Murdered: Soul Suspect is a bit of a mystery. Chief among its enigmas is the question "is it any good, actually?" We put our top man on the case.
"There was none of that 'the control pad is an extension of your hand' David Cage bullshit. I kept my thumbs firmly on the business end of the analog sticks, like a grown up."
The moment the dame walked into the office, I knew she was trouble. The dame was me. Also it wasn't my office. It was local Square Enix distributor Namco Bandai's office. But the PR guys who showed me to my demo cubicle had gams up to their necks, and I was wearing a terrific detective outfit, so let's call it even Stevens. I was definitely trouble, anyway. Trouble for games. That need looking at. Because I look at games. Crime.
The room was like a jungle. Well, it wasn't like a jungle the way the streets are a jungle, a jungle this gumshoe stalks like a tiger. But it was dark. Dark as the hearts of men. Not the man already playing at another cubicle; he's a nice guy, and asked me to a dinner party. We're neighbours, in our suburb which has streets like a jungle and unlike the demo room at Namco Bandai Australia.
The PlayStation 4 was lit up like a Christmas tree that is yet to receive the firmware update that lets you turn down the lightbar. I bit the end off a candy cigar and hammered the touchpad, my highly-evolved investigative instincts immediately solving the mystery of "how to start the preview build". PR brought me a glass of water and asked me not to spit candy on the floor any more. I stared 'em down. I'm a loose cannon. The department couldn't control me. That's why I became a private investigator game journalist.
Ronan O'Connor. "What kind of a name is that?" a character asked. That's civvies for ya - always asking the wrong kinds of questions. The real question is, what kind of hat is that? Our Ronan reminds me a bit of myself, back when I was a rookie. Snappy dresser. Great tailoring. Stupid name. Fond of tattoos. Not so good with authority. But that hat? That hat is a warning sign. A sign we're not dealing with a pro. So when our lad is offed by a serial killer, I'm not surprised or even upset. I took a drag on my candy cigar. By drag I mean chew.
Turns out ghosts can still wear hats, unfortunately. Lots of other things they can do - mind read, put the 'fluence on people, look through other people's eyeballs, fuck around with TVs, walk through walls, sneak up and strangle demons, zip around between ghost residue spots to hide from demons, solve puzzles, find collectibles, watch cut scenes and scrape the merest surface of what promises to be a pretty decent story, with lots of local colour.
Ghost powers are not to be sneezed at. I remember back when I was first getting into this game, my old boss down at the PD told me "Brenna, you'll never be a PI, because you struggle with basic IRL navigation; if you can't walk through a door without hurting yourself, who's gonna give you a gun license?" Lemme tell you, until I played Murdered: Soul Suspect I never realised how big doors are in video games. They're enormous. Everything is enormous. Because video game characters run everywhere, and blunder into everything.
"Realistic" video game environments start off to scale and then get broadened to fit people who steer like runaway tanks after a night down at the speakeasy. But the doors in Soul Suspect are human sized. The apartments are maybe a bit big for downtown Sydney, probably just right for a town with loads of historic buildings, and full of stuff, the kind of stuff people have in their homes, placed with no respect for your need to run through to get to the next objective marker. You'll be really glad you can walk through walls and furniture. When I noticed this I tipped my hat back - my hat that was not in anyway a stupid hat like Ronan's - and raised a glass to Airtight Games. "Thanks for teaching me something cool about game design," I said, and downed that drink in one hit. "Do you want some more water," PR asked. I stared 'em down.
I could'a spent hours just talking to ghosts and residents, getting a feel for the case - but I had to move on. I had a murder to solve, and also I'd already talked to all of them. And also I had those demons to strangle. Did I mention the patrol stealth elements? They came at me like a cat comes out of a carpet bag, unexpected and covered in pointy parts, but a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.
I looked at my files. This reminded me of another case I'd solved long ago - the Origami Killer. 'Cept after a tiny bit of faffing about right at the beginning - almost like a little joke - there was none of that "the control pad is an extension of your hand" David Cage bullshit. Same kind of set up, wandering around, gathering info, figuring it all out - but I kept my thumbs firmly on the business end of the analog sticks, like a grown up.
I searched my memory. Yeah, yeah, it was coming back to me - there was this case, back in the old days, in Los Angeles. Never really felt good about that one. It never really made much sense. I'd be try'na figure something out and the answer was always "a banana, a one-legged opera singer and the anthropomorphic personification of gravity", or some such. There was none of that here. I could figure it out with my grey matter - just look at the pieces and draw conclusions. That's when you know you're in the right business.
It all seemed so easy - maybe a little too easy? But I had a feeling this was just the start of a long, complex case. You know, sometimes it's not about how hard a case is to crack - sometimes it's about the lives you touch, and the people you help. That's why we're in this business - that, and our complex, troubled backstories of wives stuffed in fridges.
I gotta tell ya, I'm intrigued. When I first got the call I thought this case was gonna stink worse than a bag of month-old fishheads. Instead everything's smellin' of roses. Tell ya what, Airtight Games - I'm gonna write your name down in my notes here, and if you think of anything else, you call me. I'll be waitin'.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is coming to PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One in June.