Preview: Solving the mystery of Murdered: Soul Suspect from beyond the grave

Square Enix has quite a few projects in the pipeline, and these upcoming endeavors consist of sequels, remakes, and reboots. One entirely new IP, however, and easily one of the biggest games in the works by the publisher, is Murdered: Soul Suspect. I had the chance to check out the title in action, and while I didn't get any hands-on time with the game, I had the opportunity to see a fair amount of early gameplay. After witnessing Murdered firsthand, I got somewhat of a slight L.A. Noire vibe, though there's certainly more of a fantasy element here.

You play as the ghost of a detective who's been brutally murdered at the hands of a mysterious hooded individual. The demo presentation started off with the protagonist witnessing the hooded figure hunched over a body. Not realizing what was going on at first, the player character told the murderer to step away from the body. It didn't take long for the main character to figure out that the dead body was actually his — and this is where the mystery begins.

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The hook in this title is playing within the confines of the ethereal ghost realm. Murdered strives to create an out-of-body experience in the literal sense, tasking the player to interact with the world to solve the mystery behind the detective's horrific demise. This interaction isn't what you would expect, though, because as a ghost there are certain rules you need to follow and specific objectives you must complete in order to progress. I mean, you're a ghost — you're not just going to get answers by walking into a room and dusting for clues or interrogating a bunch of people.

Thankfully, even though you can't talk to people directly, you can possess them. Aside from seeing and hearing what they do, possessing an individual allows you to put thoughts into their minds. In the first sequence, for example, one woman who was near the crime scene at the time everything went down was being questioned by police. She was shaken and thus wasn't making any sense. By possessing her body, you can clear her mind, project thoughts into her head, and allow her to make more coherent statements when talking to the police. This process then allows you to obtain more information about the case.

One of the ghost rules I alluded to earlier involves entering buildings. As a street-wandering spirit, you can't exactly barge into people's houses as you see fit. Instead, you need to wait for a living person to open a door and enter right behind that person. The specificity of this restriction seems to be geared toward only allowing you to enter places that are directly linked to the story without creating a disconnect between you and the game world. It would be pretty odd (and probably annoying) to enter random buildings with absolutely nothing to gain from them, after all.

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Once you're inside a building, you can walk about freely, and you can even pass through walls. (Ah, the perks of being an otherworldly being.) Aside from being able to further interact with living people, you're also encouraged to explore building interiors. Optional side quests delve into the people of Salem, where Murdered takes place, and you can learn more about the town's lore and history.

As you explore, you need to be wary of the Dusk, an unsafe realm where demons lurk. These evil spirits actively seek out souls to destroy. Demons must be defeated from the inside, and you can't approach them head-on. If you're spotted, you'll have to get away from the demons. Escaping them includes entering the body of a living person or walking through a wall to get out of the Dusk. During these sequences, Murdered requires a more stealthy approach and requires you to stalk these enemies, enter their bodies, and burst out, destroying them in the process.

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Possessing characters, listening in on conversations, and interacting with objects help get you closer to solving this murder mystery. During certain points in the game, you'll be able to perform Memory Rescue, a mechanic that tasks you with selecting different steps to slowly figure out what happened in a given location. By putting clues together, you can progress and recall some of the events linked to your character's death. Once you've successfully obtained enough information and drawn conclusions, you're treated to a cutscene that recaps the events that took place leading or related to the crime.

Murdered: Soul Suspect is definitely something more different than we're probably used to from Square Enix. Adventure game elements on top of an action-adventure foundation create an experience that requires you to scour locations for clues before you can move on — all the while the game throws in stealth, combat, exploration, and side quests. This upcoming title has a lot of potential to be a great new IP. Here's hoping Square Enix and developer Airtight Games deliver on that potential when Murdered: Soul Suspect hits consoles and PC in early 2014.

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