Created by Airtight Games and published by Square Enix, Murdered: Soul Suspect is an incredibly detailed mystery where you solve your own murder. Set in Salem, Massachusetts, history can be found around every corner, both ancient and recent.
The opening cut scene hooked me as soon as it began playing. You watch as Detective Ronan O’Connor chases a suspect into a building without backup. Soon he finds that his quarry is more than his match as he is beaten and thrown out of a two story window. Lying there in the middle of the street, Ronan is not yet dead, but has left his body. The hope that our protagonist will survive this encounter is short lived as he has to watch helplessly as he is shot seven times by the same masked man who threw him from the window.
This brutal scene is the beginning of Ronan’s journey to solve not only his own murder, but to catch a serial killer who has been stalking Salem for generations. Taking control of Ronan, players travel Salem and learn about the sordid history of the famous city once rocked by witch-catching hysteria as they unravel crimes and discover clues as to the identity of the serial killer stalking Salem’s streets. Dubbed the Bell Killer due to the symbol shaped like a bell left at each brutal murder, he has alluded capture by the police and terrorized the populace of Salem.
Starting with the scene of his own murder, Ronan collects clues at each crime scene. He pieces these together to form a memory of what occurred. In the first, you discover the Bell Killer was at this apartment chasing a young girl. In another, you watch the bludgeoning of a priest who is trying to save the life of a young girl. Each scene brings you closer to the motives behind the Bell Killer murders as well as several other mysteries that crop up during the course of your investigation. Some of these are plot driven, like the disappearance of a woman named Cassandra who was consulting with the police on the Bell Killer case as a psychic. Others are ghosts Ronan helps to pass on by discovering the truth behind what keeps them tethered to this world.
The entire atmosphere of Murdered: Soul Suspect is grim and dark, though not always brutally violent. In each area are collectables that tell a story about the area they’re found in. Once all are found, players are treated to a fully narrated ghost story that will send chills up the spine.
Only the Ronan’s memories and Julia’s notes brighten the perpetual night in this game. In the former, Ronan reflects on how he came to be the man he is. In the latter, you learn how Julia, Ronan’s deceased wife, came to love an ex-con turned police detective and the meaning behind his myriad tattoos.
All the collectables are a wonderful way to tie in side stories and back story to a game that is so rich with information. It was a treat to hunt for each hidden memento, each note, and each ghost story artifact instead of the chore it normally can be. Even the search for the clues held my attention, despite how well hidden they had been placed because the reward for the find delivered another thrilling piece of the puzzle.
Not everything is roses in Murdered: Soul Suspect, though it never smells bad. The combat is sparse, though this does avoid the pit fall games like Allen Wake fell into where the horrible game play completely overshadows the atmosphere with frustration. It enhances it, despite its limited appearance, by literally scaring the pants off you whenever the demons who want to rip your soul to pieces show up. I would have liked to spend more time as Ronan in Salem as well, though I’m glad that the developers didn’t add pointless filler quests to the game. Each plot point leads perfectly to the next, seamless in its transition.
All in all, I’d give Square Enix’s attempt to be more Western four out of five screaming Jan’s cats. Entertaining and engaging, the story had me hooked from the very beginning to the very end. Available on PC, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 AND on sale via Steam right now, there’s no reason not to give Murdered: Soul Suspect a try.