered: Soul Suspect.