Not Randall, or Hopkirk, but very deceased.
Murdered: Soul Suspect should have been the be-all and end-all supernatural crime detection thriller, with a tight plot and a really innovative crime-solving gameplay mechanic. After all, the premise is pretty good since you're Ronan O'Connor, rough and tumble ex-con turned cop in Salem. The mysterious Bell Killer has been leaving a trail of bodies and you set out to track the killer down.
Wait for backup, you? Naw.
It doesn't go as planned and you're left for dead in the street, just when you think you're going to get some help you discover that you're somewhat dead and after seven slugs to the chest, very dead. So dead you could put a tag on your toe and label it: Deceased.
This is where the game should be really awesome, a disgruntled ghost with a set of detective skills solving the biggest case of his life. His own death, but as a player you feel somewhat disconnected from Ronan at the get-go and never quite attached to him as a character after that. The problem with Murdered stems from coming after the likes of L.A. Noire, a game that tried to make crime solving interesting, interactive and clever.
In that respect L.A. Noire succeeded admirably really, since many of the clues in the environment were connected to nothing at all, circumstantial as Cole would say.
In Murdered, you get the same kind of thing per crime scene. A bunch of clues that you need to collect so you can make some kind of deduction (fill in the blanks above a collection of words, or pictures) that links the scene with the objective. At the start of the game it's pretty simple to figure out, perhaps too simple for some players and feels like it might just have been easier to have a cut-scene to explain it.
You're rated 1-3 badges as you solve these clues and there's only a couple of times where it really matters, fail and you're going back to a checkpoint. If you don't care about those badges, you can continue to make mistakes until you find the right clues.
The issue with this is that the developers haven't fully thought the links through, so rather than an elegant noir-like Sherlock Holmes, Ronan's deduction skills are arbitrary and the conclusion for the scene as plain as the cigarette in his mouth. You literally pick those 3 things from a question: What is related to the killer? Well now, lets see, bunch of red herring clues and 3 very easy to spot answers. I wonder which I should pick?
Later on in the game some of the clues become the opposite and it takes a great leap of logic to connect the dots. It's quite jarring when you're used to simple puzzles and suddenly you're looking at things that only have a tenuous connection.
Still, that said, it's fun in a kind of guilty-pleasure way.
Ronan has several powers as a ghost, only several of these aren't implemented as well as they could have been. You can walk through most solid objects in the Dust, the dimension between life and death, where you have unfinished business to conclude before you move on. Dreams of people shivering as you rudely pass through them on the way to your next goal, should be fun right? Nope, hardly anyone reacts to Ronan's ghostly pass-through unless it's a cut-scene or part of the story.
You can pass through most walls, save for the exterior walls of Salem's many houses - because Salem folks had all their homes consecrated to ward off spirits and other dangers. The game helpfully shows you objects like this by making them stand out from the ethereal nature of the world, Dust objects are the same, they provide barriers that can sometimes be removed (by using Ronan's powers), or created to form a new platform to explore Salem or find a collectible.
There's no map, so expect to do some old school navigation and make your own map of things you can't collect yet (the game locks some areas out until you have the right power aka, teleport).
Ronan sometimes needs to influence people to get them to remember facts, or move objects that are in the way of his investigation. This often boils down to picking something that would help them remember, or trigger the desired reaction. It's mostly a binary answer and again, usually pretty obvious. He can also read minds via this possession mechanic... it doesn't add much to the overall story and very often doesn't even have a relevance to the case at hand.
Poltergeist powers: Ronan can, at key points, distract guards and so on with his power. This only comes into effect when you're in one or two missions. Otherwise for the most part, unless a cop or so on is near said thing to interact with, you'll get virtually no reaction.
This is one of our key gripes with the game, it's got quite a bit of neat atmosphere here and there, the ghost part is kind-of cool but there's hardly anything really done with it. It sort of plods on and you're running from a-b following those objective markers until you reach some more interesting gameplay and then it falls flat because of a lack of ambition in certain areas.
Highlights of the Possession system: possessing a cat, that's quite fun, usually allowing you to get to things you couldn't get before and areas that are locked behind exterior walls. You can make the cat mew, it comes to something when making a cat mew is a lot more interesting than what you're doing at the time.
At certain points Ronan will garner the attention of demons, souls of the afterlife that have been around too long. They will try and suck Ronan's soul and devour it, they have line of sight and cone of vision mechanics. They move along predictable paths and can occasionally be distracted by ravens that perch around the area. The objective here is to avoid line of sight, get behind them and tear their souls apart in a quick time event, it's a simple thing, so simple that they might just have ditched that event and made it a function of being able to get behind said demon in the first place.
If the demon spots you, you can either leap into a person and hide there, or use the residue of previous ghosts that have faded to almost nothing. Then you can leap from one hide spot to another as the demons search around for you. It's kind of neat, but doesn't quite work all the time since the demons seem to know where you are even when you break their line of sight.
It's a flawed system, when it works it's kind of cool, when it doesn't you're left going back to that wretched checkpoint.
Clear all the demons and you can continue to investigate, finding lots of collectibles. Unlocking history, stories (these are often great and well told by the narrators) of Salem's past murders. Moving along a linear path to the next area and solving side quests along the way, unfinished business of souls that are trapped with you. Help them move on for a feeling of warmth and satisfaction!
The story is told in fits and starts, building to a fairly predictable conclusion, but still with some twists and turns that may well keep you enthralled for the 10-12 hours it will take to finish it.
Not quite Dead on Arrival!
Despite the faults the game has it can be quite fun, it can be quite neat in places and there's some genuinely good moments here along the story path. The graphics aren't new-gen on the Xbox One, they're a nicer coat of paint from the previous gen and there are sometimes frame-hitches (we've seen this on PS4 as well as PC) as the game pauses for a moment to probably load in an area. The character design for Ronan is quite neat, the ghost effects are cool and the demon designs are pretty creepy.
The animations are good and the atmosphere and aesthetics match up as well. It uses some neat lighting effects and the Dust is a pretty disturbing place as it intersects old Salem with new.
The voice work is passable and the script suffers from a bland style of writing at times.
The music is good and solid and the audio itself has some truly spooky cues waiting in the wings for explorers of the game's many secret areas.
It isn't a terrible, horrible and unplayable mess though. It just needs a little to get into and the right kind of person to appreciate it. We enjoyed it enough even through the things we didn't like and finished it.
It's worth a look if you're Jonesing for a Detective Thriller, but just don't expect fantastic things.