Poor Salem, Massachusetts. You execute some innocent people for witchcraft in the 1600’s, and does anybody ever talk about your charming architecture or that great old-fashioned ice cream parlor in your historic downtown district? Nope, you’re doomed to spend history as the setting for horror flicks and supernatural thrillers.
This time, Salem is the setting for Murdered: Soul Suspect , an action adventure in which the player takes on the role of a dead man looking to solve his own murder. Detective Ronan O’Connor finds himself unexpectedly dead, trapped in the afterlife realm of Dusk, unable to escape until he brings his killer to justice. He’ll have to track down clues using both his detective skills and his new supernatural abilities.
Much of the game’s action involves exploration and investigation. Ronan can examine objects and make conclusions about them, but being incorporeal, he can’t easily manipulate them. What he can do is possess living people, which allows him to see the world through their eyes and listen to their conversations. He can’t control them directly, so abandon those dreams of causing chaos in Salem, but he can read minds and subtly influence people in certain situations.
While solving his mystery, Ronan will have to explore Salem and learn his powers and limitations as a ghost. He can’t pass freely through exterior walls because of protections that the locals have enacted against spirits, but once he finds his way into a building, he can stroll right through its interior walls, as well as through people and objects. As the game goes on, he’ll develop limited abilities to interact with real-world objects, similarly to a poltergeist. He’ll even learn how to view memories. There appears to be more supernatural goings-on in town than simply Ronan’s haunting, so hopefully Dusk will become an increasingly interesting place to inhabit as the mystery unfolds.
Although the main story appears to be fairly linear, the game does feature side quests that will allow Ronan to learn more about the people, places and supernatural goings-on in Salem. The player can even wander around and eavesdrop on random peoples’ lives for fun, but eventually those mysteries will have to be solved in order for the game to progress. Like most modern games, there appears to be plenty of signposts available to keep the player from becoming too lost.
This investigative part of the game plays very much like an adventure game without the inventory management, but there are mild action elements in Murdered: Soul Suspect as well. It seems that there are demons inhabiting Dusk, and they’ve got a taste for Ronan’s soul. Rather than tackle them in head-on combat, the player will want to plan strategically and find a way to take them unawares before they make Ronan go poof. This can be accomplished by sneaking up on them, hiding by possessing living people and taking advantage of Ronan’s ability to walk through walls.
Nothing about this game seems fast-paced, so it’s meant for people who enjoy exploring, experiencing a story, and becoming immersed in a setting. Combat is meant to be a puzzle to be solved rather than a twitch-based activity. It remains to be seen how much thought will be required of the player, as so far only impressions of the early portions of the game are available. Will it be more of an interactive novel such as Heavy Rain , or will it contain tricky mystery puzzle solving like Hotel Dusk ? Either way could be good or bad, depending on the game’s overall quality and the mood of the player.
Like most of this year’s releases, Murdered: Soul Suspect is a cross-generational title. The graphics we’ve seen in previews so far look quite nice (they’re probably from demos running on PC hardware), particularly the facial animations. The environments don’t look quite as impressive as the character models, but the dreary small town atmosphere is certainly in effect. What voice acting we’ve heard sounds believable and professional, so this is not a game that has skimped on presentation.
Will this be a game worth the price of admission? The premise is attractive, but I’m still skeptical of the execution. It all depends on the quality of the writing and whether the game’s premise is used well. Will Ronan’s powers be used in interesting and varied ways throughout the game, or will it become a trudge from one glowing blue object to another, occasionally punctuated by demon fights? Let’s hope for the former situation, but I’d advise waiting on the reviews for this one.