E3 Preview: Murdered: Soul Suspect
Murdered: Soul Suspect is one of the games of E3 which I am most looking forward to. Detective games are rare on console to begin with, and Murdered has an added unique twist. As the game’s tagline says, “The hardest murder to solve is your own.” In Soul Suspect, you play as the recently deceased Ronan O’Connor, who spends the game as a ghost investigating his own murder. As a ghost, Ronan can’t interact with the world in the same way as he did when he was a living cop, which creates some unique gameplay opportunities.
Square-Enix didn’t have a live demo to show off, but I did get to witness a presentation on the game, guided by Matt Brener of Airteck Games. Soul Suspect is billed as a supernatural detective game, set in Salem, Massachusetts. A series of murders have occurred, leaving the police searching for a serial killer. Ronan, who’s a bit of a rogue cop, gets a tip that the murderer will be at a certain place at a certain time. Rather than calling for backup, he heads in alone.
And ends up dead.
Soon, Ronan finds himself as a ghost, looking over his own body. As a detective, he’s naturally interested in finding the identity of his murderer, so he sets about to investigate. Of course, not being able to directly interact with evidence or people poses a bit of a problem for the newly deceased detective, so he has to get a bit creative, and here’s where the unique gameplay of Soul Suspect comes in.
Your main tool is observation, but as a ghost, you also have a few tricks up your sleeves. Ronan can pass through walls (although he needs to find a breach in the barrier, such as hitching inside a building with a mortal’s help, to get through initially) and he can possess people, too. As Ronan discovers new facts, he’s able to unlock memories and psychic images that help him begin to put the pieces together.
For example, in this early portion of the demo, Ronan is able to observe his body for some clues (not too unlike LA Noire, although he can’t actually touch anything, obviously), then he can possess one of the cops to see through his eyes so Ronan can read the cop’s notebook, picking up more possible clues. Next, he can possess a witness another cop is interviewing, giving him access to the witnesses’ thoughts. This was kind of interesting, because possessing a witness like this gives you a few possibilities. For one, you can influence the witness to answer questions he or she might not otherwise answer. Second, you have access to the person’s thoughts, so you can glean information that the cops might not have access to.
Exploration is nonlinear, and you have the opportunities for side quests from other ghosts. Exploring gives you backstory, extra clues, and brings you into contact with a mysterious girl. A “ghost graffitti artist from 300 years ago” who will apparently be important to the story.
In addition to possession and walking through walls, you can also use your ghostly powers to hex objects, causing them to malfunction. This isn’t simply poltergeist mischief, but can be essential in manipulating the humans around you. This is important, because while there are friendly spirits around you, there are also demons, ghosts who have become corrupted and who eat souls, believing that in doing so they’ll be restored to the world. They will kill Ronan if you’re not careful. In many situations, your best bet is to run (using your teleport ability, which lets you move quickly), but that’s not your only option. You can use stealth combat, sneaking up on them, possessing them, and killing them from the inside out. Or, if you don’t want the risk, possess a human, and when the human gets near the demon, jump into him and dispatch him safely.
The main crux of the game seems to be the detective work, exploring important areas to find memory residues, psychic remains of traumatic events, and unlocking these using your noggin until you can weave all the pieces together. In the demo, we’re exploring the house where Ronan ran into his killer, searching for clues. If you guess correctly once you’ve uncovered a memory residue, you get a psychic flash–in this example, the killer entering the apartment. Each object gives you choices and you have to pick correctly to get more psychic flashes. For example, you find a broken baseball bat on the floor, and you need to pick the right words (in this case, “Broken,” “struggle,” and “thrown out”). So on and so on, you build up memory residues and psychic flashes, giving you little pieces of the puzzle. For example, you discover there was a witness to your struggle with your murderer, someone the serial killer had come looking for, but who had been hiding and managed to escape. Once you’ve found all the pieces of the puzzle, you have to put the sequence of events in the correct order. Do so, and the full sequence of events–from when the killer entered the apartment to when Ronan is thrown out the window–plays like a psychic movie.
Now, Ronan knows he has to find this witness. “That girl is my only lead. I need to find her.”
Murdered: Soul Sacrifice is expected in early 2014, and will be available for PS3 and 360.