A few days ago, the TPoW team were discussing the idea that Murdered: Soul Suspect was an interesting premise but worried that it may not be executed well enough. After playing the demo at Rezzed, I’m sad to say we were probably right. Technical issues aside (which there were many of) the game failed to entice me into exploring the story further.
Here’s my problem, I laboured through the demo, getting easily frustrated at how the game felt and played. With a mixture of concepts from Heavy Rain, Fahrenheit and LA Noire, Murdered: Soul Suspect has you playing the ghost version of police man Ronan after his murder. Cut more like a movie trailer than the introduction to a video game (which I’m usually a fan of), you’re given the back story to Ronan, none of which offers much substance or weight in relation to the over-arching storyline. Information feels rather crammed in, and doesn’t exactly provide you with a real reason to care for the events in Ronan’s life. I won’t divulge too much of the demo’s story, as it will be really interesting to some people. Some of the cut-scenes and mechanics used as Ronan transitions from flesh to spirit is heavily clichéd, littered with previously seen storylines and plot devices. Although some moments feel emotional, the sensation and drama from a scene is immediately drawn away with a clichéd throwaway line of dialog.
Clearly being a ghost is standard stuff in Salem, as Ronan seems rather unconcerned by the fact he’s dead. It doesn’t take him long to get over the whole ordeal. It seemed he no longer cared about his own death, but was driven to catch his killed. Standing over his own body, he simply curses and just watches things pass him by. What proceeds to follow is a simply laughable sequence that even makes the tedious moments in Beyond: Two Souls look normal. Using the analogue sticks, you have to line up the limbs of Ronan’s ghost body to the flesh. I couldn’t comprehend the point of the sequence, it could have been a thirty second cut-scene but became a two to five minute exercise in patience, precision and pointless endeavour.
As a ghost you’d expect you could walk through anything, unfortunately not. Due to obvious restrictions and sticking to the linear story, there are limitations to what you can accomplish. To enter a building you must go through a gap, either an open door or a window, a limitation you would expect if you are playing someone living!
The demo was narrative heavy, and insisted you find out information about yourself as ghost form, imposing those forced restrictions upon you. I understand why they need to make movement restricted, but because of the premise, it felt slightly underwhelming.
With these sort of context heavy games, you need things to be instant. There was a moment where I was searching an apartment for clues, ala LA Noire, I was walking around looking for just one more clue. The frustration came when I couldn’t find the last one, little did I know I walked past it several times but the pop-up indicator didn’t show unless I was standing a certain way. There’s nothing worse in a game that’s very context heavy, when its contexts aren’t fast or varied enough to help you out. It also didn’t help that being a ghost, you could effectively clip through objects.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is an interesting idea, it would even make a terrific movie plot, but it doesn’t seem suited to a fully-fledged game storyline. The clue-solving is clever, but analysing evidence is shallow at best and isn’t fully realised. I can’t tell if this was the opening to the game or a certain demo level. If the latter, I hope the full release flows better and gives you more opportunity to understand Ronan’s backstory and be emotionally connected. There are some good mechanics, like being able to possess anybody in the scene, but again, it’s not fully fledged. You can possess a character but only have a short amount of options, leading to a very linear experience.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is set for release June 3rd in the US and June 6th on all major consoles and PC. The demos technical issues shouldn’t be a factor when the game comes out, but the clichéd story, along with over-done mechanics, hurt the experience. Hopefully there are changes coming as they polish the game, but I don’t have much hope considering the time left.