Murdered: Soul SuspectOverview -
There appears to be a shortage of mystery-style video games that have been made available over the last several years. An argument can be made that Rocksteady’s 'Arkham' series includes a fair amount of detective work on the part of the Dark Knight, but I’m talking about games that, from start to finish, have you scouring for clues, following up on leads, and piecing everything together; culminating in an epic final reveal. Both 'L.A. Noir' and 'Heavy Rain' did admirable jobs of mixing sleuthing with action set pieces, but games of that calibre seem to be few and far between. 'Murdered: Soul Suspect', a supernatural, detective thriller, developed by Airtight Games, attempts to bridge this gap with a twisting narrative that drives the player forward with interesting characters and an intriguing script. But is story alone enough to carry the game?
'Murdered: Soul Suspect' absolutely drips with theme. The environment - a separate character in and of itself - mixes the ghostly world and the real world by combining sections of 17th century Salem with today's more current architectural designs. Gallows, fresh from a recent hanging, are solidly framed along Main street. Centuries-old fires still burn along the walls of buildings long since destroyed. And colonial ships that sunk in the harbor, drowning dozens, have washed ashore as if the tragedy occurred just yesterday. Every structure and lost soul from a past long since dead is enveloped in a ghostly glow reminiscent of Peter Jackson's 'The Frighteners' - providing the game with a wonderful sense of character.
Just as impressive are the character models that make up the bulk of the game - Ronan O'Connor in particular. Between his detailed tattoos, unshaven face, and Detective's vest and tie, his presence on screen is a consistent highlight of the game. The artists at Airtight Games deserve recognition for their work that went into detailing this character. More than just impressive character design, his (and other characters) ability to emote in such life-like presentation is continually impressive.
Still, as thematic as 'Soul Suspect' is, it is not without its share of technical blemishes. Aside from the occasional screen tearing and unaligned lip sync during character conversations, I encountered several game-freezing glitches; the first of which happened in the opening moments of the game. Thankfully, substantial game progress was never lost, and this was more a nuisance than a game breaker.
The stronger-than-average voice acting of 'Murdered: Soul Suspect' is also an impressive feature of the game. One would expect (or at the very least, hope) that the main characters - playable or otherwise - would be top notch. What surprised me though was that many of the side-quest characters, those that you only encounter for brief moments, also delivered a confident ability to act.
As strong as much of the voice acting is, I was somewhat disappointed in the overall use of special audio effects that were employed throughout the game. This is, after all, a supernatural thriller; a genre that I expect to be substantially more dramatic with environmental effects and impressive sound design, ghostly or otherwise. While the effects that were used were not bad, they were very much of the common variety. On top of this, the lack of an appropriately creepy or whimsical soundtrack diminished the visual representation that I was so pleased with.
Driven by its story, fans of Quantic Dreams' 'Beyond: Two Souls' and 'Heavy Rain' are certain to find 'Murdered: Soul Suspect' appealing. The setting, characters, and not- altogether-foreseeable-plot twist, truly set this game apart. As much as I enjoyed the experience, it's difficult for me to recommend it as a full priced retail game. Clocking in between 6-7 hours (even after locating about 75% of the collectibles), the game was just beginning to ramp up when the credits start to roll. With a lower than average replay value, and no multiplayer option, paying full price for 'Soul Suspect' may be a difficult decision to make. Still, playing the game now, waiting for a price drop, or adding it to your rental queue, 'Murdered: Soul Suspect' is a noble effort by Airtight Games and one that I enjoyed from start to finish.
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