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Review Murdered: Soul Suspect (PS3): Even ghosts can die!

genre: adventure
year release: 2014

Murdered: Soul Suspect has an interesting premise. You play as Ronan who gets murdered by a serial killer whose identity is unknown. Ronan is not completely gone yet and is given a chance to solve his own murder and catch the killer as a ghost. This gives the traditional whodunnit plot a somewhat creative and original spin. Even if The Blackwell games did it first. Could it be that they ripped off the idea from those games? 

It doesn't matter since it won't spoil the fun that much. Provided you are into adventure games. Because first and foremost you are required to be a fan of the genre since otherwise there is not a whole lot else going on. In essence MSS is like an old school point and click adventure game where instead of the mouse you play with a controller. Like in those adventure games you will have to look for clues and items in order to solve puzzles so that you can advance. These puzzles are as basic as you can imagine and only require you to do some pixel hunting. That would have been fine if you had a precise control device like I don't know, a mouse? But with the PS3 controller at times this can prove to be a challenge since you have to move the character in a certain angle towards the object before you get the prompt. I personally am not a fan of pixel hunting especially if it's quite obvious what the solution should be. The game manages to present you these questions to which most of the time you already know the answers to. But I guess they wanted to give you the solution you are actually playing a game instead of watching one. And I am not going to lie I did enjoy these sequences since you do feel like you are a detective solving cases. 

But the developers also decided to add a real gameplay element to give you more of a challenge and in all sincerity it's stupid. As someone who is a big fan of stealth games I simply have big issues with how these stealth sequences are constructed. Especially when the controls aren't precise. You will encounter demons who block your path. And often you are required to deal with them before you can move on. This is recommended since they will remain there even if you have passed the section. Why you would need to return sections you passed? Collectibles. The game is filled with collectibles that supposedly add to the story. Like I said the controls aren't precise and can be very easy to miss the collectibles. Anyway, you have one advantage as you can see through walls and observe the patterns of these demons. To defeat them you have to walk or run up to them from behind and then you get a prompt (direction plus action buttion) which you have to execute swiftly since window of opportunity is very brief. This can become a very frustrating affair if you aren't getting the prompt. If you don't then these demons will detect and haunt you so fiercely that even from long distances they will suck you up and you will die. Apparently even ghosts can die, who knew? Only a brief explanation is given and to be honest it doesn't make a lot of sense since it is clearly added to give you real gameplay. I would have preferred another mechanic or some extra tools to make it more fun. Like being able to distract the demons on my own terms. Now you are given crows on set places. It would have been nice if they had given you the ability to make noise so that these demons could come looking for you and then you deal with them. You know like they do in most good stealth games?

What did I think of the collectibles? Did they really add to the story? Often the items you collect trigger flashbacks and do give you background on Salem and it's history. It does help build some kind of tension although some stories weren't nearly as compelling as they could have been.

Which brings me to the main draw of the game. The story. For the most part it's adequately told as there is a enough suspense and certainly a very good atmosphere that surrounds the mystery. Even the main character has an air of mystery to himself. Only very little is done with it. What's the point of telling us about him being an ex crook who has become a cop and then not do something interesting with it? Perhaps this was meant as a red herring? If so then they failed. Biggest problem tough is the fact that there aren't that many characters who could serve as red herrings and that makes it a bit too easy to predict who the Bell Killer is. Although the developers did come up with something clever to circumvent it. A but convenient and perhaps a cop out but I would never have guessed it. As a veteran giallo / thriller / mystery fan that is saying something. But that doesn't mean I liked the outcome. You see a lot of the impact of this plot element is based on how much you can be bothered to find a special set of collectibles. Since these are optional and easy to miss you probably won't understand the big deal about them. I think they could have fixed this by replacing the side story collectibles with these and make them required. That way all of the items and clues would be relevant.

I had purchased this game for 3 euro's on PSN. Had this not been this cheap I would have felt cheated. I thought it was a decent enough of a game that did suck me in and made me want to finish it. Although a couple of those demon sequences especially the final ones got on my nerve. I think I would have liked this game a whole lot more had the side stories been a little bigger and more compelling. And if the main story had more substance. The killer twist has very little to no impact whatsoever and no matter how clever that is never good. As an idea this game had real potential. But the way it's executed it simply lacked too much. I would definitely check out the sequel to give the developers the chance to improve things. But looks like that is not in the cards

For fans of the adventure genre this will offer a fun enough experience since they will be able to finish it quickly in and around 5 hours or so. Non fans should not bother since it won't offer them anything else. The main draw is the story and everything else is padding to make it seem you are playing a game instead of watching a story. I do suggest to check out The Blackwell games since the first four in the series have a similar premise and are far superior. 

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