GON's resident supernatural buff Toby is less than impressed with this surprisingly mundane murder mystery.
By Toby McCasker on June 5, 2014 at 1:33 pm
Murdered: Soul Suspect feels hollow, and that’s not just because you’re a ghost. Remember the good-looking but detached dalliances you might’ve had with Asura’s Wrath and/or Beyond: Two Souls? This is like that. It has that exact same inconsequential feel of having been intended as a movie, but made by people who ended up in games.
Which sucks even more in this case, because MSS’ narrative is only compelling in so far as it’s a mystery. Every well-worn cinematic cliché and dramatic device of the afterlife is good and accounted for here: You’ve been murdered, and you can’t go and be with your dead wife – also cruelly murdered and a source of personal agony! – until you deal with what’s keeping you ghosted to Salem, Massachusetts (yes, it is even set in America’s witch-burning capital).
‘You’ being newly spectral detective, Ronan. Oh, how he is a monument to the fact a great many game designers desperately require life experience. When your idea of what constitutes an ‘edgy’ lead is consistently some brooding white guy with stubble and tattoos, at least convince with the devils in the details. Ronan’s tattoos are beautiful works of art where they are supposed to represent a misspent life of long prison stretches. You ever seen prison tattoos? They don’t look like that. They look like this.
His omnipresent cigarette is supposed to be badass as all #yolo, too, and in its own way it is. During the opening throwdown with MSS’ masked antagonist, it never once falls out of Ronan’s mouth.
Nothing can take away from MSS’ vibe, though. The atmosphere generated by apparitions of Salem’s brutal past poking through into its sleepy present is wonderfully uncomfortable, and Jason Graves’ (he of Dead Space fame) eerie minimalism sets it off. Its gameplay is just as ethereal, because MSS is essentially a pixel hunt for the modern era.
When you’re not in railroaded transit to the next point of interest (this may sometimes involve dodging demons or possessing a cat, about the only times you can exercise any free will), you’re trying to piece something together via pretty much finding and clicking on things that might be clues.
The ‘detective’ majority of MSS recalls Jayden’s parts in Heavy Rain, or even Westwood’s Blade Runner adaption from waaay back, with one crucial difference: There’s no wrong answer here. You click on everything enough times and you’ll just succeed and move forward. The game even tells you in huge hovering letters what you’re supposed to be doing most of the time. Blade Runner is 17 years old and it still managed to give you the freedom to do things out of turn and thus vastly alter the narrative. MSS just wants to be the year’s ultimate summer blockbuster.
And that’s the problem with it: For a game that wants money for being a game, it’s not much of one. Despite this, some critics think MSS’ story is strong enough to keep you going. That really depends on how high your personal standards are for a good supernatural thriller, but you could probably find this exact same thing but better on an illicit Netflix connection within seconds. Do that.
- Ronan’s hat is cool.
- Press ‘Q’ to make the kitty meow.
- Game is not really a game.
- Conceptualised by men-children.
- If it was a movie it would be cheaper and the same thing.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is currently $53.99 on Steam.
This review conducted on PC code supplied by Namco Bandai.