Dead and loving it
Were all used to dying in games just ask anyone who has been playing Dark Souls II. But few games have the bottle to open with the death of the character you play. That, though, is what happens in Murdered: Soul Suspect. The first glimpse of your character Ronan OConnor, hard-bitten cop with a shady past sees him being ejected from a third-storey window, and wondering how he survived. Except he didnt. When he sees his body on the ground, he realises he is a ghost.
This, then, is Murdered: Soul Suspects cue for all manner of unusual and often clever gameplay. As a ghost, you cant touch anything, but you can walk through walls, possess people (either to see what they are holding, eavesdrop their thoughts or, in some cases, influence those thoughts) and reconstruct imprints of past events. Which all comes in handy since, in order to release Ronan from his limbo state, you must track down his murderer, a shadowy serial killer known as The Bell Killer. In death, Ronan finds his investigatory skills have been enhanced, as he can see all sorts of other-worldly additions to the town of Salem, where the game is set some of which, admittedly, are only there to keep him to a single path, but they add to the general feeling of creepiness.
MSS, then, has an intrinsically interesting premise, and you swiftly discover that it was developed to enable what is essentially a point-and-click adventure game (an ancient but still much-loved genre) to feel more action-packed and less clunky than the norm. The gameplay mainly consists of investigating crime scenes, along similar lines to LA Noire testing your powers of observation, and occasionally generate a bit of frustration when you cant find a vital clue and solving puzzles (often involving getting to places which are blocked by demonic eruptions). Both those elements require a modicum of thought, which is always refreshing in a videogame. Plus theres a stealth element: you encounter demons which will kill you a second time unless you sneak up behind them and execute a kill-move; luckily, you can evade them by hiding in the husks of dead people that litter the place.
Before long you acquire a side-kick: a teenage medium called Joy, who will push buttons, pick up objects and so on for you, but you often have to keep her out of trouble by using your poltergeist powers to distract cops and enemies. There are side-missions, too, and extra bits of story you can unlock by collecting ghostly objects.
Murdered: Soul Suspect isnt perfect; its not the best-looking game around, even on the next-gen consoles, and you notice the odd amateurish element at one point, for example, you possess what must be the most poorly modelled and animated cat ever seen in a game. But it tries something different and succeeds, in a pretty endearing manner. The script wont blow you away, but the characters get under your skin, and it feels rather like one of David Cages highly feted efforts, such as Heavy Rain or Beyond: Two Souls. Plus its cheaper than the norm, reflecting the fact that it isnt the longest game ever. If you prize original gameplay, the opportunity to use your brain and atmospherics above action, take a look.