At a Square Enix preview event, Siliconera got to take a look at Murdered: Soul Suspect which is being developed by Airtight Games. The two companies worked together on Quantum Conundrum, but that project was managed and signed by Square Enix USA. Murdered: Soul Suspect is co-developed with Square Enix Japan.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is an adventure game that begins with detective Ronan O’Conner falling out of a window. Just to make sure Ronan is dead, a hooded assailant shoots his body and bullet holes show up on Ronan’s spirit. Two police officers show up to the scene and one of them steals Ronan’s hat. It’s obvious they’re more interested in wisecracking about Ronan’s demise than solving the murder, so it’s up to you to do it… as a ghost. The premise is quite familiar to Ghost Trick and that was the first thing I brought up when I spoke with Eric Studer, Senior Design Producer at Airtight Games.
“I love Ghost Trick, it’s a great game, but we’re not Ghost Trick,” Studer replied. “Ghost Trick was very heavy on point and click puzzles. It had a slick presentation, but at it’s core it was a hidden object game in the right order. It’s so much fun to figure out the order of events, but I think what we’re doing is much broader. We help drive the narrative through this gameplay mechanic where you come into a crime scene where you make analysis on what’s going on and then taking the next step of finding out where to go next.”
That’s true. At the beginning of the game, ethereal text gives Ronan hints on how to track the killer. You have to possess a woman and project what you saw when you were murdered so she tells the uninterested police officers and eavesdrop to find other clues. After you have your story straight, the game has players deduce what happened using the clues they discovered. If you get it right, it moves the story forward. Get it wrong and Ronan will say the events were out of place which gives players another chance to put the pieces together.
Ronan can explore Salem with some limitations. Buildings have been christened to prevent ghosts from entering through a wall. You have to sneak in through an open door or a window. We get it, these are gameplay mechanics, but once you’re inside you can walk through walls and spy on people living there. Ronan can sit at a couple’s apartment and watch them bicker. You can also find other souls that need Ronan’s knack for investigating. These side quests explain what happened to Salem and the Dusk that covers the town.
What feels out of place in Murdered: Soul Suspect is combat. Ronan doesn’t use a gun or stylish combos to fight Lost Souls. He has to hide somewhere in like a telephone or a person pacing back and forth. Once the Lost Soul drops its guard Ronan get inside the soul and tears it apart from within. Since the heart of Murdered: Soul Suspect is the investigation, I was curious why they felt the need to add combat in the game.
“Keep in mind this isn’t a shooting game. What we’re trying to do is twist the investigation mechanic in an interesting way,” Studer explained. “The demons are lethal, but if you approach them the same way that you would approach the investigation, you have the upper hand. You are going to come into a space. You are going to see the demons there. You are going to know what your abilities are, what the layout of the space is, you can build a strategy. Then you can execute on that and adapt and make decisions based on your strategy.” The demons won’t kill Ronan in one hit, but the demons can devour his soul and end the game which forces players to restart from a checkpoint.
Back to the investigation, when Ronan finally reaches the room with the window he was thrown out of. He finds clues like a bent baseball bat that triggers a flashback. Before he was killed, Ronan pursued the hooded figure who was about to attack a girl. As a ghost, he has a full view of the scene and sees the frightened girl hiding. In the flashback, Ronan busts into the room, picks up the bat, and swings at the hooded figure. The hooded entity grabs the bat from Ronan, bends it, and throws Ronan out the window. Where does this lead Ronan? Well, if you put the pieces together right he has a witness and a lead into his investigation.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is slated for release in early 2014 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.