Games like film are highly subjective. There are going to be some games that people love and some games that people despise to their very cores. Deadly Premonition, a horror/thriller themed open-world/action game that draws inspiration from a variety of games, films and television shows, is one of those types of games.
Deadly Premonition is quirky, quirky in a Twin Peaks kind of way. If you aren’t into quirky, brain bending insanity with a healthy dose of Japanese flair thrown in for good measure, Deadly Premonition definitely will not be for you. The game itself starts off with a horrific opening scene involving a murder in a forest outside Greenvale, Colorado. This murder brings FBI profiler Agent Francis York Morgan to town and before he can even get to the town bad stuff starts to happen. York, as he likes to be known, crashes his car and has to make his way to town on foot.
It is obvious right from the get go that Greenvale is an odd place. For one, it rains a lot and when it rains freakish monster-like creatures come out. For another, the inhabitants of Greenvale are odd, odd as in shamelessly absurd. York, to his credit though, fits right in, mostly due to him having constant conversations with a guy named Zach that resides in his head. These conversations between York and Zach add a lot of depth to the story and help to make York one of the best developed characters that I have personally ever encountered in a game.
The story is presented as a series of seven episodes delivered much like a television program. The episodes are filled with a generous mix of character development and plot progression, always stringing the player along enough to keep them intrigued but never revealing too much. The first three chapters, which include the prologue and a double sized second episode, comprise the bulk of the game, with the final four episodes pushing the player to the climactic ending at a blazingly fast clip.
The first three quarters are paced quite well, revealing little snippets of the grand scheme a piece at a time. It is filled with twists and turns that most will not see coming and is genuinely funny, tense and entertaining. In a year when some great games have delivered some great stories, Deadly Premonition stands tall but to enjoy the story you have to get past some pretty big roadblocks.
When compared to other games available now, Deadly Premonition looks, feels and plays like a game from last generation. The opening cinematic in the game reminded me of the graphical fidelity of the original Ghost Recon on PC, considering that game came out in 2001, it was not a flattering first impression and things do not get better from there.
The game is filled with awkward design choices the least of which is the cloned controls from Resident Evil. Yes, York controls like a tank and if you were one of the people who enjoyed Resident Evil 5’s archaic control scheme, you will feel right at home with the control of York in Deadly Premonition. Deadly Premonition is not just a run, stop and gun game though because the town of Greenvale is fully traversable and the game requires you to cover large swaths of real estate.
To traverse Greenvale, York can drive a car. Car control is pretty simplistic, and quite loose, but it also comes with the weird design decision to have a fuel gauge that rapidly decreases. I personally never ran out of gas but I can certainly see it happening, especially if you get sidetracked or lose your bearings. Losing your bearings is something that can happen quite easily as the mini map on the screen is of very little help resulting in more than a few wrong turns while you attempt to get to your destination. There is a full scale map included in the menu but using the menu and even the map itself is somewhat of a cumbersome experience.
Much like a Grand Theft Auto game, the town of Greenvale is a living breathing town. OK, living and breathing may be a bit of a stretch as I often found the town to be near deserted however there is a lot of things to do in the town that can add to the overall story. Getting to your destination is regularly a timed event. Time in Deadly Premonition moves slowly but the inclusion of a timer of any kind can put a sense of urgency on the player. This sense of urgency can result in the player missing out on a lot of the exploration of Greenvale and unfortunately, by consequence, some side story points.
Adding to the quirky nature of the game is the sometimes over-the-top voice acting and the insane musical score. The voice acting is at times B movie quality, which is a perfect fit for it. Sometimes though it goes even beyond the B movie realm and enters the arena of just plain off the wall. The musical score is equally bizarre, featuring an atmospheric theme that fits the overall game quite well, however it is some of the other themes that are sure to leave you scratching your head. The quirky “comedic” theme for one, oftentimes will play at the most inappropriate times.
Despite its odd design choices and outright flaws, or maybe because of them, the game succeeds for the majority of its length. While the last quarter of the game is somewhat generic, falling into a stew of Japanese horror game clichés, it hardly detracts from the oddly unique experience the first 15 hours provide.
Deadly Premonition is a mind trip both in its delivery of its narrative and in its game design choices. For many people, it will not be for them. This is OK. Not every game needs to be for every gamer but for those looking for an absolutely insane experience from top to bottom, Deadly Premonition offers up something truly special.
4 out of 5.