Murdered: Soul Suspect draws inspiration from The Frighteners, Ghost and The Sixth Sense to tell the story of former Salem, Mass. cop Ronan O’Connor. Rendered into incorporeal form by the mysterious Bell Killer, he teams teams up with a reluctant psychic medium searching for her missing mother, a case that might have a connection to Ronan’s investigation of his own murder. A neat idea, but it doesn’t get any more exciting than its back of the box summary. Mired by boring and repetitive gameplay, Murdered: Soul Suspect is thoroughly devoid of life and energy.
What ruins Soul Suspect is its banality. The game is built around Ronan searching numerous locations relevant to the Bell Killer case, looking for clues that will bring the madman's killing spree to an end. Each crime scene is preceeded by a pertinent questions, like “Why did the Bell Killer come here?” or “What will it take to get X to help?” The clues you'll find serve as a possible answers to these questions. The key complaint about this is that the whole process feels like busy work. Why make me spend time hunting down numerous items and objects when only one (or sometimes three) will tell me where to go? The questions posed are not very taxing either. In one situation, a flashback inadvertently revealed the answer to the next puzzle.
The investigations make use of a scoring system that feels underutilized and out of place. Each collected clue is accompanied by three badge markers. What does these mean? Not one mention. Selecting the incorrect clue while answering a question will make the markers disappear until only one is left. What does this mean? Again, no explanation. I feel like the ease of Soul Suspect’s puzzle component comes from a desire to make the game as accessible as possible. There are no fail states or punishments for not getting questions right the first, second or third try. Perhaps Airtight Games was so enamored by their story, which isn’t anything spectacular to be honest, they didn’t want the gameplay to step on its toes.
The stealth action sequences does Soul Suspect no additional favors. From time to time, Ronan will encounter demons patrolling the area, hungry for his soul. Passing through their line of sight causes them to freak out and chase him down. There’s no overt reasoning as to why the demons are after Ronan. Given their frightening appearance and aggressive behavior, we are meant to acknowledge them as antagonists that have to be destroyed. Ronan cannot fight the demons directly and must rely on subterfuge by hiding inside columns of translucent ectoplasm in order to get behind them and perform an execution. Or you could just wait until their backs are turned and run up to them. Like the puzzle elements, this aspect of the game feels like it wasn't really planned out well enough. There's nothing particularly challenging about the whole affair.
By far, Soul Suspect’s biggest crime is that it takes the fun out of being a ghost. While evading demons, why force Ronan to hide inside something so aesthetically empty? If I can possess people and cats, it stands to reason that I should be able to hide from demons inside TVs, toasters, and tables. Also, can I not influence my possessed hosts in more meaningful and, dare I say, fun ways? Why can’t I haunt people? There’s a moment in the game where you have to help Joy escape the police station by distracting police officers by turning on copy machines, TVs or computers. This is way less fun than it should be. The police officers just walk up to the noise and stare stupidly at it. I should be able to scare the piss out of them by letting something float in the air rather than using the “Poltergeist” skill to turn a TV on and off.
Those who grow weary of collecting clues to solve the Bell Killer mystery can wander around town...and collect clues to solve mysteries. Scattered throughout the game are items that will reveal the history of a particular location. Collection hounds will be in their element but I doubt they won’t find much joy in what is Soul Suspect’s biggest chore. Ronan isn’t the only ghost in town and he will often cross paths with the other recently deceased who cannot move on until they can come to terms with their death. These side quests play out exactly the same way as the main investigation scenes, meaning you will wander around in the search for objects and memories to piece together their last moments. I had to quit one of these side missions because the game failed to offer proper direction.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is so aggressively middle of the road, a shame given its technical competence. For a game that lets you walk through walls and hear people’s thoughts, there is very little fun to be found. The potential is there but there is no escape from Airtight's “Oh, that’ll do” attitude. Given a bit more personality and higher stakes, the game might have been far more lively. In its current form, Murdered: Soul Suspect is a risky purchase, even at a bargain price.
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.