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Murdered: Soul Suspect – a game currently in need of intensive care

Thursday, 27 February 2014 15:59 GMT By Stace Harman

Stace Harman plays the opening hours of Airtight Games’ ghostly detective game and comes away more chilled than thrilled.

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“Murdered: Soul Suspect currently fails to compare favourably to any of the titles it elicits mention of.”

For a game with a relatively unusual premise – that of investigating your own murder – it’s surprising how many other games spring to mind when describing Airtight Games’ new supernatural detective title, Murdered: Soul Suspect.

Based on the game’s opening 90 minutes, there are elements of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective in its narrative, whispers of Phoenix Wright in its evidence gathering and investigation, and even early Metal Gear titles and Mark of the Ninja in its approach to stealth, evasion and basic combat. It’s a shame, then, that Murdered: Soul Suspect currently fails to compare favourably to any of the titles it elicits mention of.

Primarily, this is because what’s on offer in this current build is more interesting to describe than it is to play. At its heart, Murdered: Soul Suspect is the story of rough-around-the-edges cop, Ronan O’Connor, and how he comes to be a shadow of his former self after being thrown out of a window and then shot seven times while lying prone in the street (which, on the plus side, imbues his ghost with a splash of colour to offset the otherwise muted ethereal palette).

Dead but otherwise undeterred, Ronan sets out to hunt his killer – who has killed before and will likely do so again – by way of a series of investigations and by interacting with other wandering spirits. Seeing as Murdered: Soul Suspect is set in Salem there’s likely to be more activity on this front than if the game were set in, say, South-East London and sure enough, within those first couple of hours I encounter a host of friendly and malicious supernatural beings. Consequently, I help locate a hedonistic girl’s hidden corpse so that she might find peace, banish patrolling demons and then nonchalantly chat with a spirit in a bath tub who laments his bad luck at being electrocuted while he was trying to slit his wrists (a rare instance of dark humour in the game’s opening section).

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What I don’t do, though, is very much actual investigating. Surveying first the crime scene created when Ronan landed in the street and later the third-floor apartment from which he was thrown, this early detective work is rudimentary in structure and lacklustre in its execution. It’s fair to hope that that both the complexity and scope of such scenes will ramp-up later in the game but early on they demand no more than walking around and finding items to interact with by manipulating the camera to just the right angle.

Progress is then determined by satisfying particular criteria and involves selecting one or more of the discovered clues to establish what a particular person was doing at the scene or where to head next for a lead. It sounds interesting and fun but, sadly, the pernickety manner in which clues are highlighted and Ronan’s laboured thought process and subsequent narration conspire to counter my enjoyment.

Speaking to Airtight Games senior design producer, Eric Studer, it’s apparent that the linear, single-
outcome story is taking precedence in Murdered: Soul Suspect. As such, the investigative elements cannot be failed, only succeeded to varying degrees on a three-star scale, as Airtight is keen to avoid presenting too many opportunities for player frustration.

“We have a very clear story that we’re telling based on the creative director’s [Yosuke Shiokawa] vision and that story has a singular ending,” says Studer. “Discovering the world as a ghost and uncovering the story through these investigations were the core pillars [of design].

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“In some of the [investigation] systems you can get the wrong answer, which means you have to attempt it again,” Studer explains. “The combination of going out of your way to find the extra clues and doing particularly well at an investigation means that you’ll do better overall and achieve a higher rating for the investigation.”

Another investigative tool at Ronan’s disposal is to possess the living, which initially amounts to hearing what someone is thinking. In some instances, Ronan can also attempt to manipulate their speech or behaviour by referring to a piece of evidence that he’s already collected in the hope of jogging the memory of an eye witnesses or making someone move away from an area that he wants to get at. Both of these tricks have strong potential to develop later in the game but both are also governed by the same rating system as the overall investigation, meaning no chance of failure. Being on the ball and selecting the correct piece(s) of evidence will net you a higher performance rating
but you’ll get to the right answer eventually, regardless.

“The opening hours of Murdered: Soul Suspect suffer from a worryingly narrow scope.”

The opening hours of Murdered: Soul Suspect suffer from a worryingly narrow scope. Alongside the lack of interpretive freedom in the investigations, there’s also a very basic stealth and combat mechanic that sees demons patrolling corridors and Ronan having to creep up behind them to execute them via random controller inputs that flash-up onscreen. Failing to execute this correctly results in the demon chasing you until either you give it the slip or it eats your soul; which is tiresome rather than taut. In addition, the progression system that sees Ronan unlock new abilities is tied strictly to the narrative and not your performance, so you’ll unlock skills as and when the game dictates.

While the potential to be able to guide Ronan’s incorporeal form straight through physical real world objects, barriers and people initially seems exciting, this potential is almost immediately neutered by the appearance of ghostly objects that bar your ghostly passage. What’s more, with Salem’s history being what it is, the majority of its buildings have had their foundations consecrated to quell the activity of troublesome spirits and bar their coming and going. In game play terms, that means you can’t just walk into any building that takes your fancy.

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However, once inside a building by way of an open door or window, you’re free to pass through interior walls at will and into the lives of some of Salem’s listless residents as they indulge in such salacious activities as watching TV, playing cards or reading a book. Currently, the camera lurches from one side of the wall to the other when you try this trick, although that’s something that there’s plenty of time to fix ahead of release.

It’s rare to come away from playing a preview build with so little optimism and it should be noted that, with several months’ development time left ahead of it, Murdered: Soul Suspect could yet grow into an engaging and interesting game. In fact, it may already be an interesting and engaging game, just one that starts very, very slowly. However, what’s most disheartening is that Murdered’s issues appear to stem from the very mechanics, characters, premise and story upon which the whole experience is predicated. Whether there’s the scope and the desire to make the necessary changes to its foundation and delivery methods in order for it to realise its potential is a mystery that only time will solve.

Murdered: Soul Suspect is set for release on PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and 360 in June

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6 Comments

  1. Fin

    Thought as much.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. fihar

    I arrived at a single conclusion after reading all this.
    A supernatural L.A. Noire.

    I’m sold.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. Edo

    Yeah,we’ ll see.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. BrokenSpline

    I can’t wait for this even if its linear as its by a new developer who is trying their hand in triple A and not only that is by the studio with Kim Swift. Its a crew of 15-30 people as well so if you were expecting something groundbreaking gameplay-wise you were lying to yourself.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. TheWulf

    I had suspicions that this might be the case. It’s by Airtight, who’re the people who brought us Dark Void and Quantum Conundrum. The highlight of their catalogue, in my opinion, being Quantum Conundrum.

    I honestly think they’re trying to mainstream too hard, here. They almost did that with Dark Void, too, but I felt like Dark Void had some redeeming qualities. It’s more that they want to make money, but they’re not happy with or passionate about making games like this, and it shows. They’re going through the motions and doing ‘pay the bills’ projects.

    The thing is though is that they can’t help themselves, they want to have fun with this stuff, so Soul Suspect does sound like it’s got some fun ideas, but it’s been drowned under the try-hard they coated it with to sell it to the mainstream. I think that without that coating it would have actually been a fun game, and all they’d need to do is just give up on the mainstream audience they’re trying to court with these efforts.

    Despite everything, Quantum Conundrum was well loved and it’s something of a cult classic, not unlike the original Portal. And whenever you can get a more boring person to set aside their preconceived notions, to sit down with it and actually play it, the result is almost invariably that they’ve found something that they’ll never forget. It was one of those memorable games that you won’t forget. Perhaps it was the charm of de Lancie, or the personality of the environments, or how fun it was to play, but it was great.

    Even the humour. It was a blast finding out that the Professor wasn’t just stuck in a pocket dimension, but literally a pocket dimension. If you were nerdy enough to appreciate that, anyway. Which my particular circle was and is.

    And that’s what they do best.

    This isn’t.

    This is them trying to be popular. It’s not working. They’re weirdo nerds who have charm to the right audience, and if they make games which embrace that, then they’ll be at least somewhat successful. They need to be way less intelligent and way more bro-culture than this though to court the mainstream.

    So that’s what I see happening, here. They’re trying so hard to court the mainstream, but they can’t change their nature.

    Hopefully they’ll remember that with their next game.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. TheWulf

    @4

    Quantum Conundrum was already groundbreaking gameplay–wise, it’s just that the bro-cultured mainstream never really gave it a chance to prove that, it had too much character and individuality for that audience.

    But once you got at least two of the glove powers, the puzzles they threw at the player were, quite frankly, genius. I’m going to be in a minority here and say that I liked the gameplay of Quantum Conundrum better than I liked that of Portal 2. With the original Portal, it’s hard to decide which I liked better, but QC is definitely miles ahead of Portal 2 in just about every way.

    So they are capable of groundbreaking experiences, but they just have to remember their roots to be able to make those games.

    #6 1 year ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    If Elite: Dangerous looks this good on Xbox One we have nothing to complain about. Microsoft revealed Elite: Dangerous is coming to Xbox One this year during its GDC presentations today. We don’t know very much about the port, but I suppose we ought to have expected it; Frontier Developments has a very close relationship […]

  • Battletoads to appear in Shovel Knight Xbox One

    A Battletoads remake must be on the horizon. Right? Right?? The Battletoads will appear in the upcoming Xbox One version of Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games revealed today. The Battletoads drop in for a fight! Shovel Knight is headed to Xbox One and meets up with @RareLtd brawling trio! pic.twitter.com/OCQIuWbH3W — Yacht Club Games (@YachtClubGames) […]

  • The Division pre-alpha footage leaks, Ubisoft says it’s well out of date

    The Division fans finally got a look at Ubisoft’s MMO this week, but the publisher has said the footage is not in any way representative. Pre-alpha footage of the The Division was leaked this week, but has since been thoroughly smacked down by takedown notices. All that remains are a few screenshots and a GIF: […]

  • Microsoft HoloLens designer killed in hit and run accident

    Very sad news out of Redmond this week, as Mike Ey was killed in a tragic accident. Ey, 30, was one of the key project designers on Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset. He was killed on Saturday morning in a rear-end collision. The driver of the second vehicle fled the scene but was tracked down by […]

  • AMD throws support behind VR with new low-latency anti-nausea tech

    GPU manufacturer AMD has released a new SDK compatible with “a broad set of VR devices”. Called LiquidVR, the tech is designed to “bring better content, comfort, and compatibility to VR applications” including games, simulation, entertainment, education, social media, travel, medicine, real estate and ecommerce, apparently. AMD said maintaining comfort and realism in VR environments […]

  • Danganronpa 3 in the works, but a long way off yet

    A new Danganronpa is happening. Danganronpa 3 is in the very, very early production stages, writer Kodaka Kazutaka has confirmed. Nothing about the project is “set in stone”, Kazutaka told Polygon, so there are no details to share yet; the characters and story may change several times before being finalised. The writer said he’s weighing […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League 2015 schedule announced

    Major League Gaming has announced the full schedule for the 2015 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League. The eSpots firm revealed two more seasons of Pro League, a live Relegation tournament for Season Three, and a season ending World Championship with $250,000 up for grabs You can watch all the action on MLG.tv […]

  • Happy Birthday PlayStation 2, you are almost old enough to drive

    Amidst all the GDC 2015 hoopla today, we forgot to wish PlayStation 2 a Happy Birthday. The system turned 15 years old today, going by its March 4, 2000 launch date in Japan. It was released in the west that autumn, and had shipped 100 million units in less than six years post launch. PS2 […]

  • Here’s what the final version of Valve’s Steam Controller looks like

    A look at the updated Steam Controller has surfaced via a hands-on post from Polygon. Valve said what you see in the images below is the final version of the controller. The controller has gone through numerous revisions since it was first revealed, but it seems Valve has decided on two touch pads which work […]

  • The Sims, SimCity developer closed down

    The Sims 4 developer Maxis has been shuttered, EA has confirmed. The Sims, SimCity and the rest of the Sim franchise has traditionally been helmed by Maxis, which had its flagship studio in Emeryville, California. Now EA has confirmed with Kotaku that this studio is being closed. “Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to […]

  • Gigantic MOBA coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One with cross-play

    Today during GDC 2015, Microsoft announced that the new IP from Motiga called Gigantic will be cross-play enabled. Slated for Windows 10 and Xbox One, the five-on-five third-person battle arena game allows the player to select from an array of heroes with distinctive powers and play styles. Players will then make their way through areas […]

  • Here’s a look at Unreal Tournament DirectX 12 gameplay

    Epic Games is creating Unreal Tournament using Unreal Engine 4 running on DirectX 12, which Microsoft says “sets a new bar for visual fidelity.” DirectX 12 is a single API developers can access across Windows devices, which can result in a 20% improvement in performance over DX11 running on the same machine. The Unreal Tournament […]

  • Wireless adapter for Xbox One controllers out later this year

    Microsoft announced at GDC 2015 today it will that all wireless Xbox gaming accessories will be designed for and supported on both Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs moving forward. Later this year, a wireless adapter will be released, allowing current Xbox controllers and future devices to be used wirelessly on PCs. This will […]

  • Microsoft offers up more details on Spencer’s GDC 2015 talk

    Microsoft has provided more details on Cross-Buy functionality between Windows 10 and Xbox One as well as the Xbox Live SKU and other announcements made during Phil Spencer’s talk today. During the session, the head of Xbox shared “the next step” in the company’s plans for a unified platform across all Windows 10 devices which […]

  • Wasteland 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 this summer

    Wasteland 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 as a Game of the Year Edition. inXile Entertainment announced the news on the PS Blog, noting the edition contains enhancements and improvements. The game has been ported to Unity 5, which was announced over the weekend, providing upgraded visual effects, “improved character models, upgraded environments, and Unity […]

  • Cross-Buy detailed for Windows 10 and Xbox One; Elite: Dangerous coming to Xbox One

    During Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s session at GDC 2015 today, it was announced Elite: Dangerous would release on Xbox One. Spencer also outlined cross-buy functionality across Windows 10 and Xbox One. Spencer’s talk started off with Frontier Developments announcing Elite: Dangerous for release this summer as a console debut on Xbox One, suggesting the Elite: […]

  • Longbeards Culture Pack available now for Total War: Attila

    The Longbeards Culture Pack is now available for Total War: Attila and it comes with three new playable factions. The Langobards, the Burgundians and the Alamans can be played in both single and multiplayer campaign modes as well as custom and multiplayer battles. A new feature called The Lay of Ybor is also included. It […]

  • Nvidia unveils Titan X as world’s “most advanced GPU” – video

    Nvidia revealed Titan X as “the world’s most advanced GPU” during Epic founder Tim Sweeney’s State of Unreal session a t GDC 2015 today. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang took the stage during the panel stating it contains “8 billion transistors,” and has 12GB of RAM. Pricing wasn’t announced, but it was rumored back in January […]

  • Steam sale discounts titles announced for SteamOS

    With many of the year’s most popular games heading to SteamOS, Valve has decided to host sale in celebration. Here’s a short list of titles on sale. The full list of PC, Linux, Mac and SteamOS discounts can be found through the link. The Banner Saga Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Batman: Arkham […]

  • PayDay 2 announced for SteamOS, celebrating with franchise sale

    PayDay 2 is coming to SteamOS, Overkill has announced. Still under development, a release date will be announced at a later date. “Making sure PAYDAY 2 is available on SteamOS felt like a no-brainer,” said Bo Andersson Klint, CEO of Starbreeze in the press release. “With PAYDAY 2: Crimewave Edition coming to the next generation […]

  • Magicka 2 has a release date and a crazy new trailer

    Magicka 2 has a release date for PC and the PlayStation 4, and Paradox Interactive has released a trailer featuring “Vlad’s latest lyrical triumph,” which is his rendition of the Game of Thrones theme. Magicka arrived on PC and PS4 May 26 and the game can be pre-ordered on PC beginning today, with PS4 pre-orders […]

  • Nintendo eShop schedule: Don’t Starve: Giant Edition, Never Alone, others

    Nintendo has sent over a list of titles heading to the eShop in 2015. The schedule contains titles such as Affordable Space Adventures, Runbow, Swords & Soldiers 2, Don’t Starve: Giant Edition, Never Alone and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. Below a preliminary list of games scheduled to launch in the Nintendo eShop on […]

  • Week 8: Can you win the weekly VG247 GTA Online playlist? Play tonight at 8pm UK time!

    We’re hotdogging tonight. I don’t even know what that means. Eight weeks of ridiculous death. Such a brave, true milestone. We’re going to celebrate two entire months of playing weekly GTA Online playlists with VG247 readers with Hotdogging, a set of six jobs I named completely at random. This one ends with a straight-up border […]

  • Puzzle platformer Four Sided Fantasy coming to PC, consoles in early 2016

    Curve Digital and developer Logan Fieth’s studio Ludo Land are bringing puzzle platformer, Four Sided Fantasy, to PC all major consoles in early 2016. Ludo Land are developing the PC version, with Curve Digital handling the console and Vita versions. Four Sided Fantasy tasks players with venturing across “dreamlike levels” by controlling and manipulating the […]

  • Tropico 5 arrives on PS4 in April – video

    A release date for Tropico 5 on PlayStation 4 has been announced. This is the franchise’s first foray onto PlayStation consoles. It arrived in Europe on April 24 and in North America on April 28. A Limited Edition has also been announced, and it includes The Big Cheese DLC and the Bayo Del Olfato sandbox […]

  • Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain Limited Edition PS4 releasing in Asia

    A limited edition Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain PlayStation 4 system will be released in Asia. The system and its DualShock controller were designed in collaboration with Konami Digital Entertainment and targeted for the Asia region, per Gematsu. It will be released as part of PS4 Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain […]

  • This video shows Sid Meier’s Starships being played on iPad

    Sid Meier’s Starships will be released on iPad alongside Mac and PC, and to give you an idea on how it plays on the tablet, a new video has been released. Watch below as Pete Murray and lead producer Stuart Zissu show off the iPad version. The 4X space-strategy releases on March 12.

  • Wolfenstein: The Old Blood announced as standalone prequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a standalone prequel to The New Order, will release May 5 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. The game takes pace in 1946, and and players take on the role of B.J. Blazkowicz as he embarks on a two-part mission in Bavaria. Part one, Rudi Jäger and the Den of Wolves, […]

  • Observer Mode coming soon to Evolve as a free update

    Observer Mode will be released for Evolve as a free update for all platforms, 2K and Turtle Rock have announced. The community feature was designed to give Evolve players the ability to observe and add commentary as well as livestream, allowing a sixth user to “passively enter a custom game” with the ability to switch […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes and PS4 top Media Create charts in Japan

    The PlayStation 3 and PS4 skus for Dragon Quest Heroes were the top sellers on the Media Create charts in Japan, moving a combined 594,749 units. Elsewhere on the chart, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D was in third place with 39,751 units moved, and last week’s top seller, God Eater 2: Rage Burst, […]

  • Watch Hideo Kojima answer lots of your burning Phantom Pain questions

    What’s better than learning the official release date of MGS5: The Phantom pain? Hideo Kojima talking more about it, of course! Hideo Kojima has decided to answer a few fan questions about Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, to help boost everyone’s hype to insane levels. He talks about the game’s story, his relief […]

  • MGS5: The Phantom Pain Day 1 and Collector’s Edition revealed

    Konami has officially revealed the release date of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain alongside the game’s Day 1 and Collector’s Edition. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain will release September 1, worldwide, as previously leaked. It will be available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The PC Steam […]

  • EU Club Nintendo: Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds soundtrack back in stock

    Club Nintendo members in Europe can once again pick up The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds soundtrack. For 3000 Stars, members of the program will receive the double-CD soundtrack which features 89 tracks with liner notes from Ryo Nagamatsu and 12 sheet music excerpts. It also comes with 16 Milk Bar Musician pieces. […]