Posted 06 November 2011 - 12:44 AM
Deadly Premonition defies explanation and divides critics. The game is a Shenmue style exploration of the small town of Greenvale, where you'll meet the locals and try to solve a murder case. This is combined with some 3rd person shooting sections, the occasional QTE, puzzle solving, car racing and item hunting.
In some ways, it’s utterly dreadful, and yet it becomes quite brilliant. At times, you’ll find yourself driving slowly across town, following a suspect for ten minutes in real time. You’ll run after a dog in the street for what seems like hours. You’ll roam around a police station looking for a keyring with a squirrel on, only to find six different sets of keys, with six different types of squirrel. You’ll come to want to throttle the police officer Thomas every time he describes in detail why you've brought the wrong squirrel. And you’ll get slightly seasick as you notice that everyone in the game sways gently from side to side. All the time. Gently swaying, in the breeze. But despite all this, it's brilliant.
Deadly Premonition was originally intended to be a PS2 game, and it's clear to see by the poor graphics and motion capture. The character models and animation are very basic in comparison to current Xbox titles that Deadly Premonition is competing against for your attention. Consider the main character, Francis York Morgan. See how he waves his finger in exactly the same way at everyone, regardless of whether he’s arresting them or saying a cheery hello. See the expression of shock on Francis’ face when he sees a corpse that has been hung from a wall with its own veins. That’s exactly the same expression of shock he displays when he eats The Sinners Sandwich and finds it’s actually delicious.
The music, too, is utterly insane. There are a number of excellent pieces of music throughout the game, but for the most part you’ll hear the same three tracks over and over. From the totally inappropriate jazz music to the exited whistling of “Life Is Good”, the music, often so loud it drowns out the voices of the characters you’re talking to, is always just wrong enough to make scenes unintentionally hilarious.
Or maybe it’s all intentionally hilarious. It’s so difficult to tell.
Because when you look past the obvious shortfalls and start to play the game for any decent length of time, Deadly Premonition becomes exceptionally good. The game has obviously been a total labour of love for the developers, who must have set themselves some extremely high goals, most of which would seem to be unattainable with the resources they had. But this is the reason why Deadly Premonition works so well – once you stop laughing at the unintentionally bad music, the crazy scenarios and mad characters, you’re left with a game that is totally engrossing. The developers achieved their goal of making a totally coherent and believable world, with great characters and a phenomenal storyline, without the budget for next-gen polish. Once the comedy value of the unusual presentation starts to wane, you’re totally absorbed in the story, and enjoying the game as it captivates you and drags you into its own crazy world. You'll enjoy the good elements of the game, but also enjoy the bad parts because you'll laugh along with it. It’s like an utterly insane Shenmue, which gets inside your head in a way that many better known games of similar genres can't touch.
The town of Greenvale initially seems small, but as you start to meet the inhabitants and explore, you'll find there's a lot going on. Each of the characters you meet have side-quests for you to perform, awarding prizes such as better weapons, a faster car, trading cards to collect and even parts of a skeleton which you can collect to give to a ghostly gravedigger. And as the game continues, you realize that the goal to make a free exploration, sandbox world with real living characters has been achieved. In fact, it’s incredible. You'll see people getting into their cars and driving to work, and the game actively encourages exploration and interaction with the residents. For example, when the storyline dictates that you meet someone at a specific location at a specific time, you have total freedom to arrive on any day you wish. In the meantime you can meet other people, complete some side-quests and explore Greenvale to your hearts content. Then, when you feel it's time to progress the overall story, you head to the location as planned. As long as you arrive at the appropriate time of day, it doesn't matter which day you choose. Neither the side-quests or the flexible adherence to timekeeping is mentioned in the manual, yet these are crucial to know in order to allow you to explore.
Deadly Premoniton’s weakest element is the shooting sections. The controls are clunky and the automatic aiming takes away almost all challenge. These sections look and feel like a poor PS2 game, and there's not a great deal of fun to be had. Deadly Premoniton was originally intended to be all about the exploration this can be frustrating, as you unwittingly walk through a door and find yourself in a 30 minute shooting section that you can't skip. It’s not all bad news in this regard – some of these sections are unintentionally hilarious, especially the ghostly wails that have to be heard to be believed. Later in the game, the addition of QTE’s and some genuinely unsettling chase sequences add welcome variety. Hiding in the cupboard as the Raincoat Killer sniffs around the room can be extremely tense.
But the biggest problem with the shooting sections is that the game actually begins with one. From removing the shrink wrap and inserting the disk into the Xbox, you'll have to wade through about 45 minutes of tedious exploration and poor graphics, introducing the game to the player as if it was nothing more than a poor Resident Evil 4 clone. If you didn't know about the fantastic story to follow, you'd write this game off before getting to any of it. But be patient, as once this section is complete, the game begins properly and starts to grow on you.
Deadly Premonition is a game that rewards that patience many times over. All of its faults are vastly outweighed by the moments of pure joy you feel whilst playing. It’s absolutely the best game I've played in it’s genre, and one of my all time favourite games.
Initially drawn to the game in the same way a movie-goer would enjoy The Room or Samurai Cop, it was only when the joke started to wear thin that I realised how good the game had become. The whole thing felt so captivating. I continued to play, so utterly transfixed by the characters, the story, the twists and turns and the curiosity of being unable to guess where the insane story would go next. After about 20 hours play I finally solved the case and as I drove my car back to the hotel I finally realised there was nothing left for me to do in Greenvale. I went to the bar and played darts for a while, but I knew I had to face the long drive out of town. I felt that I would really miss spending time in Greenvale, and as I left the hotel on the last day, I felt genuinely moved by the things I’d seen and the people I’d met. Powerful stuff.
Deadly Premonition is an astonishing game in every way. In a strange way, the crazy music and unusual graphics and animation end up being just as important a part of the game as the incredible story-line. It just works as it is, and I wouldn't want to change a thing. If this game was remade with advanced motion capture and next gen graphics, I think I’d prefer the original. It’s unique, all the elements come together to make something totally unlike anything else you've ever played.
I love it. And it's about a tenner.
Posted 06 November 2011 - 01:15 PM
The other, slightly annoying thing is the sound mix. I play single-player stuff with headphones and it's really noticable how the voices are drowned out by music. So yeah, I've yet to really enjoy the game outside of a survival horror context.
Posted 11 November 2011 - 10:40 AM
Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:25 PM
For example, if you go to the nightclub, SWERY65, you'll find the side quest to play darts. It's a really good darts game and a lot of fun. But you could complete the whole game without ever even entering the nightclub. Also, most characters have multiple side quests, and often you are awarded some decent upgrades by completing them. For example, if you complete George's sidequests early on, you get a police radio that allows you to warp instantly to any location you previously visited. Also If you meet the guy behind the counter at the milk bar, he'll give you a side quest that can earn you an infinite machine gun. These 2 items together allow you to skip the long driving sequences and play through the shooting sections a lot more quickly. Buy you could probably play through the entire game not realising that the game even has side quests. I think it's reasons like that the some reviews say 3/10, others mark it up to 10/10. You really need to be told this is a great game, because that first evening's play gives no indication of how wonderful it is going to become.
Posted 05 March 2012 - 04:03 PM
Posted 25 March 2012 - 01:16 PM
Agreed - it's a great game. Although skipping the long driving sequences should be avoided because the chat in the car is special.
Yeah, but York had a limited number of conversations. I did my first playthrough without the radio, which I didn't even know existed until looking at a FAQ after beating the game. Having recently gone back to grab the trading card achievement, I know I'll make it a point to get the radio on my next playthrough. Commuting wouldn't be so bad if the car didn't burn through gas so ridiculously quick.
Posted 21 April 2012 - 09:44 PM
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