Once known almost exclusively as the publisher behind the greatest JRPGs in existence, Square-Enix expanded beyond their comfort zone in the last generation, partnering with independent developers to deliver projects like Front Mission Evolved, Sleeping Dogs, Mindjack and Dungeon Seige 3, and eventually buying up the beleaguered Eidos. This newfound propensity of theirs appears to be carrying across into the new generation, and one such project is arguably the most interesting on the publisher’s slate.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is the third major title from Airtight Games, following Dark Void and Quantum Conundrum, and shows a marked difference from those earlier titles. It is pitched as a supernatural thriller inspired, oddly enough, by the classic film Die Hard. The game’s producer is said to have been watching the film when an idea struck him. Inspired by the tenacity of John McClane, he began to wonder what the character would do if he was killed.
And from this central concept, Murdered: Soul Suspect was born. It is difficult to know when these initial concepts were presented to the team at Airtight for consideration, though one is inclined to think that it was around the same time that Quantum Conundrum was released, meaning that Murdered will have been in production for approximately two years at the point of its release later this year.
The game may be inspired by Die Hard, but its mechanics are very different from what you would expect if that was all you knew about the title. Far from being an action game, it is more akin to the point-and-click adventures of yore, though perhaps no comparison is more apt than that of L.A. Noire. Like Team Bondi’s masterpiece, Murdered puts you in the shoes of a detective and tasks you with unravelling crime scenes. Unlike it, however, you are incorporeal, meaning that you may have to attract the attention of living detectives to your discoveries.
This primarily revolves around possessing people, officers and witnesses alike. Once this is done, you can either use your ghostly powers to read their mind or jog their memory by reminding them of a clue. It is a very interesting mechanic, though how well it stacks up over the course of the game is another matter. Being a ghost also has other disadvantages, with one of the most prominent being that you can’t enter consecrated buildings unless a door is open, and seemingly every building in the playable world has been consecrated, which could make for an untoward amount of waiting around. Perhaps to aid this, Airtight Games have populated to world with a number of side-missions provided by souls that occupy The Dusk (the realm between this world and the next, which the main character occupies).
One of the complaints that has been levelled against the game by sources that have had the opportunity to go hands-on is that failure seems to be nigh impossible. Failing to collect all of the clues, or attempting to put them forward in the incorrect manner does not allow you to progress, but instead asks you to do it over and over, ad nauseum, until you get it right. In a game such as this, where things are advertised as requiring thought, it comes across as a bit of a cop-out. Most sources have only had the chance to play the first scene, so there is always the chance that it is more difficult later on.
Breaking the monotony of crime scene investigation is the presence of soul-hunting beasts in The Dusk, which the player must avoid. The arrival of these creatures is reportedly dynamic, but they can be destroyed via a minor QTE after successfully sneaking up on them. It is a concession to action in a game that is otherwise shaping up to be one of the slower and more thoughtful that this calendar year has to offer, and I daresay that more people are interested because of that moderation than the concessions.
In Murdered: Soul Suspect, players step into the ethereal shoes of Detective Ronan O’Connor. He is engaged in tracking a serial killer when he finds himself unceremoniously thrown from a fourth-storey window in the historical town of Salem. It is at this point that the game begins in earnest as you find yourself occupying the in-between realm of The Dusk as you seek to tie up the loose ends of your life; namely, uncovering the identity of your killer. Not much is known about the story beyond this point, and perhaps that is a good thing, as this, even with its twist, is a murder mystery.
However, it is known that Ronan is a man with a chequered past, which includes the murder of his wife. His is something of a maverick, and his body has become a canvas for his memories, with each tattoo relating to some part of his history. He also wears a really sexy hat.
Airtight Games have shown that they are unafraid to tackle wildly different projects, from the flawed action in Dark Void, to the well-received first-person puzzling in Quantum Conundrum and now the unravelling of mystery in the supernaturally-inclined Murdered: Soul Suspect. Unlike many of the other titles that have comprised our Most Anticipated series thus far, there is no guarantee of greatness in Murdered; indeed there is barely an expectation, but that is what makes it so intriguing.
Murdered: Soul Suspect will launch on June 3, 2014 for the PC, PS3, PS4, X360 and XBO.