Renewed faith in Murdered: Soul Suspect
Murdered: Soul Suspect is one of those games that I fell in love with immediately after its announcement. The intriguing idea of playing as a ghost attempting to solve your own murder appealed to me greatly. But after seeing some hands-off presentations of the game, I became wary of both the gameplay and its graphics. It wasn't until PAX East earlier this month that I was finally able to go hands-on with the game myself to see how it plays -- and I'm back on the hype train.
The playable demo actually consisted of gameplay I had seen during prior presentations, but for the first time I was actually able to control Ronan O'Connor. After a fairly lengthy opening cinematic in which you learn a little backstory to O'Connor, and witness his gruesome murder, I was thrown into the ghostly world of Murdered: Soul Suspect, presumably from the beginning of the game.
The initial story is simple at first: solve your murder, but a little ways through I was presented with an interesting story in which O'Connor's wife explains he is at a bridge and can not cross over into the afterlife until he first figures out why he's stuck there. Is figuring out his murderer the only thing he must do? I don't know the answer, but it's certainly an intriguing premise.
So I retraced my steps as O'Connor. The investigation setup is quite similar to that of L.A. Noire. You walk around and search an area for evidence or clues. Then using those clues, you deduce logical explanations for events like "Why was the killer here?" In addition to looking for physical evidence, O'Connor has the ability to possess people since you can't really talk to them directly (you're a ghost after all). Upon possessing someone, you are presented with a number of options including hearing their thoughts and persuasion to help them piece together clues on their own.
Once you gather enough evidence, you are usually tasked with putting the clues together to form a conclusion. It's important to note that while you can be wrong in your deduction of the clues, it doesn't really affect the story. You'll still see the same cutscenes and reach the same conclusion whether or not you answer correctly or wrongly. The only thing that is affected is your overall case score, but who really cares about that?
My demo took me through the opening scene into the actual building of my murder. From here, I learned a few more mechanics that I'd already seen in past demos. This includes the ability to walk through walls. As a ghost, O'Connor can enter any building regardless of whether or not it has a protection spell as long as there is an opening somewhere. Once inside the building, O'Connor has free roam. Walking through walls is a neat mechanic, but I often found myself lost as it's very easy to get turned around when you just run through rooms with no real awareness of where you are in correlation to the overall building. If there is a map or anything that could help with this, I couldn't find it.
Inside the building, I was met with two more gameplay features: side missions that involve learning more about the history of Salem (where the game takes place) and its inhabitants who are also stuck in the same limbo as you. It was also here that I was confronted with my first threat, Demons, that feed off of the souls of people stuck in this realm. During this part the game switched from detective gameplay to a more sneak and stealth approach. Since you can't defeat a demon head-on, you must sneak behind them and kill by entering them from the back and making them explode. If you are spotted, you have to run and hide either inside the body of a living person or in your ghostly residue. What's neat is that you can teleport from residue to residue, though it's only short distances.
After a quick stealth sequence, I found myself inside the room of my murder -- well, the room I was tossed out of. Again, the game shifted into more detective gameplay. I had to search for clues answering the question "Why was the killer here?" and "What was the girl doing?" The latter question was found after I discovered some traces of this mysterious woman. Again, after some lengthy searching, I attempted to answer the question. For the clues I didn't find, those answers were simply blacked out and left a mystery. After answering the question to the best of my ability I was presented with another cutscene that helped explain her connection with the killer. And that's where my demo ended.
Overall, I came away from Murdered: Soul Suspect with some renewed faith. The graphics still aren't what you'd expect from a game coming to next-gen systems, but they are passable. Gameplay, for the most part, is smooth with no noticeable hiccups. It does seem slow at times, but it's a detective game, so that's expected. Again, my only gripe with the design is the ability to walk through walls as it often left me lost. If there was a map or some sort of button that allowed me to choose when to pass through walls I think that would solve it.