Mur­dered: Soul Sus­pect

360, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Square Enix De­vel­oper Air­tight Games For­mat 360, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One Ori­gin US Re­lease June 3 (US), 6 (EU)

Square Enix’s Yo­suke Shiokawa, di­rec­tor of Dis­sidia Fi­nal Fan­tasy, ap­proached Air­tight Games with his lat­est idea af­ter a pe­riod of great con­sid­er­a­tion. It be­gan when he was watch­ing Die Hard and an un­bid­den muse struck. What if John McClane had died right at the start of the movie? What if he be­came a ghost? What if a char­ac­ter with such strong con­vic­tions had his prob­lem-solv­ing skills, or at least the ones in­volv­ing bul­lets, ripped away? Shiokawa thought it was un­likely he would sim­ply give up. McClane would some­how carry on, do­ing ev­ery­thing in his power to win the day. A story be­gan form­ing it­self in his mind, a Hol­ly­wood-style de­tec­tive thriller driven not by vi­o­lence but by mak­ing con­nec­tions, a cere­bral game with a driv­ing nar­ra­tive im­pe­tus. Shiokawa wanted a western de­vel­oper to work on this with him. And so the idea was put to Air­tight. “We’re very much his clients,” Eric

Struder, Mur­dered’s se­nior game de­sign pro­ducer, tells us. “We’re very much try­ing to make the game that he wants to make. He has an idea of the sys­tems that he wants to see and the story that he wants to tell. He sends that to us and we it­er­ate on that.”

Why Air­tight, a stu­dio that missed the mark with Dark Void and its Nathan Drake-wanna be pro­tag­o­nist Will Grey? Well, with Quan­tum Co­nun­drum (helmed by Por­tal co-de­signer Kim Swift) the stu­dio proved it­self em­i­nently ca­pa­ble of con­struct­ing largescale physics puz­zles that were grounded firmly in logic and tan­ta­lis­ingly play­ful in their ex­e­cu­tion. This was ex­actly what Shiokawa needed to fill out his macabre story.

“Ob­vi­ously, the story came first,” Struder says. “Shiokawa had a di­rec­tion he wanted to take with it. The story in­formed the type of game­play en­coun­ters we wanted. In turn, those me­chan­ics re­in­forced and sup­ported the story, and it al­lowed us to go in twists and turns as we learned about the world and how Ro­nan in­ter­acts with it.”

With his 40-a-day drawl, Ro­nan O’Con­nor em­bod­ies the noirish de­tec­tive stereo­type, but Shiokawa has given his pro­tag­o­nist hints of hid­den lay­ers. Here’s a man who has grown up on the streets; who has fought, robbed and pos­si­bly killed; and who has al­most cer­tainly done time. In life, O’Con­nor was the kind of cop li­able to rough up perps and sweep cof­fee cups off in­ter­ro­ga­tion ta­bles. When we first lay eyes on him, how­ever, he’s al­ready plum­met­ing to his death, hav­ing been pushed out of a fourth-storey apart­ment win­dow onto the as­phalt of a Salem, Mas­sachusetts side street.

O’Con­nor doesn’t pass over fully, in­stead en­ter­ing an ethe­real, par­al­lel ver­sion of Salem called Dusk. Here, he must some­how piece

to­gether one last mys­tery: his own mur­der. If he’s suc­cess­ful, he’ll be re­united with his long-lost love in the af­ter­life.

As a ghost, O’Con­nor can pass through most walls freely, al­though the con­se­crated con­struc­tions of the build­ings of Salem re­quire that you ini­tially en­ter through open doors or win­dows. We head up and into an apart­ment build­ing to reach our next ob­jec­tive: the room from which we were thrown. On the way, we pass through an apart­ment in which three people play­ing poker. But while the abil­ity to pos­sess the liv­ing, see through their eyes and im­plant thoughts will help you reach the so­lu­tions to Mur­dered’s scripted cases, dis­ap­point­ingly we find we’re cast here merely as an ob­server, and un­able to en­gage in spec­tral mind games. Struder knows that watch­ing alone won’t cut it for puz­zles.

“There are a lot of dif­fer­ent ways that we go about it,” he says. “We start with, ‘All right, we’re at this point of the story and Ro­nan needs to learn this piece of in­for­ma­tion. What would be an in­ter­est­ing way to learn it?’ You have an end goal and you work back from that. We don’t want [the player] to see the an­swer right away. We want them to walk along to that con­clu­sion and then dis­cover the piece of the story that we want them to know.”

When we do re­sume our in­ves­ti­ga­tions, how­ever, we en­counter other frus­tra­tions. In the sec­ond crime scene, we need to es­tab­lish the se­ries of events that led up to O’Con­nor’s demise. We search the apart­ment, re­veal­ing ev­i­dence and oc­ca­sion­ally as­sign­ing float­ing words to it from a pool of op­tions to activate ex­plana­tory cutscenes. “What is the girl do­ing?” we’re asked at one point, af­ter spot­ting the shade of a scared-look­ing char­ac­ter by a door frame. Is she watch­ing, fright­ened, ig­nor­ing, hid­ing, calm, fight­ing or in­ter­fer­ing? This puzzle isn’t quite in­tu­itive enough, how­ever, and we find the so­lu­tion not purely through lat­eral thought, but also trial and er­ror. In a story built on de­tec­tive work, re­sort­ing to guess­work is jar­ring.

Here, O’Con­nor must some­how piece to­gether one last mys­tery: his own mur­der

A later scene in­jects hope that this may not be in­dica­tive of Mur­dered as a whole. As we ex­plore Salem, we come to a beach. On the sand stands a young spirit. She’s cry­ing, un­sure of why she’s here or how she died, so we put our de­tec­tive skills to work. There are no words to pick from, leav­ing us free to move around the scene, ab­sorb­ing the facts be­fore us. When the puzzle is solved, she floats up­wards, her spirit dis­si­pat­ing into the ether. It’s a res­o­nant mo­ment, with me­chan­ics and story work­ing to the same end, and a wel­come con­trast to the pre­ced­ing scene. If the rest of the game fol­lows this path, there is scope for an af­fect­ing tale in spite of its faults. On cur­rent form, though, Mur­dered needs to do a lit­tle soul search­ing of its own.

BE­LOW At one point, we dis­cover a child cow­er­ing from a spirit haunt­ing her bed­room. We find the guy, a gang­ster with a grudge, hid­ing in the wardrobe. You’ll en­counter sev­eral spir­its through­out the game, many of which are in need of in­for­ma­tion and your help

FROM TOP Square Enix’s Yo­suke Shiokawa, cre­ative di­rec­tor; Air­tight Games’ Eric Struder, se­nior game de­sign pro­ducer

ABOVE LEFT O’Con­nor is guided through his early for­ays in the Dusk by a con­fi­dent girl who has been trapped in this murky limbo for a while.

ABOVE A limited stealth sec­tion sees a barely ex­plained batch of demons sud­denly show up. You can at­tack them from be­hind with in­stakill moves, but they’re here to in­tro­duce mo­ments of pa­tient ten­sion and plan­ning among your on­go­ing search for ev­i­dence

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