Murdered: Soul Suspect is one of those games I just happened to be walking by when I had no appointments scheduled and the line was short. There was an Alan Wake-looking dude on the wall and that’s all I knew about it. I mean, besides that corny pun in the title. For real, though: I’m glad I stepped into the theater. This might have been the most pleasant surprise of the whole show.
Murdered opens with you, a detective, being killed. Like, super killed. First you’re thrown out of a fourth story window. Then your mysterious assailant follows you downstairs and puts seven slugs in your chest. You get to watch this second part live because – surprise! – you’re a ghost now. A ghost detective! And your unfinished business, it seems, is figuring out the identity of the hooded guy that killed you. This will be accomplished by sulking around as an angry ghost, possessing citizens and reading their minds, fighting demons, and using logic to solve other crimes along the way.
See, since you’re a ghost, you can’t directly impact anything in the real world. And, since the game is set in Salem, Massachusetts (which you may remember has a bit of history with the supernatural), all the buildings have been sealed against both good and evil spirits. While this may seem like a hackneyed plot device to keep you out of buildings the developers don’t want you to get into, it’s actually a real life thing that Salem did back in the witch hunting days. The fact that it works to keep you out of nearly every building in the world is just a convenient bonus. Don’t worry: once you sneak inside, you’re free to phase through walls and do other ghostly things.
Much of the game seems to revolve around inspecting crime scenes and deducing what took place using the limitless power of your mind. This is accomplished by zooming in on bits of evidence (looking, never touching) and then picking from a cloud of keywords the most appropriate for that scene. You can also possess humans to see the world through their eyes and gently nudge their thoughts to aid you in achieving your goals.
It’s not all thinking and word association, however. There are also some evil spirits that have been between worlds for too long that you’ll have fight. Of course, they’re much stronger than you and can only be beaten by sneaking up on them from behind and doing that thing that Neo did to Agent Anderson at the end of The Matrix. You realize quickly that these wraiths are what you’ll become if you fail.
After you finish examining the crime scene, you make you way inside the house and up to where you were tossed out the window. It’s here that you discover that you weren’t alone in the room – a young girl saw you get murdered. Time to find her! You take a quick psychic imprint of a photograph she’s in and it’s off to your adventure…
I am ALL ABOUT this game. With all the shooters and racers and MMOs at this year’s E3, it’s nice to see a game that’ll make you think a little bit, and a detective game that doesn’t borrow TOO heavily from Heavy Rain and Batman’s Detective Mode. Plus, it’s coming to current consoles, too, so you won’t need to drop another $400-500 to try it out when it releases early next year. Don’t worry, though: it’s plenty pretty, even on today’s hardware. I can’t wait to see if the final product turns out as interesting as I hope… or it ends up being a total snorefest like Alan Wake. Fingers crossed!