You know what? I was really rather looking forward to “Murdered”- when it was first announced I thought it looked like a pretty cool idea. An adventure game where you’re the ghost of a detective trying to solve his own murder. Now I’ve both seen a full let’s play of it (Two Best Friends Play, if you’re interested) and completed the game myself, and I have a few things to say about it. None of them good.
So you’re Ronan O’Connor- a career criminal since childhood that is inexplicably now a detective in Salem, MA who is thrown through a window and shot seven times (just to make sure, I guess). Now that’s a pretty full-on opening to a game, but it’s all downhill from there. The story focuses on Ronan attempting to solve his murder so he can go to heaven and meet his wife who died three years previously, along the way solving a long-running serial killer case with the help of a teenage girl called Joy. The story’s pretty weak- it goes to some predictable places (but predictable for reasons other than you’d expect), none of the characters are particularly likable, and no one is especially fleshed out or developed, except for Ronan’s wife, whose thoughts on her life with Ronan can be found scattered around Salem written on scraps of paper for some reason. Oh, why doesn’t that mean detective at the station leave your lovely husband alone? Maybe it’s because YOUR HUSBAND IS A CAREER CRIMINAL AND YOUR POLICE LIEUTENANT BROTHER ERASED HIS RECORD. His wife is only seen once in the game, so it’s up to these notes to make her likable. Did they succeed? Well, she seems alright. No more likable than anyone else in the game, really. The story’s definitely better than the gameplay, but there’s nothing here that stands out. Obviously with it being set in Salem the witch trials are a key part of the backstory, and there’s a twist at the end that, while not terrible, didn’t affect anything in the story, and just came out of nowhere minutes before the credits rolled. Oh, and it might be nitpicking, but I would have less of a problem with Ronan’s waistcoat, trilby and trouser chain look if there was any president for it in the game. He’s the only character in the whole thing who dresses like a mid-level “L.A Noire” villain. Not a big problem, but still.
Gameplay is where we really start to run into trouble. It’s basically an adventure game with detective elements that are insulting easy. Basically you run through an area, find a scene and have to examine clues then pick the right ones to work out what happened (Ronan can see past events he wasn’t involved in, for some reason). The problem is, the answers to the question are always ridiculously obvious, and there were several times where I tried to fail them on purpose only to find out that I couldn’t- I’d lose two of my three chances and then the game would just ignore that system and let me keep picking the wrong thing. Other times there as many choices as you have chance to get it right, so it doesn’t even matter. Speaking of things being obvious, examples include the best piece of evidence to make some think about a murder is the fact that a murder happened, the best piece of evidence to ascertain where a witness is is the one called “The witness is in the nearby church” and my favorite: “How did this woman die? Oh hey, here’s a paper open to her obituary that says exactly how she died.” Frankly the “Detective” elements are insulting to one’s intelligence, and as I said- it often doesn’t matter if you mess up anyway because the game just doesn’t care. Elsewhere there are combat mechanics for some baffling reason (I blame Square Enix) in which demons appear and Ronan has to sneak up behind them and execute them. Where did the demons come from? Why do and can they kill ghosts? Why can Ronan execute them? No idea, the game didn’t say. Demons just pop up and you have to either run past them or use hiding spots to get behind them and kill them. This worked fine for the most part until one point about 2/3rds through the game when I had to deal with three at once. I’d hide, they’d home in on the hiding spots and somehow know I was in them, and I’d have to bolt, repeat. It was frustrating to say the least.
After a certain point my objective was permanently stuck at “Leave the attic”, even when that hadn’t been my objective for ages. When the objective marker was being used it would be correct, but pausing the game would always bring the same thing- “Leave the attic”. At one point the game crashed and erased my save, and throughout the game I had numerous crashes back to the PS4 XMB (or whatever it’s called now. Basically back to the screen where you pick what game you want to play).
Anything good to say about the game? Well, despite all my complaints it’s competently put together for the most part- it’s no “Ride to Hell” or the like. That’s about it, really- it’s not a terrible, broken game. Just a boring, insultingly easy one.
There’s really no reason to pick this up- if you like the concept there are other games that did it before, and as I said the gameplay is ridiculously simple, the combat mechanics are irritating and out of place and the story is boring with under-developed, not particularly likable characters. Avoid it.
By James Lambert