Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Murdered: Soul Suspect (Xbox 360 Review)

Ugh, I almost feel bad writing this review, due to the fact that Airtight Games has now closed it's doors. But, I feel Airtight is less to blame for this than Square Enix. As, at least for me, Square Enix is the place where ambitious ideas go to be, well, unfulfilled. I have seen it with a few games from them, I felt Dues Ex had a lot of really great mechanics and story elements that somehow fell short of being really amazing, and I felt it again with the Tomb Raider re-boot. Why Tomb Raider? Because while the game was simply amazing, Square focused all the post release support towards the abysmal multiplayer aspect of the game, rather than releasing maybe a flip side of playing as the other survivors while Lara was off doing her thing, or at the very least more optional tombs, but instead it was maps.... REALLY?! More maps for a game that never needed multiplayer to begin with?! So, I held fear for the release of Murdered, it looked promising had interesting mechanics, and was set in a place with so much history that this game should have been better. But, as I have become used to, it falls way short.

You play as Roman O' Connor, a detective on the trail of the Bell Killer, whom has been terrorizing Salem as of recent. But Roman suffers a minor setback when he is killed in an altercation with the Bell Killer. So, now Roman is trapped between the living world and the afterlife, forced to solve his own murder before he can move on to the next life. Along the way Roman meets a girl named Joy who can see him, and together they must figure out who the Bell Killer is and why he has been doing the horrible things he has.

This is just one of the areas Murdered never seems to gain footing in, the story is painfully underdeveloped, and criminally short. You never quite have the time to care, about anyone in the story, even Roman, and you spend the entire game with him. Motivations a cliched and sometimes just barely mentioned. What's worse, is that a majority of what I would imagine are the games pivotal moments, and plot twists are so plain to see that when they happen you are left with an almost "oh, OK." kind of feeling. The occasional people you will run into that are trapped there with you are also painfully uninteresting, and for some reason while you can help certain ghosts to move on, the more malevolent spirits you encounter offer you nothing more than the evil reasons they are haunting their chosen victim, but you can't force them to move on, you just leave them there to torture whoever they chose to torture. I really wish they would have given you the option to banish these souls, I'm not entirely sure how it would be accomplished but I think I would have felt better if I was able to, rather than just letting them linger by innocent people.

Over the course of the game you will come across many crime scenes, and in a L.A. Noire style method you simply walk around the crime scene, collect clues, and then make an educated guess based on the evidence. There is absolutely no penalty for guessing wrong, it will actually just narrow your choices. The game more or less does a lot of hand holding. You never have to fear failing, or accusing the wrong person, you will simply guess until you get it right. This takes any and all difficulty out of the game making you simply find the evidence, make a guess till you get it right, then rinse and repeat.

Roman also has a host of spectral powers, all of which you will stop using unless absolutely necessary after the first five minutes.You can possess people and read their thoughts, which seems awesome in theory, until you hear the same exact thought, in the same exact voice, on only the third person you try it on. Seriously, there is painfully little that the residents of Salem are thinking about, and absolutely none of it impacts the game, it is simply there. You also can't move them or make them do anything, unless you possess a cat, then you can access previously unavailable areas, but only when the game places a cat in your path, and you can usually only explore the immediate vicinity of where you found it. You can use a Poltergeist power to make printers spew forth papers in an office building, or cause soda machines to spit out cans, which yet again sounds awesome, but when you realize that no one seems to notice or care when you do it, unless it is needed to progress, it takes all the fun out of even having the power. You can walk through most objects except ones that the game places in your path to prevent you from going to certain areas. Which yet again makes it feel like the game is holding your hand and pointing you towards where you are supposed to be, and not necessarily where you want to be.

The city of Salem is also pretty painful to navigate, I have a 100% completion in the game, and even after everything I never once felt like I knew where the hell I was going. It was usually trial and error, make a wrong turn, run into a dead end, turn around make another wrong turn, run into a dead end, eventually realize I've been going in the completely wrong direction, turn around, repeat. There is also very little to explore in a town so steeped in history. You can't explore a majority of the buildings, your path is blocked at every turn, and only the environments that are vital to the story are the only areas you will be allowed to explore. With the games hundreds of collectibles, even the map that was distributed with the game was inaccurate, making the task of finding collectibles an absolute chore.

Occasionally you will run into these guys, demons are pretty scary, but you can fight them, at all. When demons are around there is spiritual residue left behind by other ghosts, this allows Roman to hide, you can hop from soul residue to soul residue, until you inevitably end up behind the demon allowing you to rip them apart. It was nice the first couple times, but after awhile dealing with them becomes a hassle, and I wish you could confront or distract them using your ghostly abilities, but, your only choice is to hop around until you can get behind them, and then repeatedly button press until they are defeated. But, they are few and far in between , and if they do find you, it just turns into an annoying game of hide-and-seek, where you will hop around until they lose interest and go back to their set path.

Once you have completed Murdered's very short story you will find little reason to revisit Salem, unless you somehow missed a collectible or two, and with the closure of Airtight Games I don't foresee there being any kind of additional content to improve upon the story, or even a sequel that could maybe allow for more freedom and better use of the skills you are handed. I rented Murdered from Redbox, I completed it the next day, the entire story, and every collectible. So, is Murdered worth a $2 rental from Redbox or an addition to your Queue on Gamefly? Absolutely, the game is definitely unique and different than any other game on the market. But, is it worth buying the game for $49.99 or more? No, the extreme lack of exploration, underdeveloped story, and incredibly short completion time make it nowhere near purchasable. 4 out of 10