In our first visit to Square Enix's stand at E3, we take a look at an interesting new title that risks being overlooked amidst the spectacle of console announcements.
Murdered - Soul Suspect is a supernatural adventure game coming to PS3 and 360, where you must solve your own murder. Although set in modern times, the game is clearly channelling a pulp noir vibe, albeit with a ghostly twist. In fact, with arms covered in sigil-like tattoos, protagonist Ryan O'Connor appears to have some connection to the spectral realm even before he is unceremoniously gunned down by a mystery assailant.
Trapped in the limbo realm known as The Dusk, O'Connor must master his new state to uncover clues to his murder. There are few ways to directly interact with the material realm though - possessing the living only allows you to see through their eyes or gently influence their memories, and poltergeist abilities don't grant you the finesse to examine everything - they're mostly used to cause electrical equipment to malfunction, it seems. The game is a largely cerebral affair, more focussed on narrative and puzzle solving, and the restrictions placed on you by your unfortunate case of death forces you to approach problems very differently.
While the procedural elements and story-driven progression would place Murdered: Soul Suspect alongside the point-and-click adventures of old, it's not devoid of action. The Dusk is also inhabited by demons, other ghosts who became consumed by their lingering desires and now feast on the souls of the recently departed. These ghoulish monsters are terrifying, and O'Connor isn't capable of combating them face to face. You'll need to sneak up on them - handy that you can walk through walls and teleport short distances, then - and destroy them from behind. It would appear combat should be avoided altogether where possible though, and possession comes in handy here too - hiding in the living removes you from demons' view. You'll also need to help fellow shades fulfil their last requests - essentially expanded side quests that can uncover extra content for the core story.
Developer Airtight Games have created a suitably creepy world for the game, with its Salem setting steeped in an exaggerated form of the folklore surrounding the real city. It also looks great, full of clever transparency effects, lighting that impresses almost beyond expectations for PS3 and Xbox 360, and other ethereal visual tricks.
Murdered: Soul Suspect looks to be a great late entry for the current generation hardware. Hopefully players will still be open to new experiences on existing consoles by the time of its Q1 2014 release.