E3 2013: Murdered: Soul Suspect Preview

June 20, 2013

Murdered: Soul Suspect was revealed to the world just a few weeks before E3, so it was no surprise that the game would be shown at the event. We had the opportunity to have a look at the game behind closed doors at the Square Enix booth.

Developer Airtight Games presented the hands-off demonstration, which began with the protagonist, trilby-wearing detective Ronan O’Connor being pushed from a second floor window to the ground below. A mysterious antagonist picks up Ronan’s gun and empty’s the clip into his unconscious body. The spirit of Ronan, meanwhile, watches the whole thing happen. He is obviously is some ‘dethatched’ state, as he can hear and see what is going on, but no one can see him. From here, players have to piece together the events leading to Ronan’s murder. Players assume the role of Ronan’s spirit stuck in a limbo state called ‘The Dusk’, exploring various crime scenes and eventually piecing together clues. Our first point of investigation is the crime scene of Ronan’s own death. We witness Ronan’s brother, also a detective, taking the lead on the investigation.

As a spirit, Ronan can eavesdrop on conversations. Listening in on other characters at your own crime scene, it seems Ronan was not the most liked or conventional detective. You can also ‘possess’ other characters, essentially having Ronan’s spirit infiltrate their minds. By possessing characters at the crime scene, we were able to help focus the thoughts of a witness, zeroing in on the relevant details and subsequently giving the investigating police a better description. By possessing a police officer, we could also see the crime scene notes he had written down. Discovering clues earns players ‘Police Badge’ rewards, counting towards your experience total.

Completing these tasks allows characters to put together the first few clues of the murder. For example, listening in on the police officers, we learned that Ronan may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. The witness also informed us that Ronan was thrown from a window. Putting the clues together works somewhat like a mini-game. In a misty window, all the facts we have learnt thus far float on the screen as single descriptive words. Players are tasked with highlighting the words in the correct order that best articulates the crime. Hence, we conclude Ronan was thrown from a building and shot several times with his own weapon by a mysterious offender. The next logical course is to then explore that building.

The game is set in Salem, Massachusetts, a city known for its supernatural history. Not only have the developers craftily worked this into the story, but fittingly, the city’s buildings are consecrated.  You see, as a ghost, Ronan can walk about the environment and complete investigations as he pleases. He can walk through items like lamp posts and even walls. However, there is a limit to his ability to enter buildings freely, as Ronan has to wait for a ‘opening’ before he can enter any consecrated structure. Once inside the building he was thrown from, Ronan can move freely, unimpeded by walls and is also able to teleport small distances. Ronan can also encounter spirits in a similar state to himself, and complete side-quests they give to him. In our demo, Ronan was asked by the ghost of a girl where her dead body was located. Possessing an elderly couple in the building, we were able to learn the information and complete the quest. You can also interact with the real world to affect the living. For example, in the demo, Ronan ignited a stove, forcing a resident to come and investigate.

Frightening representations of demons also exist in the spiritual world and can devour you if you get too close. Demons live off the spirits of dead characters like Ronan. Oddly, you can sneak up on demons from behind and ‘possess’ them too, essentially killing them, which puzzled us as we assumed the demons are already dead. That was all we saw in the way of combat.

Examining the upstairs room of the building and touching the memory residues there reveal short flashbacks to the exact time Ronan was murdered. Looking at a broken baseball bat, we view a flashback showing the killer was able to bend the item after Ronan attempted to use it as an improvised weapon to defend himself. We also learn a young girl watched the events unfold before escaping, and that she was probably the killer’s intended target. Once all the clues have been discovered, we engage in another word-selecting mini-game. Placing the words in the correct order, we then witness a complete and chronological flashback of Ronan encountering his killer, being thrown out the window, and the unseen girl escaping out a window. Hence, we pick up on the next part of our investigation – finding the girl will reveal even more. This is when our demonstration ended.

Murdered: Soul Suspect is shaping up an excellent detective thriller, taking the best elements from LA Noire, point and click adventures, and mixing it with a unique supernatural story. The game is due for release in early 2014 on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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