Price: £24.99 Developer: Airtight Games Publisher: Square Enix Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, X360 Version Reviewed: PC
Detective Ronan O'Connor is dead. He's been thrown out of a second-storey window and shot seven times by the mysterious Bell Killer, a serial murderer terrorising the streets of Salem, Massachusetts, who the town's entire police force has been tracking for weeks. O'Connor's ghost rises from his body and walks towards the light. There in the ethereal glow he sees his wife, recently deceased in an unrelated incident. O'Connor walks toward her, but there is a barrier between himself and the light. O'Connor's wife informs him he must have some unfinished business back on Earth, and until he fills in this final gap, he cannot be at peace.
"What about your life feels unfinished?" she asks urgently.
O'Connor, the detective who was brutally murdered by the very killer he was hunting, looks into his wife's ghostly eyes, and whispers:
"I don't know."
This was the first time I howled with laughter while playing Murdered: Soul Suspect, and it wasn't the last. It's an awful game, a potentially intriguing concept brought to its knees by tedious mechanics and a script that magically transforms SERIOUS DRAMA one of the weirdest comedy games you'll ever encounter. There's no way in this world I could possibly recommend it, but I had an absolute ball watching its spectral players bumble from one catastrophically stupid scene to the next.
This humour was tinged with sadness, however, because for the first hour or so Soul Suspect demonstrates the potential to be a genuinely interesting detective game. It dispenses with combat entirely, instead lending the player agency through investigating crime scenes in and around Salem. The first of these is the scene of your own murder. Investigations are performed by collecting clues using a mixture of standard techniques like observation and interpretation, and supernatural abilities, such as the ability to eavesdrop on people unnoticed, and possess them in order to read their minds and influence their thoughts.
At first the novelty of these systems is enough to power Soul Suspect forward. Unfortunately, the whole investigation concept reveals itself to be incredibly simplistic, never evolving the mechanics it introduces in those initial stages. Half the time "investigating" means running around an area sweeping up all the clues like a ghostly broom. Occasionally Soul Suspect might ask you to "reveal" supernatural residue that leads to a clue, or identify the correct object out of several choices. But it's simple to the point of being insipid. Here's an example. Without any context given, guess the object relevant to the investigation in the screenshot below:
This is Soul Suspect's idea of detective work. An even greater problem is that, beyond these investigations, Soul Suspect creates nothing of interest out of its "ghost-cop" concept. In fact, it quite literally runs into problems with this idea from the off. Since you're a ghost, you can walk through walls. Which is great, right? Because you can go anywhere. "Whoa! Hold your horses!" yells Soul Suspect. "Sure, you can walk through walls. But you can't walk through...ghost walls!"