Death is rarely permanent in video games. Whether you’re Mario, Lara Croft or Master Chief, no matter how many times you get “killed,” you can always dust yourself off and leap back into the fray.
That’s not the case for Detective Ronan O’Connor, who’s dead from the very start of “Murdered: Soul Suspect” (Square Enix, for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, $59.99). You would be, too, if you’d been shoved out a fourth-story window and shot seven times in the chest.
But Ronan still has things to do, so his ghost rises from his still-bleeding corpse and gets back to work. First on the agenda: Figure out the identity of the Bell Killer, the serial murderer who took Ronan down.
“Murdered” is, in some ways, a refreshingly old-fashioned mystery. And while it displays some gory homicides, it’s oddly nonviolent. In his spectral state, Ronan can’t pick up anything, so he can’t use guns or knives or even his fists. All he can do is linger around crime scenes, look for clues and try to piece together what happened.
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Ronan can also possess other characters in the game, but even then his abilities are limited. He can read their minds and goose their memories to see if they’ve witnessed anything important. If they’re already in motion, he can hitch a ride to get past certain obstacles. He can also possess cats, which comes in handy if he needs to climb trees or sneak around air ducts.
The only real threat comes from demons that are ready to drag Ronan to hell. But they’re dispatched easily enough by sneaking up behind them and yanking the souls out of their bodies.
The only living person who can see and communicate with Ronan is the ironically named Joy, a punky teenage medium who’s been targeted by the Bell Killer. There are, however, other ghosts roaming the streets. In most cases, they don’t know how they ended up dead, so Ronan’s job is to retrace their steps and, maybe, give them some peace of mind. You can reveal other stories by collecting artifacts scattered around town, but I found those tales more predictable.
Ronan’s backstory, revealing how a one-time criminal became a heavily tattooed cop, struck me as preposterous, which is saying something in a ghost story. “Murdered” is also marred by frequent technical glitches; at one point, it forced me to replay a sequence leading up to a crime I had already solved.
Still, the overarching whodunit is fascinating. “Murdered” is set in Salem, Mass., so you know it’s connected to the notorious witch trials of the 1690s. I was sure I had the Bell Killer’s identity nailed about halfway through, but the final reveal is more clever – and disturbing – than I had expected. Fans of mysteries and ghost stories alike will be satisfied.