Murdered: Soul Suspect Would Be So Much Better If It Weren’t A Game

By Ethan . June 29, 2014 . 5:01pm

I really wanted to like Murdered: Soul Suspect.  On paper, it’s a game that appeals to me on a couple of levels. I like mystery stories, and Soul Suspect is an interactive mystery experience the likes of which I haven’t played since LA Noire. I like it when big publishers like Square Enix take a chance on a new IP or an unusual game genre – Soul Suspect is both. It bothers me when video games are violent just for the sake of the violence, and Soul Suspect, despite telling a story about death and the dead steers away from interactive killing.

 

So, again… I really wanted to like Murdered: Soul Suspect, but I don’t. It’s not enough to be the kind of game I root for. Writing this doesn’t make me happy but I don’t think any of the many game mechanics in the game really… work.

 

Murdered: Soul Suspect is a classic mystery starring a lone detective with a mean streak. As such detectives must, our protagonist Ronan O’Connor interrogates witnesses and collects clues. Let’s start with the clue collecting part. The game is good about telling the player how many clues are left to be found and containing the player in the right area until all clues are found. That’s absolutely necessary, because some of these clues are the absolute worst sort of pixel hunt nonsense. We’re talking finding those tiny red health pickups in Silent Hill 2 nonsense here.

 

Things don’t improve once the clues have been collected. Clues are represented in a menu as icons that can be combined or applied to certain conversations to provoke new responses. It’s very similar actually to the crime scene investigations in Trauma Team. And just like in Trauma Team, there is far too much guessing as to what the designers were thinking of, when it comes to using your collected evidence.

 

Clues collected through interrogation are represented in that same menu, but acquiring those clues is even clumsier. As a ghost, Ronan is unable to directly communicate with the living. He can, however, possess a body. He can’t animate these bodies much, but he can influence the direction of conversation by presenting collected evidence to a character Phoenix Wright-style.

 

Much more direct are the rare conversations between Ronan and another ghost.  These dialogue tree conversations are stilted and awkward still, but at least they do away with the artificial game construct that makes the basic detective action of questioning a witness such a pain.

 

Not all ghosts are potential witnesses, mind.  Most of them are tortured sprits/demons of one variety or another. They roam places that Detective O’Connor searches for clues and fancy him a delicious treat. Remember how I was up on this game for not throwing violence into the mix just because “that’s what video games do”? Well, instead of violence, you get stealth. And while it pains me to admit this, I might have just preferred a mediocre gunplay system over the mediocre stealth I got instead. Mediocre stealth is the worst. Trial and error? Unfathomable enemy sightlines? Camera controls that are not designed for scoping out enemy patrol patterns? Check, check, and check.

 

And you know what the real tragedy of all this is? The story that this game is trying to tell is pretty good! It’s not ground-breaking or really going to surprise anyone too familiar with mysteries, but there’s something to be said for taking what works and giving it your own occult/afterlife spin. There are so many ways a mystery story can go wrong. The leaps of logic need to be fast enough that the reader isn’t predicting everything ahead of time, but is still able to follow along and make his/her own theories. The characters need to both make the reader question them while also lulling the reader into a false sense of security before surprising them.

 

My experience with the mystery of Salem in Murdered: Souls Suspect was that it leaned a tiny bit on the predictable side, but I still enjoyed it and I read an awful lot of mystery. It’s such a shame that Soul Suspect gets so much of this tricky story genre right while the mechanics intended to turn this mystery into a video game just detracted from it. I couldn’t just hunt for clues; I needed to do the stealth game song and dance to get there. I couldn’t just interrogate witnesses; I needed to interface with them via the clue card chart. I couldn’t make theories myself, I got to make theories by combining clue cards.

 

So, I suppose what I’m getting at is that I couldn’t just enjoy the mystery—I needed to play Murdered: Soul Suspect, and that was the problem.

 

Food for thought:

One last damning note:  every so often in this game the camera zooms in and gives the player fine manual control of a specific motion.  Moving a hand up to a doorknob to open it for example. Good luck with these bits on a mouse and keyboard. Most of the game works fine without a controller, but these seemingly innocuous (and heavily LA Noire-inspired) interactions become horrifically frustrating without an analog stick.


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  • subsamuel01

    I’ll probably pick this up when it hits the bargain bin

    • darke

      It’s almost there already. Steam summer sale+GMG had it at around 50% off. :?

    • pimpalicious

      Same here, hopefully it will $20 on PS4 by September. I could use a cheap game or two to pick up with it(the Destiny bundle).

  • Shippoyasha

    I just feel the game needs a healthy dose of mod-re-imagining and gameplay balances because the idea behind this game is pretty unique. I can see why taking out the faulty gameplay may sound prudent, but the game could have worked if it was allowed to cook in the oven longer. At the very least, a pretty interesting and fun rental for mystery game enthusiasts.

  • Godmars

    Guessing that the manual control segments had motion control in mind, which were then canceled or not accounted for in the full release.

    • Paul Rodriguez

      There are some motion controls (I’m talking about the PS4 version. Don’t know how the others are) but they are minor and I would prefer they not be there.

  • TheCynicalReaper

    So it’s crap? Good. That’s what happens when you rip off the premise to much better stories/games.
    On that note: PLEASE BUY GHOST TRICK EVERYONE! IT’S LEGIT GOOD

    • Shippoyasha

      The story in this game is legitimately pretty interesting though. It’s the gameplay mechanics that is very wonky. I get the feeling Square Enix had the developer rush out the game.

    • brian

      It’s not like this is a commonly used premise.
      Most games on the market in recent years are rip offs of old premises, and we’d probably have very few games coming out at all if any.
      Besides, the developers of this at least gave credit to Ghost Trick and they really seem to like it.
      edit: And iirc, the investigate your own murder idea was started by Shadow of Destiny.

      • Seth Rich

        I agree. I haven’t played Soul Suspect yet, but aside from the whole “solving your own murder” plot point this looks nothing like Ghost Trick. I’m pretty sure Soul Suspect doesn’t have anything to do with mysterious meteorites and stubborn Pomeranian’s in its story.

      • Paul Rodriguez

        I haven’t played Shadow of Memories/Destiny in almost 7 years. It was interesting trying to prevent your own murder. I remember to to get all the endings. Never got around to doing it. I got maybe four of them.

    • Göran Isacson

      What the other people here are saying. Me thinks you should ease up on the cynicism mr Reaper, because while it may make us better equipped to deal with reality and see through falsehoods, sometimes? Sometimes it just makes us look like assholes. This is one of those times.

    • E.T.993

      GHOST TRICK!? HECK YEAH THAT WAS AWESOME!

  • Kumiko Akimoto

    I think it’s fine as a game thank you very much

  • mrbrowntung

    i thought watch dogs was really good but the story, or more specifically the characters, were severely undeveloped. maurice vega in particular, hes the guy you capture at the beginning and hear from throughout the story, until making your decision at the end. you learn more about this character by playing the side mission with the burner phones, each one has a pre-recorded message from maurice as he records his thoughts before and leading up to once hes after aiden. i thought he was incredibly unbelievable, so much so that i couldnt help but think how lame it was. they made it seem as if he was new to that whole scenario, like he was forced into becoming a professional killer. well theres no way some average civilian would go from being no criminal, or even a low-level criminal, all the way up to hired killer unless they were one seriously hardened S.O.B. — anyone who has climbed the criminal ladder to become a hired killer wouldnt be such a crybaby girl about things

  • Wtv

    Just a legit question. Does the bad gameplay really ruin the game for you people even if everything else is good?

    I mean, I loved Drakengard and Rule of Rose despite their bad gameplay mechanics. They never made the game less fun or annoying because everything else was pretty good.

    I wonder if people aren’t too used to play AAA games that has a lot of money and because of that are more polished than your average game for a smaller company.

    Resident Evil was a pain to control on the PS1 era and no one ever complained. In fact, people seems to want it to be like that again sometimes.

    Well, I’ll buy it eventually. Not that I don’t think it deserves to sell at full price or anything…Just because I’m a poor gamer living in a poor country that even got Skyrim only today for 75% off.

    • Arz

      It’s a GAME. not movies or novels. Mechanics and gameplay should matter. If you like Drakengard or Rule of Rose for the story only then guess what, it’s a bad game. i personally don’t give a shit about the stories if the gameplay’s terrible .PS1 REs’ tank controls actually a factor in the horror element. Try watching someone play with a modded normal controls, the suspense is basically gone.

      • Wtv

        That could be the case years ago…but not really today. Heavy Rain, The Walking Dead and Beyond are all considered games by both public and critic. And they don’t have a lot of gameplay aside from QTE. Maybe you don’t like them, but they are games, most people recognize it. Even visual novel are seen like games. It’s the old argument about if JRPG should be called RPG if they don’t have any role playing again. And again, this games will still be called video-game even without having any gameplay.

        The thing here is, when the game put some gameplay inside, suddenly, it’s judged for gameplay more than anything, even though if it didn’t had any, it would be judged by story alone. If story, characters and atmosphere are good enough, can it really be called “bad game” (because you know, when you call something bad, you are saying that thing isn’t worth anything.)

        So maybe you don’t care about the story in games, or think they are not that important. If that’s the case, you shouldn’t even judge the game, since it’s not for you anyway.

        By the way…the thing you said about RE1…well, it could be said about Rule of Rose as well. That didn’t stop people saying that the game is bad. RE1 wouldn’t survive nowadays, even though a lot of people still play it for the first time and enjoy it a lot.

        I think they try it because there isn’t any review saying they shouldn’t.

        • aizen310

          Murdered: Soul Suspect is mediocre.
          Good story, weird gameplay. It’s not that the gameplay is bad, because it’s not a shooter or RPG; it’s weird because for the genre this game is aiming for, these kinda gameplaysolutions are just feels off. It has it’s good, but obviously has it’s bad.

          I liked the story, I was caught off guard by the end twist (well, I’m not reading that much murder mystery books, shame on me). The game is heavily driven by its story, so little to no side-questing/exploration is there. I didn’t felt it was a waste of time. It was kinda on the short side. I say get it when its price drops.If the game would be “different BUT good/very good”, that would be a different story. But sadly, M:SS is “different AND mediocre”… frankly, it’s not worth its full price right now.

          And I love RE1 and its remake. Rule of Rose is still on my list, but damn, that game’s story sounds like some old-school survival horror fun :)

      • Kaetsu

        I see where you’re coming from but I also would disagree with that point. There are lots of games that don’t play well but that doesn’t make them bad games per say. There are even a lot of games that have such great stories but are very simple mechanically. I understand what you’re saying but I don’t think that point is valid any more especially with the break through of indie and artistic games.

        • Arz

          Then branch out, call it visual novel or something. Indie games are the ones that actually brings out more interesting gameplay mechanics. and those ‘artistic’ games don’t deserved to be called games. Those are just interactive software at best, using games just to ‘tell a story’ is unacceptable.That’s not a what game is. that’s devolutionary. Saying video game should be considered for its story is nothing but a cry for attention so that games will be taken seriously

      • qygagw wgag

        gaemplay just has to be enjoyable or near enjoyable. gameplay these days is harder to find good quality compared to the several games on ps2. but now on 8th gen thats changing. and it took a very long time for ps3 to get good ones

    • Lumi

      If I’m playing a game, I’d rather have acceptable gameplay/controls. Even if I’m playing something for the story, I won’t get much enjoyment out of it if I’m getting frustrated/stuck over some stupid gameplay quirk. Like stealth. I hate stealth. And running from stuff.

  • Paul Rodriguez

    Haven’t played much of the game (I’m only up to the part where you solve your first case as a dead guy) but I’m having fun so far. I wonder how this would play out as a movie.

  • Warboss Aohd

    so it’s a David Cage game?

    • aizen310

      No. It has a good story, with not so good gameplay elements.
      “David Cage games” have good story and enjoyable gameplay.

      • Snorlaxation

        Sorry to say, that’s definitely debateable. I loved Beyond Two Souls for all the wrong reasons, and felt (if they took out a bit of the ‘rape’ that seems so prevalent in his games (not to say that it doesn’t regretably exist in real life)) it would’ve made much better movie/mini-series. Ellen Page, Willem Dafoe, and the animation style (and some of the plot) were the only redeeming qualities of that game.

        David Cage really needs to shake up his formula, or at least tone down all the horrific crap that happens to ladies in his games.

        Still though, I can appreciate what they “tried” to do. On paper it sounded cool.

        • aizen310

          Appearently, bashing games that have much more to do than shooting random cybersoldiers in generic sci-fi shooters is cool nowadays.

          • Snorlaxation

            I see you skipped over the whole rape portion of the comment. To be honest, I’ve never been all that interested in shooting games, and the gameplay like the story, were very cool and fun, at points. But on the whole, two great actors and a scattering of interesting gameplay style/plot points wasn’t enough to save this game from the massive amount of criticisms. I can appreciate games that try though.

            But yeah, again, major apparent misogyny. I could post the David Cage Bingo Card, if you like.

          • aizen310

            David Cage games are still better than the majority we see yearly, even with recurring elements and QTE.

          • Snorlaxation

            There I have to flat out disagree. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Kingdom Hearts series (even with the rather convulted turn the plot has taken), I love Psychonauts like a long lost brother (and I have the Load-times-from-hell PS2 version), MIrror’s Edge is grand in a number of ways, Bioshock (can be hit or miss, mostly with its marketing, but gameplay/story of the games is usually stellar).

            I admit, seriously, there is a lot of CRAP that gets released to us, and for all his fascination with doing some pretty heinous stuff to women, for all his over the top plot twists, and less then appreciated gameplay mechanics, he still does give us substance that other games, many other games lack. It’s just buried too much shit sometimes.

            And as for QTE’s. That’s a game-breaker for some people. Just sayin’.

          • aizen310

            QTE needs to be a genre just like FPS or RPG. Then people would not cry about this.

          • Snorlaxation

            I’m laughing just imagining a game that’s nothing but QTE’s.
            I’m sure (or hope) that’s not what you meant, but still, just imagine. From the beginning to the end, just pressing reaction buttons to avoid danger, and get through the story. It would probably work best for games that are just cinematic, trying to involve the player only somewhat.

            Very linear possibly, unless they gave you multiple options on QTE’s. Like, press R1+L1 to jump over and avoid, or press Triangle to dodge left and into this hole in the floor.

            Anyway, QTE’s haven’t ever truly bugged me, but that might be because I’ve never played the games that were critiqued as QTE heavy. Either way, my senses are always glued to the game when I’m playing it, (i only rarely multitask during cutscenes unless I’m really hungry), so QTE’s have yet to get the drop on me.

          • aizen310

            *sigh*
            Your lack of imagination is disturbing me.
            Asura’s Wrath, DBZ: Ultimate Tenkaichi, Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, early Dragon’s Lair games, these are just the games I can list you right now. Publishers should list them under a more fitting genre like QTE-action, or QTE fighting. If more than 50% of a game’s gameplay consisted of QTEs than that should be noted somewhere on the box, don’t you think?
            To rephrase your first sentence:
            “I’m laughing just imagining a game that’s nothing but pointing your gun at the screen and pulling the trigger at the right time.” Rail-shooters. Do you know them? It’s nearly the same as QTE. Minimalistic gameplay. Also believe it or not, QTE can be challenging if done right. Branching paths, split-second decisions that make the game’s story goes elsewhere, like in Soul Calibur 3 cutscenes. Or when it’s timing QTE like in a rythme game (Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F), or press a certain button a certain number of times, make this number high enough, or give a limited time to press the correct button so you can test your reflexes on this. Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm games’ boss battles usually has acceptable QTE’s. They are not very challenging, but I can see an amateaur fail the more complex ones.

            You can laugh all you want.
            That just means you’re seriously lacking of any imagination.

          • Snorlaxation

            I totally didn’t mean it in a bad way, I swear. And yeah, I completely blanked on the rhythm games, and I definitely haven’t played any rail shooter games. I’ve never gotten the chance to play fighting games beyond just fighting against friends, (Except Tekken, which last time I played had no QTE’s.)

            As far as Beyond two souls and Heavy rain, and his other stuff, I’ve already said all i need to about David Cage and his ups and downs in videogames (and in general), and won’t repeat them. They and the internet speaks more than I ever could about the pros and cons.

            I didn’t mean that QTE’s or games filled with them were useless or stupid or didn’t deserve their own label, because I’m sure for those who like them and those who don’t, they’d be very happy to know before buying them. QTE’s rely on you paying attention and having decent or good or great reaction times, and that’s something I can agree with, a challenge.

            When I laughed, I was just imagining Zero Punctuation (Yahtzee) and his ranting about QTE’s and movies and whatnot.
            Most of what he and others say about stuff like that, and other things, I always take with a grain of salt, but can still laugh at the jokes.

          • aizen310

            I apologize then. Sometimes it’s hard to read if a post is trying to be offensive, defensive, sarcastic, ironic or [insert whatever fancy word you can find in the dictionary] :D

            Amen.

      • Warboss Aohd

        ‘Have Good Story’
        ‘David Cage Games’

        That’s a good one.

        • aizen310

          Yeah. Because Warcraft is so much more better storywise. (or what the hell is from your generic orc avatar).

          Since when did people hate Quantic Dream games?
          Since when did people ridicule their stories?
          Last time I checked, everyone was head over heels for games like Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain :/

          • Warboss Aohd

            Warhammer people, Warhammer, i’ve said this quite a few times now.

            and you say generic, but Warhammer orks are fungi and reproduce via sporez and are all psychics.

            Besides, have you played through Heavy Rain or Indigo Prophecy? they start out interesting, but then just get silly around halfway through.

          • aizen310

            Warhammer is just Warcraft in space. It’s the same.

            And yes, I played through Heavy Rain. And I enjoyed every minute of it. You make it sound like David Cage stories are the absolute worst in this industry :/

          • Warboss Aohd

            while i do adore Warcraft, possibly more than Warhammer, and sure as heck played Warcraft first, Warhammer DID exist before Warcraft did.

            His stories aren’t really the worst of the industry by far coughLightningReturnscough, there is very little game play and the stories just get out of control by the end (I’d say Heavy Rain is the only one that doesn’t go 100% crazy, though it’s due in part to removal of supernatural elements……..which due to removal left a few plotholes.), whereas Indigo Prophecy is………well, go watch 2BestFriends Play or Jesse Cox’s Respective Let’s Plays of it, the latter is blind and the former isn’t.

  • Seraph

    I thought the game was alright. It does have its problems, but I stayed for the story and I liked how it panned out. I tried to be as fair as I could when I reviewed it.

  • mc3027

    I liked it, and that’s all that matters.

  • Göran Isacson

    Damn shame, that. I will probably get it somewhere down the line because I am a sucker for stories, but if the actual interactive parts of the game is like pulling teeth while wading through molasses, eh. I’m gonna need some time to prepare, is all I’m saying.

  • Kaetsu

    Weather this game is good or not, Ethan mentions something really important. “I like it when big publishers like Square Enix take a chance on a new IP or an unusual game genre”. I’m glad that Square Enix took a chance on this game and let it exist. It may not have been the next Sleeping Dogs or Just Cause for them but I’m glad they took the risk of releasing something so different and refreshing from what’s normally released.

  • qygagw wgag

    its an ip that experiments with a new idea. comes down to a matter of personal taste because its so different from your standard games these days

  • Axel Villar

    The writer is a damn casual and got the game backwards. The story on this thing is crap of the highest caliber. I’ve never read such an amateurish, terrible paced, awfully voiced and badly narrated videogame story. The animations are also clunky, This is exactly whats wrong with videogames today. They sacrifice all the gameplay just to put us in a linear narrative driven experience, but the narrative in most cases is so crap (Im looking to you David Cage) that you end sacrificing all the strengths of the medium just to give us something that would have gone straight to dvd if it was an actual movie. The investigations were terribly easy, everything shines like a small supernova so even retards like this writer can keep advancing the narrative. I dont know wtf he refers as “pixel hunt”. Literally brain dead. Fails both as a movie and as videogame. I dont see how removing the videogame aspect would make the movie, and some characters like the hot topic tmblr fatty bait any more interesting or better written.

    • mrbrowntung

      u need 2 get laid braa

  • Ryudo9

    Oh on the title alone is wrong becuase it did come out as a wonderful game a couple years ago on DS called Ghost Trick

  • Ash_Riot

    Underrated gem, imo. Adventure games in general are rather dead on home consoles and it’s a shame. They just don’t sell. Love the genre though, especially these detective/mystery games..

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