Deadly Premonition Review
Originally written on March 9th, 2010
Deadly Premonition was supposed to be released three years ago under the name ‘Rainy Woods’ and while the title may have changed over the years, it is apparent not much else has. The game has major control issues, severely outdated graphics, a shoddy map system, and yet Deadly Premonition somehow perseveres and has managed to become one of the most charming games I have ever played.
You take the role Francis York Morgan, an off the wall, and somewhat insane, FBI profiler sent to the town of Green Vale to help solve the murder of a young woman named Anna. Upon your arrival, you are immediately aware that there are some very strange goings on in the town, as you are assaulted by eyeless, grey skinned “people”, who bend over backwards, and the Raincoat Killer; an axe wielding, over-sized Jawa that is the mysterious, unspoken legend of the town, whispered to come out during rainfalls to murder those he comes across.
You quickly meet up with George and Emily, the sheriff and deputy of the town, and soon after you meet the rest of the townsfolk, each of whom have their own wacky and weird traits, like the affluent, wheelchair bound, Harry Stewart who wears a skull-style gas mask, and the buxom gas station attendant who seems to want to do more than wash your car—-all of whom are suspects of being the brutal murderer.
Deadly Premonition is not what many people would consider a “good game”. It features a mixed bag of gameplay elements taken from other titles and even tosses in a bit from the quirky 90’s television show Twin Peaks. When York is in combat, he cannot move and shoot at the same time a la Resident Evil and the town of Green Vale has two visages to experience, the regular town and a shadow version, much like how Silent Hill switches back and forth from reality.
When York isn’t trotting around on foot visiting the many establishments in town, most of which are only open during certain times of day, he can drive to the outskirts to visit the numerous rural areas. The map that you use to get around is one of the worst to ever grace the back button. There is no option to set waypoints and the map turns to face the direction that York is facing, so it is turned a different direction each time you pull it up, causing a simple routing plan to turn into a hair pulling act of frustration. The default view of the map is up close and in your face and there is no way to zoom the map out – only the ability to zoom it in even closer.
When York hops in a provided police cruiser or a car he purchases from the junkyard, the driving controls are abysmal. The car, no matter which car you drive, handles like a shopping cart with a stuck wheel. When you bump into something, it sounds like two garbage cans banging together and takes a percentage off your car’s health. Your car also guzzles gas and you will need to visit the gas station on occasion to make sure you don’t get stranded in the middle of nowhere. If your car breaks down, you can use a flare to call for another police car. If you don’t happen to have any, then you’re screwed and will need to take the heel-toe express back to town.
Filling up on gas isn’t the only chore you’ll need to perform. As time passes, York will actually grow facial hair. The longer you go without shaving, the more pronounced it gets. I had him up to a full beard before I finally decided to get rid of it. York also needs to change and wash his suits. If you decide not to, flies will buzz around you constantly until you finally give in and get them cleaned. They are silly little things that need to be done, but things that other games have completely ignored and adds to the game’s wacky personality.
York spends most of the game talking to his split personality (I did mention he was insane, right?) named Zach and will range in conversations about Remo Williams, Punk Rock bands, and at times give you a quiz about portions of the game you have already played through to make sure you were paying attention. The voices for the most part are well done, but feature that camp and cheese factor that will have you laughing rather than getting upset. Sometimes the V/O comes through crystal clear and sometimes the background music overwhelms it and what is being said can’t be heard. The background music is usually a cheery, catchy (I’m actually whistling it as I write this) tune that totally doesn’t fit the morbid and utterly disgusting case that you are working on, and again, just adds to the game’s absurd allure.
If the controls and gameplay mechanics weren’t enough to turn you totally off, Deadly Premonition is not a good looking game. The graphics are equal to previous generation titles, which is obviously when this game was developed. It’s easy to say what is wrong with the game because there is so much that is – not exactly broken – but clunky and well past its prime. The fact of the matter is – for some inexplicable reason I could not stop playing Deadly Premonition. York as a character, is one of the most odd and interesting characters to come around in a long time and as the game progresses, you learn more about him and the town in bits and pieces, and you want to keep going to find out what will happen next, with both the murder investigation and to learn more about each character in the game.
Aside from the main storyline to find the identity of and to catch the Raincoat Killer, there are numerous side missions you can choose to perform that will have you getting to know each of the citizens. I did perhaps a quarter of the side missions and my game from start to finish still managed to pull in at over 20 hours. 20 hours and 6 minutes to be exact.
If other games had the problems found in Deadly Premonition, they would be laughed off the market, only be mentioned on “Top 10 Worst Games Ever” lists, but this game just has that staying power, that bewitchery that makes you want to keep playing, to keep going forward, to keep unraveling the mystery, no matter how awful the controls and graphics are. The amount of content that the game offers for the budget price of twenty dollars doesn’t hurt either. I don’t understand why I couldn’t stop playing, but I have to admit, I had an inexplicably good time and I look forward to visiting Green Vale again someday.
Title: Deadly Premonition