Have You Played… Murdered: Soul Suspect?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Murdered: Soul Suspect [official site] is one of the worst games I’ve ever enjoyed.

If you go back and read my review you might think I’m telling a big fib when I say I ‘enjoyed’ Murdered. I don’t sound like I’m enjoying myself:

Almost every investigation essentially has Ronan seeking The Solution, which is found by having the player click on The Solution. Simon says the church is important. Even if you’re already in the church, just click on the same clue again. What about all of these other more nuanced pieces of information? Simon doesn’t give a shit.

There’s no deduction involved beyond occasionally acknowledging that you’re in a specific place and trying to solve a murder, and collecting any clues beyond the most obvious ones that sparkle and shine at the forefront of a scene is usually unnecessary. Optional side cases involve clicking on every interactive hotspot near a ghost until Ronan grasps the blindingly obvious cause of and reason for their death.

And yet, I remember Murdered fondly. It’s the equivalent of the terrible movie that comes on TV late at night and somehow worms its way into your memory, so that hilariously bad lines of dialogue resurface for weeks afterwards. The actual detective work is so poorly constructed that I can’t believe it was meant to be this way. Corners must have been cut, entire processes and mechanics left on some cutting room floor.

I hadn’t actually re-read my review, except to pick out the paragraphs above, until I started writing this paragraph. Now I see that I compared the game to a bad movie seen in the wee small hours back then, and also mentioned the possibility of features being cut. It turns out I haven’t had an original thought about Murdered since it was released, and I’m no closer to understanding its greatest mystery, which I recognised at the time:

It’s an unsatisfying mystery connected by insultingly obvious detective work and occasional perfunctory stealth sections. But, in an odd way I’m glad I played it. Working out why that might be is trickier than solving my own murder.

I have no idea.

26 Comments

  1. ZedClampet says:

    I enjoyed this game. It was creepy and atmospheric. The puzzles were simple most of the time, but I enjoyed putting them together for whatever reason. I’m just a big fan of horror and enjoyed being in that world for awhile. The stealth QTE was annoying, though.

  2. Gandor says:

    A solid 7/10 for me.

  3. myhandleonrps says:

    “I hadn’t actually re-read my review, except to pick out the paragraphs above, until I started writing this paragraph.”

    Look, I know these “Have You Played” articles are only written to get RPS at the top of the Recent News section in Steam for every game ever made, but at least act like you’re trying.

    • Drakedude says:

      I appreciate your cynicism.

    • aerozol says:

      Yes Adam, please read everything you’ve ever written every evening, because that apparently counts at “trying”. At something. Not sure what exactly though.

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    Risingson says:

    It is a game that barely survived because its fantastic atmosphere. I got tired of it after only a few hours.

  5. Chaoslord AJ says:

    It wasn’t bad if you really like standard linear adventure stuff but was far from the mind-blowing detective-simulation I for some reason believed it might be.
    If you didn’t play it you missed exactly nothing.

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      DuncUK says:

      It’s a real shame that nobody has figured out a good way to make detective work fun, intuitive and at least vaguely realistic in a video game. It is a difficult problem to solve, whereby you want to give a player a selection of clues and information to discover and provide them with the mechanism to feed back to the game that they have ‘solved’ the crime, without resorting to insisting on The One True Answer.

      We seem to end up with either something as oversimplified and bland as Murdered SS or as bafflingly obtuse as LA Noire. I still live in hope that one day someone will crack this problem.

      • Gandor says:

        I really liked investigations in Batman: Arkham games.

      • crowleyhammer says:

        Condemned 2 had some good crime scene analysis you had to do, and because it only happens every now and then it didn’t outstay its welcome.

        • Kushiel says:

          I think that another important part of what made the investigations in the Condemned games work well is that you could fail them. I enjoy the process of the investigations in the Batman: Arkham games, but there’s no tension there because the only possible outcome is that you solve the crime. Having failure states for not solving the scene, even if that failure state didn’t amount to much other than some slightly different dialogue and not unlocking achievements, gave the crime scene investigations in the Condemned games more heft.

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        Risingson says:

        Discworld Noir and its inspired games (Dave Gilbert ones) say hello.

        Or the Mythos Sherlock Holmes games. Or Spycraft. Just on top of my head.

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        subdog says:

        It’s not a great game, but Detective Grimoire has a very solid investigation system involving correlation and deduction. Definitely worth picking up for cheap in a sale.

        Orwell also has some great investigating.

      • iucounu says:

        LA Noire was so nearly a good game – you would need to remove all the driving around and shooting, and make the dialogue choices actually explicit so that when you chose ‘Cajole’ or something the dick wouldn’t lunge across the table and throttle the guy. The faces were incredible, you could definitely hang an interrogation game on really watching people closely as long as you could find a gamey way to do it, but I never felt I was in control of what my idiot of an avatar was going to say or do next.

        • trashbat says:

          RPS once pointed us towards a fine piece of writing in Grantland in which they memorably dealt with this:

          Once you accept that Phelps is not your avatar but a guided missile whose damage you are constantly trying to mitigate, L.A. Noire gives you an experience unlike any other game I have played

        • Silent_Thunder says:

          The dialogue choices were actually fairly explicit.

          Truth = I believe you.
          Doubt = You’re a liar! But there isn’t any any proof. (If you missed the proof too bad)
          Lie = You’re a liar! And I have proof! (shove item at witness)

          Really it just boiled down to a 3d Phoenix Wright game mechanically. With some awful action mechanics stapled on. Still enjoyable though, but not to Pheonix Wright levels mind you.

          The main issue was that unlike AA, it would both allow you to proceed further into the case without getting all the clues, while at the same time refusing to punish you with a failure state for royally screwing up by missing such info.

          Which lead to some silliness like the story constantly throwing you case saving curveballs if Phelps couldn’t crack the case himself.

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            subdog says:

            I disagree. The threshold for what constituted “proof” was never that clearcut, and there were frequently times when reasonable proof could be presented but “Doubt” was given as the correct answer.

          • iucounu says:

            The Grantland article (thank you Trashbat) summed it up perfectly. The interrogation game just isn’t enjoyable – it’s so weirdly constrained and structured so abstractly that it never feels like a conversation. And an interrogation game needs to feel like that, or what is it? You might as well just show a cutscene in which things play out based on how many clues you’ve got in the investigation bit.

            I did try to play Phoenix Wright once ages ago but again, didn’t find it enjoyable. There’s something a bit missing in this genre of game; I think it’s that you obviously can’t have the game come right out and tell you what a clue actually *means*, so it can’t present explicit dialogue options for you to say. But then I also remember how elegantly Papers, Please handled investigation and interrogation, as a kind of timed simultaneous fact-checking and observation challenge; that was almost entirely about comparing Thing A to Thing B, I know, but I feel like there must be some kind of clever way of handling conversational games too. (I thought that the faces in LA Noire were going to be more important a game mechanic than they ended up feeling.)

  6. PancakeWizard says:

    I liked it, OK. No justifying that Millennial ‘punk’ outfit though.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Looks more like an aging Gen-Xer who used to play in a ska band.

  7. vorador says:

    It was interesting, but i hated the stealth sections so much i stopped playing.

  8. piedpiper says:

    This game is painfully boring. Like it sucks the joy away of someone who plays it.

  9. suramoto says:

    I played it, and I enjoyed it far more than what I expected. The fact that I bought it in a bundle (for few euros) concurred to my enjoyment level. If I payed it full price, I would probably be disappointed. Btw, hated the combat.

  10. Silent_Thunder says:

    It’s one of the few games I really can heartily reccomend watching a LP group play instead of playing yourself. A gaming MST3K if you will, much like David Cage’s games, especially Indigo Propechy which went off the deep end in the 2nd and 3rd acts into nonsense land. You use unexplained matrix kung fu moves on a NYPD helicopter for god’s sake.

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    Neurotic says:

    I worked on Renoir (find it on Steam), which is an adventure game with the same detective-investigates-his-own-death premise, and only slightly less shoddiness in its overall implementation. You might also slightly enjoy it. :D