I was in a game hole recently when I came across Murdered: Soul Suspect, which was free on XBOX Live. After a quick read of the description and its interesting premise, I didn’t expect much to be wasted from playing it. Unfortunately, this game has some pretty major flaws and glitches. The company that produced it, Airtight Games, is no longer in business but, despite that, it turned out into a fun, slightly-above-mediocre game.
So here we go to the fictionalized Salem that is seemingly forever stuck in a fog storm.
Need to start with the positives because the negatives will appear a little on the side of fuck ton overwhelming. Though I would have changed the way the backstory played out, it was interesting because you play as a ghost and travel around the city, possessing people and talking to other ghosts stuck in purgatory while trying to solve your own murder. Also, despite the limitations of travel, the overall graphics were well kept and the developers used old town ghost buildings to prevent you from going places you’re restricted to, which is refreshing instead of just hitting an invisible wall. Another positive were the demons (and demon pits) were well designed and provided some challenges in the game. Even though their presence seems random, it’s much-needed action or else the game probably would continue slow-paced and I’m not sure how I would have finished it. I say this because I focus more on transporting and hiding than trying to kill the demons when there was more than one. Gameplay, it was frustrating because you can only kill them from behind.
Even if there are flaws, the story is interesting enough to keep you going. This quiet, sleepy town is being ravaged by a mysterious killer murdering young women. It’s an adventure worth taking and the ending doesn’t disappoint and though at first, it’s hard to connect with the protagonist Ronan O’Connor (his ridiculous fedora, smoking even though he’s dead, and rebel without a cause attitude makes you want to cringe), he’s not so bad by the ending credits.
The side missions make the story more bearable because the townies in the story are bland, which I will explain in ‘The Bad’ section below. It doesn’t do much for the story, but you do solve puzzles so it’s a nice little brain teaser and breaks up the moments of running from one location to the next. Also, it’s a nice break to hear the woes of these ghosts unable to move on and their lives are easily relatable: car crash victim doesn’t realize he’s dead and is feeling guilty about the other parties in the car, woman not realizing why she’s on the beach because she ends up saving the lives of others and sacrificing herself, a lonely guy who drowned waiting for this girl he was in love with to return, etc. All these snippets add to the game.
Another short positive is possessing a cat, which should really happen more often in the game because it was pretty fun and silly. And the methods the Bell Killer used on its victims and the sort of connection to witch trials was good (not a great but a lukewarm good) idea and execution.
Backstory is an important element of any story and displaying this can be tricky. Every game struggles with this from time or time. Despite how informed I was, it took way too long at the beginning of the game to go through a crap load of flashbacks to get to the purpose of the game. I’m the type of person that appreciates a little bit of backstory at first and then some spread it throughout the game – if it’s even necessary. Like my last game review of Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, you are almost told nothing at the beginning and must discover. MSS just throws it all at you at the beginning. This scene would have been better to begin the game than the 10 minutes of flashbacks.
Additionally, not only have these gamemakers never been to Salem, Massachusetts, but also, they clearly have never seen a picture of it either. It is called a ‘fictionalized’ version of it but the only connection is witches and the name. Nothing else. The story would have been stronger with a town of its own history, especially since nothing about the place was accurate (particularly the Judge’s house – it being an important part of the game yet it’s dirty, dingy and unused – as if Salem would leave a historical building in disarray and without a tour running through every five minutes!).
Due to glitches, there were several times I had to restart the game, but not in places other gamers had issues such as the cemetery (instead it was the asylum where Joy, Ronan’s human medium sidekick, just froze no matter what I did). Another less noticeable glitch was the writing, particularly in random townies. A few, who looked exactly the same, would be on the same street or two different characters would have the same exact thought. This stopped me from possessing them unless it was necessary to the story, which they weren’t. Another glitch or maybe this was on purpose, was the moving through rooms with closed doors when you’re not supposed to be able to. Sometimes it worked but other times it didn’t, so this created an array of frustrating moments.
A few more negatives were the underdeveloped characters, the collecting of items that never seemed to be enough or equate to anything, technical issues, and some of the gameplay was awkward.
The ending did satisfy and it was a unique story, but it would have been great if certain details were more defined and if others weren’t so laughable because it was clearly a screw-up. However, I was determined to finish the game because it was good enough to keep my attention through the very twisted end. If you have time and it’s still free, play it. You’ve got nothing to lose.