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Murdered: Soul Suspect (PC) artwork

Murdered: Soul Suspect (PC) review

"The Thin Boo Line"

Rarely have I wanted to love a game as much as I wanted to love Murdered: Soul Suspect. It’s the story of Ronan, a detective on the trail of a serial killer, who’s under the belief that he’s finally cornered his man. Things don’t turn out that way and, after a scuffle, he finds himself ejected from a live crime scene via a third storey window. This is not ideal policing, but things are about to get worse; Ronan does not survive the fall, and finds himself kicked out of his dying body to lurk between life and death. What’s an ethereal homicide detective to do when facing an eternal limbo, but try to solve his own murder?

Perhaps Soul Suspect’s greatest achievement is how it handles the Earthbound afterlife. Ghost Ronan loses many things that fleshy Ronan took for granted, which occasionally works to his advantage. For example, it’s quite the hindrance to his investigation that he can’t interact with things the same way as he could. Unable to question witnesses might seem like a hurdle, but he can instead possess people, manipulating them by planting thoughts in their heads. Do this right and you start a chain reaction that can lead to new clues or opening the person up to new revelations. Having no physical form sucks, because he is no longer able to interact with the world but, on the other hand, having no physical form is great because the very concept of walls suddenly becomes obsolete.

However, as much as death changes Ronan, it’s what it does to the world around him that’s most spectacular. In life, Ronan sees Salem as a sleepy little town whose macabre past does little to distinguish it from any other small town you might visit. In death, it becomes much more sinister; there’s other people unable to move on roaming the streets, for good or for ill. Some are lost and confused, yet to come to terms with their demise. Some still act as if they’re alive, some cling to the mistakes they made while breathing. Some are more sinister; stalking the people who they believe wronged them obsessively. Some retain a sense of humour; trolling a pair of ghost hunting youtubers filming at a graveyard by mugging unseen at the camera while their hosts invent sightings of light orbs.

Some have straight up forgotten why they might have remained at all, and now exist only as a dilapidated afterimage, like a series of fading photos. These are the most common spectres you’ll find; dozens and dozens of stories completely lost to time, sad little reminders of the horrific consequences a lack of resolution can bring. For Ronan, it seems safe to assume discovering who murdered him and, in doing so, solving his last case should provide the closure needed to move on. So, that’s what he does; haunting crime scenes and putting clues together in the background of his former colleagues' eager but ultimately fruitless investigations. Sometimes, all this means is to search out hidden clues inaccessible to the meatbound detectives. Sometimes it means tying several clues together, or picking out the relevance of a singular item.

Had Murdered: Soul Survivor stuck with this as its moment-to-moment focus, I suspect the long-time Adventure gaming nerd in me would be proclaiming this as a forgotten classic. Looking at its structure, it would seem that this would be the natural target audience. It never stops being a ghostly Noir game at heart, but it never fully commits to this, either. Solutions are often easy to unravel, often asking you to explain the very basics of the investigation to your undead grizzled homicide veteran rather than rewarding you for solving things ahead of the curve. I suspect this was put in place to expand the audience from just gaming chair detectives. I suspect the wider audience is targeted because, after a few hours of pure sleuthing, stealth and combat mechanics are clumsily introduced.

Even such a vague description may be giving this addition more credit than it deserves. After some time in certain crime scenes, demons are introduced. They’re explained as ancient ghosts who believe that stealing the souls of their fellow departed might give them a shot at life again. Though portrayed as tireless, desperate monsters dedicated solely to running you down and consuming you, their hunting technique is to loudly arrive, announcing themselves with a harrowing shriek, then fall into a routine patrolling pattern they will only leave if you stand directly in front of them. They’re not difficult to bypass, especially considering you can move through walls at will, but they’re even easier to dismiss. All you need to do is sneak up behind them, correctly enter a couple of prompts (press up and X to dismiss ungodly evil!) and they’re banished.

It feels like Airtight Games could have picked one of these to focus on, rather than diluting them both. The demons feel superfluous; their existence is at odds with the otherworld Ronan finds himself trapped in. They feel like a forced resident rather than a natural inhabitant of the fantastic living limbo you’re asked to explore. Solving the puzzles and putting together your case suffers less, but could have been a magnificent singular mechanic rather than a good main one.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (September 08, 2023)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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honestgamer posted September 08, 2023:

If I had a tagline that good for a possible review, I would review the game even if I really didn't want to, just because it would be a crime against man to leave the tagline unused. Shame about the game...
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EmP posted September 09, 2023:

There absolutely is times when I've written a review because I thought up a pun I've liked. In one case, I played an entire game I had no immediate plans to play so I could write a review because a pun snapped into my head as soon as I saw it. I probably need help.

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