A hard-nosed cop with a checkered past teams up with a teenage clairvoyant to track down a mysterious serial killer on the streets of Salem, Mass.
Is that the logline for the latest crime procedural on CBS? Good guess. But not this time.
Only a Ghost (Cop) of a Chance
Murdered: Soul Suspect begins as police officer Ronan O'Connor is thrown out of a building's fourth floor window. The heavily tattooed cop crashes in a heap on the street ... and then gets four or five slugs pumped into his chest. Yeah, you might justifiably think that would be the end of this guy's case, not the beginning. But in this instance, Ronan sits up with fedora and cigarette perfectly in place. Now he's a ghost who has the thankless job of figuring out his own murder before he can move on to the afterlife. The gravel-voiced detective has to sift through his and other crime scenes to look for valuable clues, but it's a task that's a bit tricky. After all, sifting can be problematic when you have no physical hands to do it with. This ghosty guy can pass right through closed doors and walls, you see. So Ronan recruits the help of a girl named Joy—a teen rebel who possesses all the paranormal skills necessary to not only see Ronan but give him plenty of back talk, too.
Joy doesn't really want anything to do with either corporeal killers or ethereal cops, but she agrees to help out the investigation since it might lead to info about her missing mom. And together this uneasy duo slowly figures out who the dreaded Bell Killer is and tries to stop him before he claims more helpless victims.
Psychic Puzzles and Spectral Smoking Guns
As Ronan, players encounter a number of physical and spiritual puzzles, and they're given a variety of pumped-up ghost-detective abilities to solve them with. For example, not only can the detective scope out physical crime scene clues and bits of environmental evidence like a living cop would—a key dropped through a ventilation grid here or a cracked piece of sheetrock there—but he can also reconstruct frozen images of past events from psychic residue left on location.
On top of that, the offed officer can slip into the body of any living human he encounters. He can't control their movements, but he can read their thoughts in hopes of finding a snippet of memory that could send him hunting in one direction or another. And once enough clues and images have been gleaned, gamers are charged with guessing the proper timeline of events. If their hunches are correct, they watch the various crimes play out onscreen (CSI flashback-style).
On occasion, Ronan will also come upon other confused dead people who've been trapped in the same spiritual limbo he's in. A girl wonders about her actions on the night of a boat wreck, for instance, and a guy worries that the car accident that cost his friends their lives was his fault. And in those unrelated little side quests Ronan uses his detective skills to answer their questions, put their minds at ease and help them follow a bright light to spiritual closure.
Dark Witchy Wrongdoing
Being that all this takes place in the fabled city of Salem, however, it's not a stretch to see how darker elements could be woven into the detecting fray.
Fearsome demons rise out of bubbling flame pits to race screaming in Ronan's direction in hopes of sucking up his soul. Sneaking up behind these herky-jerky floating spirits and "exorcising" them—essentially ripping out their essence and reducing them to a pile of ash—is the only way to get past them. That's really the only combat-like element of the game ... but it's not the only negative element.
Occasional foul language includes uses of "a‑‑hole," "d‑‑n" "g‑‑d‑‑n" "b‑‑ch," the s-word and (according to the ESRB) the f-word. One crime scene involves a trio of drunken partiers. And the Bell Killer investigation reveals a witch-like character with shadowy powers who's responsible for a variety of physical possessions and is integral to the murders of numerous young girls. Along with Ronan, we're subsequently confronted with vivid reconstructions of the Bell Killer's crimes.
One young girl, for instance, is tied to a chair and suspended over a pool of water, then slowly lowered and drowned while she screams and gurgles. In another case we watch as a victim is viciously manhandled and bound to a post to be burned alive. The various environs are creepy and sometimes blood spattered.
For all of its creative gameplay and gumshoe potential, then, Murdered: Soul Suspect seems equally interested in spying on twisted spirituality and grim criminal reenactments.