Thursday, June 12, 2014

Murdered: Soul Suspect (PS4)

Video games come in a variety of different makes, and models these days. The design can sometimes be elaborate to the point that the experience lasts for days, or even months. Such is the world of RPGs, and open world sandbox games. Other games are short lived, but leave a lasting impression on the gamers' mind. In the case of Airtight Games' "Murdered: Soul Suspect" I think it falls in dead center of the latter category. The developer has made the game more than just a quick run through opportunity, and instead has the gamer focus on every tiny detail that went into the game's design. Everything from the characters involved, the special effects, the locations, the stealth gameplay, and the crime solving puzzles come together in a nice neat package that will keep your attention wholly focused on everything that is happening, and everything that is being shown onscreen. Not only that, but the graphics are good enough to boast about, and the game's applied atmosphere is one that definitely screams "AFTERLIFE!".

In "Murdered: Soul Suspect" you will be following the fall of a wayward cop who had once led the life of a criminal. Ronan who was disliked by his fellow officers, but loved by his once living wife found himself at the mercy of a serial killer known as the "Bell Killer". Through some leads Ronan eventually catches up to the killer only to be added to his list of trophy kills. This is of course where the game begins, and where you have to begin backtracking as the recently deceased Ronan in order to make things right, so that you can passover the afterlife's "bridge".

Using tools you amassed in your time as a criminal, and as a cop you must guide Ronan as he deciphers real world crime scenes using worldly forensics, and otherworldly methods. As a spirit everything Ronan learned in life is ultimately amplified in death. His newly gained skills such as possession, influence, and mind reading will come in handy as he tries to help the people involved understand the case on his level. As you traverse the eerie spiritual world of Salem, Massachusetts you will encounter spirits of the deceased, soul stealing demons, and the people who are still amongst the living. Through point & click interactions based on choices you will be able to interact with the onscreen characters, and the world around you. Some of your time will be spent making sense of crime scenes with discovered clues while some of your time will be spent influencing the "Bell Killer" case. There's even some side quests in which you will help other lost Salem spirits move on by helping to solve their own death mysteries. Collectible objects will also shed some light on other Salem deaths in a 'behind-the-scenes' sort of way.

As far as the crime solving goes you will have to interact with objects in the environments as well as people/spirits who are lingering around the crimes scenes, and living in the locales you are searching. By aiming Ronan's line of sight (Right Thumbstick) towards a person, or spirit of interest you will trigger an option menu in which specific button presses will allow you to do different things. In the way of people/spirit interactions you will be able to influence their thoughts, and read their minds in order to find clues. Before you do so though you must always possess them. This ability also comes at the click of a button that comes into view once you have the person/spirit within Ronan's line of sight. Often times clues that are found in a particular crime scene, whether they be from a person, spirit, or the surrounding environment will help you to influence a person who is involved in the "Bell Killer" case.

Each crime scene, or area of interest usually has a set number of clues to be found. Once the necessary clues are found you can conclude the case at hand, further extending Ronan's knowledge of what it is that he must do to help his spirit move on. Some clues are items of interest that are located on furniture, or around the rooms in various buildings. By directing Ronan's focus across the areas he is currently inhabiting via the (Right Thumbstick) button menus will pop-up letting you know that there's something you can interact with. Clues range from damaged areas to articles, and even spiritual representations of living characters that are left behind. Finding the right clues to correctly conclude the investigation at hand is a must if you hope to progress through the game's entirety.

When it comes to solving the crime scenes you will have to bring up all the clues you have found, and summarize the events that took place using a sequential order. You will have to pick only the relevant clues, and do so in order to reveal a visual memory of the crime scene. While you do have limited chances to get it right via a three badge system you can continue through the game even with messing up the order of the clues three times in a row. The badge icons which disappear each time you get a clue choice wrong will ultimately effect the ending (I assume).

One thing I forgot to mention is that as a ghost/spirit Ronan can pass through walls, and through spiritual residue. As a rule of thumb in the spiritual world ghosts/spirits can only pass through open doors, or windows in order to gain access to the rooms within. Once inside though ghosts/spirits can pass through walls that are not spiritually blocked (bricked walls). Passing through walls will help Ronan gain quicker access to different parts of each area/building, and will help him extend his investigation greatly. When it comes to traveling through the foggy spiritual residue of recently visited spirits you will have to take advantage of it in order to hide from, and escape the lurking demons' wrath. This is where the stealth gameplay comes into play.

Despite the more straightforward majority of gameplay you will eventually encounter soul stealing demons who are out to end Ronan's otherworldly existence. To avoid them you must make it to the rooms/areas where the spiritual residue resides, and hide in the foggy humanoid forms until the demon leaves the area. Usually there are several spirit residue formations located in each area allowing for movement between each one. By focusing Ronan's line of sight on the next spirit residue, and pressing (R2) you can move further away from the demonic threat. Keep in mind though that lingering in a single spirit residue will usually turn away the demon after a while.

Once the demon has left you can track it's whereabouts with a sort of spirit sonar (I forget what it's called, sorry). By pressing (R1) you will be able to see the demon through the walls. It will be highlighted in a flaming orange color, and it's line of sight will be shown as a orange cone letting you know which way the demon is facing/looking. After escaping the demon's line of sight you can sneak up behind it, and execute it using a combination of the (Left Thumbstick) directions, and a designated button that is randomly selected. If you are successful the demon will burst into flaming embers, and disappear from existence. It's definitely best to deal with the demons as soon as possible, so they don't pose a threat should you need a quick escape.

In the end you will find that "Murdered: Soul Suspect" is a perfect mixture of crime solving, stealth gameplay, and storytelling. Both the living world, and the world of the dead collide to bring full circle the tale of Ronan, and his encounter with one of Salem, Massachusetts' most notorious serial killers. Fans of the supernatural, and the forensic will no doubt love the tale of Ronan's life, and death experiences.

About the graphics & sound ...

The graphics in "Murdered: Souls Suspect" honestly aren't exactly as great as one would hope they would be in the current generation of technology, but at the same time they aren't that bad either. The applied spiritual effects, and the haunting environments give this game the ghastly feel that is true to the ghost genre effects that are used across the entertainment industry. In a way the game does feel a lot like certain ghost horror flicks from the past, and present. Movies like "The Frighteners" starring Michael J. Fox come to mind. In the way of sound applied atmospheric sound effects add to the eerie nature of the game. Even the music carries with it a haunting tune fitting for the visual tale being told. All in all it is the perfect presentation for such a haunting tale to be told.

Now on to the Verdict ...

I have to wholeheartedly agree with my friends +SlasherJPC & @RichLando. This game, even in it's short lived length is amazing. The developer fully realized that their design, and it's accompanying tale mattered more than pushing the limits of next-gen graphics. The way the games is setup will force you to notice all of the game's glorious details, and will enable you as a gamer to enjoy the haunting story in the richest of possible ways as a result. The characters whether they be of the spiritual, or human world matter greatly as does the crime solving mechanics that were applied in-game. It's one of those rare gaming experiences that you will not forget soon after completing it due to it's genius construction. Like the haunting nature of the story being told your playthrough experience will also haunt you for a long while to come even after you have long since left it. I think in those respects 'Airtight Games', and Square Enix definitely earned the asking price of $59.99!

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