Murdered: Soul Suspect isn't the first game that stars a ghost who must solve his own murder, but it shares very few similarities to Capcom's DS title Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective.
Instead, Airtight Games' project is more of a cross between Heavy Rain and L.A. Noire, a dark, character-focused adventure with a strong emphasis on investigating and piecing together clues.
The player assumes control of Ronan O'Connor, a detective who is thrown out of an apartment window and shot dead by a serial killer. Now a ghost, his main objective becomes resolving any unfinished business before he can cross over and join his late wife.
John McClane as a ghost?
Ronan didn't used to live an honourable life. He spent most of his years as a dangerous thug on the streets, and has even spent time in prison for battery.
"We wanted a character who didn't quite fit into the world, because he's not a part of that world anymore," senior design producer Eric Studer said. "There's a bit of a parallel between his current situation and who he is as a person.
"Growing up on the streets, Ronan lived a life of crime and his parents were criminals just like he was. But when he met [his wife] Julia, he knew he had to change his life. He could not stay a criminal if he wanted to keep this woman that he loves so deeply."
Ronan became a detective, but struggled to be accepted by his peers because of his past: "That dichotomy of growing up as a thug and a criminal, and then becoming someone who worked on that side of the law made him a bit of an outsider in both worlds.
"In that outsider persona, it gives him a unique look of the world. It gives him a way of approaching crimes, of solving murders and mysteries, and also just in general who he is."
Ronan was inspired by Bruce Willis's iconic Die Hard character John McClane, with the project's creative director a huge fan of the classic action film.
"He wanted to tell a ghost story," Studer explained. "He was watching that movie and was like, 'What if John McClane was a ghost?' The spirit of the character, his strength of will - he wouldn't just give up if he became a ghost.
"If he had died in that building instead of how the movie ended up going, he would still persevere. He would try to overcome the challenges of being a ghost, and he would still bring those bad guys to justice."
Ronan O'Connor: Ghost detective
Though Ronan cannot question witnesses or physically interact with objects, he has the ability to possess people which in turn allows him to read minds and influence conversations.
For instance, at the crime scene of Ronan's murder, officers are questioning witnesses about what they saw. A visibly stunned witness can be possessed and calmed down, persuading her to talk about where she saw the killer.
Inspecting key items also leads to a multitude of potential leads. Each scene has a fixed number of clues waiting to be discovered, although not everything needs to be found and not everything you learn is essential.
Scouring the apartment where the fight between Ronan and his killer took place, we came across about 80% of the total clues. From that information, we correctly deduced what the killer was looking for at the apartment and where the young woman living there fled to.
Breaking investigations with stealth
In between investigating, Ronan has to navigate past stealth segments, avoiding demons lurking around the ghost plane. We saw several of them patrol the apartment building as we made our way to the top floor, and quickly found that they couldn't be bested head-on.
The only way to rid of these spirit-devouring beings is by creeping up on them from behind and executing a quick-time event.
One of the main ideas behind these segments is to provide variety in the gameplay. Airtight Games didn't want the game to feel too "samey". Studer explained: "If all you're doing is going from investigation to investigation, you're going to start getting fatigued."
Ronan will receive more abilities as the story progresses to better handle these encounters, but from what we saw, we were considerably more compelled by the investigating and learning more about the story.
The demons bring an additional fascinating layer to the game's mythology, though, adding more urgency to Ronan's plight.
"They used to be human spirits," Studer stated. "They have been in the dust for so long that they transform into these monsters, and now the only thing that they retain of their own humanity is this belief that devouring other human spirits can regain their own consciousness.
"This isn't a place that Ronan wants to dwell in. He needs to solve his unfinished business - otherwise he won't exist for long."
Collectibles fleshing out the story
As is standard with games nowadays, Murdered features an assortment of collectibles which the player can come across by taking the time to sweep every inch of an area. Completionists will likely get more out of the story, as by finding these items, more background about the characters and the story is revealed.
"The more fleshed out the world is, the more three-dimensional the characters are and the better the story comes across," Studer said. "All of that backstory isn't necessarily relevant. But the five or six different collectible types in the game help the player learn what the world of Salem is, learn more about Ronan, and how he met Julie and how they came to be together.
"We want the player to explore it. We want you to be lost in the world as much as possible.
"It's your choice to do so - you can focus on the story and get through the primary storyline if that's all you want to do. But I think there is a richness of content there that players are going to find themselves seeking out, just because there's a lot of interesting stuff."
The game also includes a hub where Ronan will return to between missions, providing the player an opportunity to explore Salem more and undertake sidequests, helping other spirits in need with their own unfinished business.
Despite being first announced on current-generation systems, Studer stressed that the core experience isn't diluted in the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game, keeping the game "very much true to the original platforms".
He adding the main focus on the new hardware is simply using the technology to provide a title that looks visually more stunning.
But while aesthetically the game delivers, it's the world, the characters and the mythology that are the most intriguing parts, and this is shaping up to be a title that could appeal to anyone looking for a narrative-driven adventure.
Murdered: Soul Suspect will be available later this year on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in June.