Hidden in Plain Sight, Assassins Creed’s Multiplayer, Town of Salem and Spy Party; All of these games throw multiple players into an area, task them with faking it as NPCs or innocent extras and murdering other players at the same time. Does Murderous Pursuits stand out as a savage devilish murderer or just another NPC in the background? I’ve played the beta so read on!
If you’ve ever played the original Assassins creed Brotherhood/Revelations multiplayer then you’ll feel right at home here. After choosing your default character, colour palette and skills you drop into a third person sneakathon that will feel very familiar. You murder your quarry, avoid pursuit from hunters and earn the most points in your quest to impress Mr X. The games are short 5 minutes of player vs player in an arena filled with NPCs and AI (should a player drop out an AI CPU takes over). The unique aspect of Murderous Pursuits is the way you are scored for your actions. The highest score of each round wins, there are 5 weapons (ranked from 1 to 5 in score) in each level and you can only hold one at any time. This means you will need to track down the best weapon before you use the radar to track your quarry and get the best clean kill you can. All the while other players are trying to do exactly the same. You’ll need to keep your exposure level down by standing in crowds, looking at paintings or having a drink. Otherwise as soon as your level drops too low your exposed and your hunter will see an icon for their quarry show up wherever they are, obviously the same goes as a hunter.
There is a really nice aesthetic to Murderous Pursuits (not a sentence I ever thought I’d type). The setup for the game is that your on location at the will of Mr X, vying for his attention and proving to him that you’re the best murderer. As murdering sprees go its a quirky dark take on the usual reason for killing in plain sight. There are a lot of old exaggerated British stereotypes that are smoothed out into an almost comic style, Murderous Pursuits looks and feels like a beautiful caricature of ‘Blizzard presents Poirot’. The voice work of Mr X and music are akin to the like of The Sexy Brutale with Mr X sounding like an evil Stephen Fry. Weapons do sound as you expect and the steps/audio cues are exactly what this kind of game needs to work well and help you find your target among the NPCs. This also ties into the idle animations when your hiding and building up your hidden metre with your character acting out in context and voicing little lines just like the NPCs around you.
The first thing that’s a little disappointing to see from a game that relies on multiplayer is that the colour palettes are all hidden away as unlocks and dlc from the get go. Granted this is a staple of this generation and could change from the Beta but it’s still not good. Problems with lag and player dropouts also have a huge impact on a personal experience largely messing up the flow of the game. When a player drops out mid-game you can attempt to kill this player (as they may have dropped out just before you did) but you’ll find yourself attacking either an invincible player who can’t be killed or thin air only to be obviously caught in the act by a hunter. This could be the Beta but the AI didn’t seem to take control of their avatar they took control by spawning a new one in their place from an NPC already elsewhere. This doesn’t happen often but it did occur enough to warrant mentioning it.
The cat and mouse gameplay can work amazingly well but sometimes you can find that a single mistake and accidental target doesn’t just expose you but gets you stunned by your quarry and killed by a hunter in seconds. This is the obvious punishment for attempting to murder an innocent (and the quips my Mr X do lighten this) but it feels like the punishment is a little too severe. Since this is a multiplayer focused title this is likely going to change and balance subtly with time. I did find that some skills are more effective than others and found myself favouring reveal at one point just to prove I wasn’t losing my marbles. The game showed I was right to keep an eye on someone but couldn’t kill them due to it being another player just dropping out. Maybe a faster disconnect and replacing those people with AI would solve this?
The priority for the bottom of the table up is a little annoying as well. After a few kills you’ll find yourself re-spawning with a hunter almost the second you spawn but your quarry takes longer to be assigned. This is just the nature of the game having people at the top of the score table being assigned two hunters rather than one but essentially splits the score table into two ranks. Lag with the quarry radar effects it greatly in the Beta with a few moments where the radar didn’t have a clue if the quarry was above or on the same level as me (despite them not being on a staircase) and a few times showing in the same room when there were no characters at all. Otherwise the netcode was surprisingly good, even people with high pings somehow managed to walk along past without jittering too much and revealing they were players ready to be stopped.
This is all sounding pretty negative but I’m nitpicking (oh and the NPCs could do with being more player-like) but these are all issues that could be fixed/patched without harming what is essentially at its core a really fun experience. The weapons rotate each kill so you can’t keep killing with the same if you want to advance up the table. Obviously if your not killing your not getting points so you’ll need to move around quickly but subtly. There’s a lot less Assassins Creed where you’ll see some players just running to murder in a cavalier attitude but equally you’ll find plenty of people with the humiliate skill standing near a corpse for some extra points.
Murderous Pursuits even strangely encourages teamwork and I’m still not sure how. People weren’t talking in matches I played either by text or by voice and yet multiple times when in 3rd place on the scoreboard, looking for a quiet walk to get to my quarry, I was cornered by two hunters and killed. We aren’t talking two coming from the same direction, the two would typically be one player behind me in pursuit that I was trying to shake and one coming up the stairs trapping me in an impossible outcome. You can stun opposing hunters (for mild rewards) so the game doesn’t naturally encourage teamwork it just seems to play the Left4Dead trick of having a clever Ai assigning targets that it knows will challenge you. It successfully had me playing the same levels in different ways to try to mix up the effects and blend in with NPCs more and more.
You’ll also be pleasantly surprised to find that consecutive games give large XP bonuses. Levelling up looks to unlock colours and updates your player profile so thank god for no loot crates. There are nice little additions to this end game XP system as well things like the most stuns in the round are rewarded also the obvious login bonus is a welcome return. Murderous Pursuits has a pretty cool XP system for a multiplayer focused game like this. Shame you can’t read any post match text as the colour scheme makes the white on very light cream barely legible, yet again though this is just a patch fix away from being a niggle.
The take on this Beta? Murderous Pursuits is a darling game. It deserves a lot more media attention and strangest of all for a 3rd person game I found myself preferring keyboard and mouse to a controller so I’d rather play it on PC. PC over console? Whatever next! This is the sort of game that you’ll pick up, get into and wonder why there aren’t more titles like this out there. Unique experiences based on experimental gameplay from another series, all blended into a well crafted experience. It’s worth keeping an eye out for this. Murderous Pursuits is out on Steam on the 26th April.