Murdered: Soul Suspect review (PS3)

I don't know what it says about human nature that we are so fascinated by gore. We're so intent on staring at car crashes to try and spy any mangled corpses that we pile into the car in front of us and cause another accident and BECOME a mangled corpse. It's the same with murder mysteries – though I honestly really, really would rather the world was murder free, I would probably have to turn down the chance of world peace if that would also mean the end of crime fiction.

Murdered: Soul Suspect is a murder mystery with a twist – you play as the spirit of a murdered man investigating his own murder. Ronan O'Connor is...I mean, was... a detective based in Salem, Massachusetts and he'd been working on tracking down a serial killer known as The Bell Killer. Unfortunately, when he found the suspect, the serial killer did what serial killers do best and killed him. He tried to get the job done first by throwing Ronan out of a top floor window, and when that didn't quite do it, finished him off with a hail of bullets. As one of his colleagues comments as he steps over his lifeless corpse: "he was an idiot".

The first thing the newly bodyless Ronan has to do is to figure out how to be dead. With the help of some other ghosts that are lurking about the local area, he comes to the realization that he needs to somehow put The Bell Killer behind bars so that he can 'move on' from this world to whatever comes next. If he can't, it looks like he's going to be stuck wandering the Earth forever as a lost spirit.

Obviously, you can't pick objects up or have any kind of inventory and you can't enter houses without being asked, but you can still examine things, eavesdrop on personal conversations and read people's thoughts. Sometimes, Ronan can even influence what somebody does next or do things to freak people out, like turning their television on and off. As you move through the city exploring locations you'll meet with other ghosts and can choose to help them out if you're feeling helpful, or not if you're not. There are also several gory stories to unlock by finding groups of items hidden around the game world and lots of things to collect if you like doing that sort of thing.

There are a couple of other twists to Murdered: Soul Suspect that bolster it a bit more on the gameplay side, too. The first is that from time to time you'll discover demons and will need to be sure to avoid or you will ... die (or something). You can also kill them (or something) by learning their movements and sneaking up to attack them from behind from the right place at the exact right moment. Be careful with that, though – if any other demons in the vicinity see what you're doing, they'll all pile on top of you and you'll be toast.

Later on in the game, you'll learn how to teleport yourself places, which suddenly makes things far more interesting. You can only teleport to places in your line of sight, which means that you wouldn't be able to teleport to the other side of a brick wall, but if there's a hole somewhere in it, however... If you can't teleport somewhere, you could try to find yourself a friendly feline and possess the unsuspecting moggy instead. Puss can take you places you couldn't otherwise go as she jumps up trees, shimmies down drain pipes and squeezes into air vents and holes in the wall. You have other options, too, and having a host of different ways to get places makes figuring out how and where you should be a fun puzzle to solve.

As more and more of the Bell Killer mystery unravels, I couldn't help but be drawn in. The story moves the game along at a nice speed and helps make you want to keep playing past any stumbling blocks you get stuck on. Finding evidence and hidden items is fun and the game has a nice pace, never letting you get bored of doing something by frequently switching it up. The locations you get to poke around are all very atmospheric and snooping around them unobserved by the living definitely appealed to the sneaky little snoop in me.

If you're someone who likes high octane shooter fests, you're probably going to hate the slow thoughtfulness of Murdered: Soul Suspect, but if you like games that are a bit more interesting and offer something different – or you simply adore murder mysteries - you're going to be in for a treat.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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