Murdered: Soul Suspect isn't a game that's stealing a whole lot of hype right now. Heck, it was teased in February, but we didn't know anything about this ghostly mystery detective game until right before E3. Of course it was present at the show, but let's give it a little more credit than it may have gotten.
"Ghostly mystery detective game" isn't an inaccurate description, even if it sounds like just a jumble of words. Developed by Airtight Games (published by Square Enix), Murdered: Soul Suspect follows the adventures of a detective, Ronan O'Connor, after his own death in the own of Salem. Yes, the protagonist is already dead, and the game revolves around his search for answers regarding his demise and the events and people surrounding it.
At the start of our demo, we knew already that Ronan had been pushed from an apartment complex and then shot to death in the street. So the question is: who did it?
Life After Death
As police flock to the scene to document evidence and interview witnesses, Ronan is left to observe as an unseen bystander. Oh, wait, he can actually do stuff. That's where things get fun, because even though humans can't seen him and his ghostly state limits how he can interact with physical beings, he can perform other interesting tricks as a spirit.
Curious to see what someone is thinking, just in case they might have valid information you need? Possess them, and their thoughts will be shared with you. As we observe Ronan going about the crime scene as though part of the official investigation, he can employ neat little abilities like that to pain a picture and make deductions. In one situation, he sees a witness struggling to explain what she saw to the police. He possesses her to check what she's thinking, and aids her in piecing together a coherent story based on her own knowledge; Ronan can't make things up for her or control her actions.
When all the evidence points him toward a nearby building, we know he has to go inside. While this is modern-day Salem we're talking about, Airtight really capitalizes on the dark history and lore that surrounds the New England town. In this case, we're told that many buildings in Salem are sanctified, creating a barrier spirits can't pass through. To get around this problem, Ronan simply waits for a police officer to open a door and head inside, which creates a hole in the barrier Ronan can then pass through. Sometimes, ghosts have to use doors too.
Once inside, however, our dead detective can move freely through walls, which, as Airtight points out, creates a whole new avenue of exploration and navigation most games don't have. Environments are laid out to accommodate Ronan's convenient abilities, so you're not just weaving through hallways looking for doors. Just be mindful of the demons, because they're convinced that eating ghosts will restore them to life. Without any of his weapons, Ronan can instead rely on his new abilities to take care of these manevolent beings -- just don't hit these guys head-on. Phasing through a wall behind a demon and then exorcising it works better.
Other ghosts also exist, obviously, and they can all see each other. In the complex, Ronan runs into a girl's ghost, lost because she doesn't know where her body is or how she died. She only remembers something about an old couple -- suspicious. Our detective then searches the apartments until he finds an old couple; the husband is rambling about a murder, and a possession of his wife reveals where they dumped the girl's body. While I definitely would've liked to see more backstory here, it's still an interesting glimpse of how some side quests will work. The developers did point out there would be one quest in particular involving the spirit of a young child and her runic markings all over the world, and that this optional quest would span the entire game.
Art of Deduction
As a detective solving his own murder, Ronan has to do a little bit of detective work. The basic formula here involves gathering evidence and clues, then piecing together scenarios until you've reconstructed the crime. As the trail leads Ronan to the penthouse unit, he begins seeing items like a bent baseball bat and shattered glass, and remembers slowly his struggle with a seemingly invincible and inhuman individual. Items strewn about a small side-room tell us that someone else was actually in the apartment when all this went down.
A clearer picture slowly comes together. After a search of the premesis and a rather simple match-the-clues sequence, we understand how the events transpired here. A hooded figure came into the apartment, searching for something or someone, and a girl (Yeah, another one.) who had been living here (as a squatter, most likely) hid in fear. Before she could be discovered, Ronan (still alive at the time) approached the man from behind, having followed him here during the course of another murder investigation. The hooded figure defends himself, knocks the detective away. Ronan has a pretty terrible lapse in judgement, attacks the figure with a metal bat, and realizes a little too late that s/he's may not even be human. Seeing Ronan isn't going away, this seemingly invincible culprit picks him up and tosses him out the window, before leaving to finish him off with a few bullets to the chest. The fact that he used Ronan's gun, the detective deduces, meant this person didn't come here intending to shoot him or anyone.
All this time, however, we learn that the girl was hiding in the next room, watching these events. Through a scan of her photographs, we learn she's very likely run off to the nearby church to seek out the pastor. Super mysterious stuff.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is currently planned for 2014 release, despite being a current-gen title. No mention of Xbox One or PS4 at this point in time, though we're sure the PC version will look amazing enough.