Deadly Premonition is a budget game.
Plain and simple.
To my knowledge, that first hour or so of gameplay, is the only portion of the game that Spoony has posted any footage of.
After having played, and beaten the game over the course of 30 hours of gameplay, it’s easy to see why someone would so readily drop this game.
Deadly Premonition is a game that asks a lot from the player.
It has terrible graphics.
The soundtrack is extremely repetitive and is often times far too upbeat given the seriousness of the story.
The gameplay is equally repetitive, with controls approaching Resident Evil 1 levels of clunky-ness.
For the most part, the only 2 saving graces of Deadly Premonition, are the strength of it’s writing, especially in regards to the characters, and the design of it’s surprisingly expansive map.
While the writing in Deadly Premonition is by no means brilliant, it has a a lot going for in that it’s just so damn quirky.
Numerous homages are made to the TV series in the form of the game’s setting, (a Pacific Northwestern town) as well as the unexplained abundance of cherry pie.
Oh yeah, and this kind of cryptic-ass fucked up shit:
To call the characters in Deadly Premonition “odd,” is to discount the power of that word.
In the game, the player takes on the role of FBI profiler, Francis York Morgan, (his friends call him York) a facially scarred man that has a strong connection to the paranormal, smokes way too fucking much, has prophetic visions by looking into his morning coffee, and has a tendency to speak to an imaginary friend name Zach, often while in the company of others.
If the above character traits aren’t intriguing to you even in the slightest, then congratulations, you are the snootiest high-brow motherfucker on the planet.
The game begins as York arrives at a fictional town in Washington called Greenvale.
Greenvale has recently played host to a gruesome murder/crucifiction, the investigation of which serves as the chief subject of the plot and gameplay in Deadly Premonition.
The actual execution of the gameplay in Deadly Premonition, is that of a sandbox-style game, married with the over the shoulder shooting mechanic of Resident Evil 4.
Though I’m not much for sandbox games, I have to say, I was fairly impressed by Deadly Premonition’s take on it.
To be fair, I think most of my enjoyment of the map in the game springs from it’s impressive recreation of a Washintonian town.
As a life long, Seattlite, and one time Olympian, I can say with certainty, that the developers of Deadly Premonition really got the look and feel down pat.
The sprawling country roads, surrounded by evergreen trees, the big ass farms with seemingly nothing growing in them, the not quite picturesque lakes, it’s all there.
Haven’t you ever played GTA and wondered what it would be like if it was set in your hometown?
Well, if you’re from Olympia, Nisqually, or anywhere in Eastern Washington, Deadly Premonition; while not really possessing the vast breadth of sandbox-y goodness that GTA is known and loved for, absolutely gets the look just right.
If there’s any downside to the design of the map though, it’s due to the fact that it requires the player to drive around a little bit too much.
You see, unlike GTA, which offers a myriad of distractions while traveling from point A to point B, Deadly Premonition’s map is pretty sparse.
Sure, there’s fishing mini-games scattered about, as well as the occasional dirt road or hidden item, but for the most part, you really are just driving for minutes at a time.
Remember those country roads I mentioned awhile back?
Well, you better get used to them, ’cause if you start playing Deadly Premonition, your gonna’ end up driving up and down them like no other.
Let me put it this way:
The driving in Deadly Premonition is kind of like the sailing in The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker.
It’s boring, there’s altogether too much of it, but if you can force yourself to power through it, there’s actually a pretty good game beyond it all.
Which brings me to the review proper.
Deadly Premonition is an okay game.
It’s not great, it has a shit ton of flaws, but if you’re willing to accept the game as being the best that it’s studio could manage with what they had, then it’s actually pretty good.
The murder mystery storyline is fairly well developed with some pretty cool kill sequences and red herrings thrown in for good measure.
The murders in the game involve a psycho-killer cutting out the tongues of young women, stuffing their mouths with red seeds, and then somehow rigging them in Saw-esque death traps for the main players to stumble across.
In all, while actually not very graphic or bloody, most of the murders are quite unique, and indeed even shocking due to the excellent voice work and dialogue.
The cast of characters is quite vast, with every character in town having a unique voice, personality, and even side-missions offer you from time to time.
Like York, most of the cast are endearingly quirky, such that I found I had no trouble remembering most by name.
The game is surprisingly long, with admirable pacing that sees the first half of the game being a largely sandbox style experience, with important story beats coming at the appropriate times, and the second half taking on a more urgent, and therefore more linear and focused style of progression.
That is to say:
The game allows you the freedom you desire from the outset to get to known the lay of the land, and collect all of those hidden goodies and side-missions, but just before you get tired of slogging through all of that, the game forces you get on track and follow the main storyline.
The storyline has a few holes in it, such that you’re left scratching your head from time to time, but when focus is left on York, or any of the other main characters, it’s actually quite good.
I was particularly impressed by how they handled the explanation for York’s imaginary friend, Zach.
While the actual explanation was kind of muddled, I found it to be effective from a purely conceptual standpoint.
If there’s any one thing that I need to slap Deadly Premonition across the face about, it’s the game’s shooting mechanic.
About half of the gameplay in Deadly Premonition consists of Resident Evil 4 style shooting/adventuring segments.
During these sections, the player is confronted with goofy looking backwards walking ghouls that attack you by shoving their hands down your throat.
There’s only a handful of enemy skins, and only about 2-3 different enemy types throughout the game, resulting in a bland and repetitive experience.
Worse yet, most of the enemies have horribly inflated lifebars, resulting in boring gameplay that takes forever to get through.
No joke, I put a third of a 300 round magazine into an enemy’s head one time, only to find that I had to stop to reload before I finally killed him.
That, my friends, is called padding one’s gameplay.
Being as all of these segments take place in a Silent Hill-esque “other world,” the creators of this game may as well have omitted the shooting segments altogether, as I think it would have been more efficient to simply force the player to run away from danger.
Which brings me to the quick-time segments of Deadly Premonition.
They were actually quite good.
While the button variations weren’t diverse enough, (B always dodges throwing axes) their frequency and difficulty level are pretty good.
I especially enjoyed the protracted chase segments, as they were actually quite tense, and made impressive use of a split-screen effect showing both York’s and the pursuer’s perspective at the same time.
In all, Deadly Premonition is an impressively detailed game for a budget title.
While it lacks polish in virtually every area, it’s easy to see where the developers had good ideas, but lacked the resources to act on them.
Requiring the player to eat, sleep, shave, and clean their wardrobe regularly was a nice touch that went well with the game, being as it forces you to play out every minute of every day in-game.
Well, that is unless you’re smoking to speed up time.
I enjoyed the deadline system for the story missions, as I found it fun to cruise around town all day doing side-missions, only to take a look a the clock and discover I only had 5 minutes before I had to be at the old mansion for an important story event.
Despite all of my praise though, Deadly Premonition is definitely only for those who, like me; can find it within themselves to play the game and accept it’s problems.
I picked up the game because I was intrigued by it’s characters and story.
I accept that it’s hideous, often times boring, and only has about a half dozen tracks of music.
Because of this, I simply cannot recommend Deadly Premonition to anyone but myself.
It’s not a game for everyone, but I happened to enjoy my time with it.
I’ll probably never touch it again, but it was fun while it lasted…