Murdered: Soul Suspect

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What would it be like to solve your own murder? To trace the steps leading up to it, to investigate how it happened and why. Creative director Yosuke Shiokawa wants us to experience this, and he’s making a game called Murdered: Soul Suspect, in which this is exactly what we do.

You are O’Connell, a policeman who, when he was alive, seemed to have unordothodox methods which made him the enemy of some. The trailer shows the setup – O’Connell responds to a tip-off and doesn’t wait for back up. The wanted man throws him out the window of the second story, and then shoots him seven times. O’Connell sees the shooting in his ghostly form, separated from his body. But who is the killer, and how can he be so strong? What is going on in the town of Salem?

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O’Connell is in limbo world, where those with unfinished business stay after they die, and slowly turn to demons if they can’t free their soul from its burden. These demons prowl, looking for souls to devour in the hope that eating a soul will return them to a normal state. But O’Connell can destroy them – he just needs to walk up behind one without it seeing, and “possess” it, bursting it from the inside. This is really the action gameplay mechanic of the game, but it’s not the most interesting part to me.

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O’Connell can’t touch things in the real world anymore; at least, he can’t touch things in the material sense. But he can do interesting things like possess people and see through their eyes or peek at their thoughts or feelings. In an early part of the game you are present at the investigation of your own murder, listening to the cops and the witness, trying to find clues to follow. A witness can’t articulate what she saw, so you can possess her and look closer at her thoughts. Two cops are whispering to one another – go over and listen in. One cop is browsing through his notebook – possess him and look through his eyes to see what deductions he’s made. Through this, you collect ideas, and once you have enough you can make deductions by joining those ideas together. This is the puzzle mechanic of the game, and implemented well this could be a really interesting system.

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The developers have created some interesting ways of constraining you. For example, you can’t enter any houses in Salem other than through an open door or window, even though once inside you can walk through walls. This is because Salem has a rich history in the supernatural and all the houses outside walls have been consecrated, preventing spirits from moving though them. The game seems quite open once you’re inside a house, with collectibles to find, side quests in the form of other ghosts to help, and demons to fight, but it does constrain your movement to keep the story going forward.

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Clearly, given the theme, this is a dark game. I asked Shiokawa if there would be any lighter moments, and he assured me that this is not a game that lets up – it’s not intense all the time, but it is dark all the time. You can explore the history of Salem through artifacts and memory imprints that you find, but they will tell a dark story. Other characters you meet are struggling to finish what they need to to leave the limbo state, so their stories are never happy either. One such character we saw was a little girl who draws graffiti on the wall, and then wipes them out. It turns out O’Connell can bring the graffiti back, and this will be a source of hints for his investigation. Of course, the spirits have seen things, they know things.

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Murdered: Soul Suspect is part puzzle-solving, part action, part story, part mystery, an interesting combination of parts. It’s also a welcome change of pace on the console gaming scene, so I’m looking forward to trying it when it releases on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in 2014. You can watch the announcement trailer below.