How will Airtight's spooky detective game compare to Team Bondi’s good-guys GTA cop show?
L.A. Noire wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it did well with gamers looking for a big action title that tried out something different with its crime solving mechanics. Murdered: Soul Suspect is taking up this mantle not least in its film noire styled cop protagonist with matching hat.
They are quite different games to play. L.A.Noire paid a lot of attention to historical detail and could give you the GTA style carjacking and shoot-out elements. Murdered: Soul Suspect plays out the hopelessness and horror of death but leans heavily on the crime investigation aspect you had in L.A. Noire and games like Heavy Rain before it.
In Murdered you play the role of dead cop Ronan O'Connor who stuck in the pergatory-like world of Dusk is on a mission to solve the crime of his own murder. To do this you can scan scenes for clues and use your ghostly abilities to inhabit people’s thoughts and guide them through the power of suggestion.
In your whispy ghost form you can move through walls. This cool gameplay feature shows some clever development, you can enter a room from any direction to trigger a game event rather than a pre-designated point. The city of Salem you haunt is steeped in superstitious history and annoyingly for you some buildings are protected by spiritual wards. Gaining entrance to a building becomes a puzzle element with multiple ways to attack it.
O’Connor does get to see some action, the world of dusk is inhabited with demons trying to eat your soul. Demons are way harder than you so you’ll need to work out ways to evade them.You can jump into pockets of ‘residual soul energy’ to safely watch their pathing movement and get past them, distracting them as you go by poltergeist-ing on a TV for instance. You’ll get the ability to forcibly exorcise the demons as well but you’ll have to stealth in undetected to get your shot.
Mixing it up with the investigation and mind reading aspect there’s a few interjecting gameplay mechanics at work that give Murdered originality. These are intended to combine to carry the game narrative, Murdered’s creative director Yosuke Shiokawa notes,."The basic genre I'd call action-adventure, but the core concept is more important, solving your own murder as a ghost detective The gameplay is a means to deliver that concept; the gameplay elements - investigation, combat and so on - are there to serve the story."
And big efforts are being made to tell the story. The Murdered devs have gone to Hollywood for direction and have hired TV and film actors for the voice parts. The game characters are animated with full performance capture - body and face, and are rendered out with detailed Unreal Engine 3 textures.
O’Connor’s character is built on a dead but persistent hard-boiled cop inspired by Die Hard’s John McClane. In the set-up you flash through O’Connor's life as he falls to his death having been pushed through a window by his mysterious murderer. You see his criminal past and memories of his wife Julia symbolised in a rose tattoo that later blackens signifying something nasty happened to her.
To give a suitable chilling edge to the game’s plot there’s other ghosts stuck in Dusk which like you, haven’t yet reconciled their deaths. You can interact with them and help reveal how they died. You can hear what NPCs think as well as what they say revealing micro-narratives driven by people's inner secrets.These dark stories lead to side quests hatched on to the overriding story arc, adding weight to the supernatural horror theme.
A big part of the success of L.A. Noire was the story which twisted and turned and brought in some well-rounded characters, Murdered is also reaching for this. The crime investigation aspect which you could fail out on in L.A. Noire is looking a lot more straightforward in Murdered, you’re rated on how efficiently you solve mysteries but you’re given chances to get things right if you chose a wrong clue. L.A. Noire didn’t always make things obvious, testing your detective skills, although there were parts of investigations that felt redundant and repetitive. With the powers that come along with being a ghost you’re getting extra insight into things, people can’t lie to you, naturally making you a better sleuth. Whether this makes things too easy and the investigation into dodge-the-demon gameplay is going to run dry of excitement are points of concern.
With Murdered Square Enix are letting a team make a top-tier action adventure that isn’t like all the others, just like L.A. Noire. For.Shiokawa Murdered is a chance to show how AAA games can still be innovative. If Murdered is well received it paves the way for games that try out more daring formulas to pop up from big studios.
Murdered:Soul Suspect is now out on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360. Below is a trailer with some spooky ghost action and scenes with Joy, a witness to O’Connor’s death with clairvoyant powers who aids you on your case, the Whoopi Goldberg to your Patrick Swayze.
L.A.Noire broke scores of 80% across Metacritic and GameRankings, sold in excess of 5 million copies, lived on through several DLC cases and got enough gamers loving it to kick off the spiral of sequel rumours you get after popular games. Now the game is out we'll start finding out how Murdered:Soul Suspect fares in comparison. What are your thoughts?