In early 2010, Xbox 360 gamers were treated to Deadly Premonition, a game that was as divisive as it was bizarre. Now, thanks to Rising Star Games, US and EU PS3 gamers can experience Deadly Premonition in its full version. Director Swery65 and his team have delved back into the murder-mystery surrounding the town of Greenvale and offered some additional evidence to help clue you in on Deadly Premonition’s mysticism. But should this case be reopened, or would it be best if the book remained closed forever?
Before we delve into all that Deadly Premonition has to offer, let’s share what this whole game is about. You’re thrown into the role of Francis York Morgan, and FBI agent sent to the small rural town of Greenvale, Washington to investigate a mysterious, seemingly ritualistic murder involving a young girl. Naturally, nothing is quite what it seems, and every citizen is a suspect. As your brash demeanor and title precede you, the local police force are hesitant to let you get in too deep, but you both soon learn there’s more here than initially thought, and help is required. Who can you trust, who’s the real culprit or culprits, and who is this “Zach” that York keeps mentioning in passing?
Alright, all the fluff is out of the way, so let’s just go ahead and rip the band aid(s) off quickly. Deadly Premonition is not going to be leaving a positive legacy for its graphics, controls, acting, or plot; it’s hardly got much working positively in any of those categories. What is has going for it, though, is creativity. Not much, mind you, but there’s some in there struggling to be found underneath a weight of outdated mechanics and ideas. It’s ugly, it controls like a PS2 game, it has severe clipping issues, and it is just a mess in 90% of the writing department; if you’ve ever read or seen a murder-mystery, this plot seems to be straight out of Murder-Mystery 101. It’s a blend of Japanese horror and detective mystery that at a few moments shines, but most of it just fails to be spectacular by the end credits.
The controls in Deadly Premonition will immediately remind you of Resident Evil 4’s “stop, point, shoot” ideas, and despite how revolutionary that was in 2005, it’s now 2013. Those eight-year old control setups need to stay in the past. Even if the monstrosities are shambling towards you, you’re rarely in danger. The fact that you’re stopping to slowly aim, thus being frustrated a majority of the time due to lackluster controls, is not a good time. The controls not god-awful, but at the same time they don’t provide terror or fear, and by no means add to the ambiance. It’s a tired defense and unacceptable at this point in the industry. If you want to present “gripping horror,” create it with your art and story. Don’t manufacture it around a lousy control scheme.
Speaking of story, the aforementioned 90% of the 13-hour plot really is laughable, but more “at you” than “with you.” Tired clichés, poor pacing, and generic segments just cause Deadly Premonition to fall on its face. The remaining 10% that’s golden is rarely even associated with the plot. Most of the best moments occur with York and Zach’s conversations on route to various destinations. With talks of Richard Donner’s Superman films to past love life experiences, these conversations are just really well written and shine a light on a character that isn’t present the rest of the game. York could easily have been a breakout character, but whenever he’s not in a situation like this, he’s right back to being a generic clone of the “Joe Everyman” that populates stories similar to this genre. And we know they’re going to hate us for saying this, but Deadly Premonition tries so hard to not be Twin Peaks, it’s much more Twin Peaks than intended. Unfortunately, the charm is hidden behind bland storytelling and tropes.
We at Front Towards Gamer are by no means graphics whores, but with this being the tail end of the 360/PS3/Wii generation, we expect some bang for the buck. Unfortunately, Deadly Premonition fails to deliver even top-notch PS2 graphics. Lip synching is bad; major clipping, assets popping in-and-out of scenes, and just bland textures populate the hallowed streets of Greenvale. Meticulous camera panning and character movements come off as stilted rather than artistic and affect the already slow pacing even more. Simple actions that should take a couple of seconds tend to take much longer than necessary – repeatedly! Watching York light a cigarette for the umpteenth time before profiling never adding anything is unnecessary and often seems out of place. There are just so many quirks and animations that fail to enunciate much, and they often leave us scratching our heads in wonderment.
It’s not all bad in Deadly Premonition, however, as the ghouls you encounter tend to be haunting, and their voices screaming “I don’t want to die” (which are obviously several dubbed voices mixed into one) sound excellent. Although their different “skins” are limited to maybe four or five different options, the variety is nice…for a short while. By mid-game you’ll have seen all the enemy department has to offer, and after blowing away 100+ creatures, they simply become fodder preventing you from accessing certain areas rather than threats. The fun really won’t last with mindlessly killing these things.
Deadly Premonition has built its reputation over the last three years through internet jokes and memes and podcasts, but when you actually sit down and play it, it’s something better left to your imagination. We were hotly anticipating finally getting to play the “complete” game, but now we kind of wished we hadn’t. It’s not a game you should avoid like the plague, but with summer around the corner and other games undoubtedly in your backlog, maybe putting Deadly Premonition towards the bottom or saving it for a lazy, rainy weekend is best. The mystery should be solved and can provide some mild enjoyment in the process, but don’t pull out your brown trench coat and magnifying glass just yet.