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Deadly Premonition

Score: 52%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment USA
Developer: Access Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror/ Free-Roaming/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

I feel I need to cut straight to the chase, I won't make any pre-tense about it; Deadly Premonition is an absolutely awful game. But that doesn't mean I didn't like it. In fact, I am starting to think it is one of my favorite games this year.

I can't begin to state enough that Deadly Premonition is most definitely not a game for everyone. For anyone that has been playing other hits like Dead Space, Resident Evil 5, or Silent Hill, you should continue to play those games. They are infinitely better and you should not waste your time with Deadly Premonition.

Now that most people have moved on, anyone still reading this far knows there is something very different about Deadly Premonition, something special. I wish I could say it was for the stellar graphics. It isn't. Most of the characters in Deadly Premonition look like dull, robotic clones from an early PS2 game. Trees that populate the heavily-wooded surroundings of the town are nothing more than sticks and tissue paper. Animations are stiff, the color palette seems washed out, and not a single person in this world can smile without looking like a demented clown from a child's nightmare.

So, is it the music or voice acting? That's another big "No." The voice acting is some of the worst performances in games since the original Resident Evil on PlayStation. There isn't any accompanying soundtrack either. You could count the number of original songs in Deadly Premonition on one hand, maybe two as you pass the ten hour mark. Most of the game is silent when you are not speaking to residents of Greenvale, (the small wooded town where the game takes place) and what little accompaniment it does have is so loud and non-sequitur, some of the scenes sound as if the characters are intentionally trying to talk over the music.

So what is it then? Honestly, it's all those things I have already said and another layer of bizarre campiness that has me hooked. It's the videogame equivalent of a cheesy 80's movie whose only redeeming quality is that it was able to keep all the actors awake during filming. For the incredibly small segment of gamers out there that appreciate and relate to what I am saying, go out and buy Deadly Premonition immediately.


Gameplay:

In Deadly Premonition, you play FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan. Morgan has been assigned to investigate the small rural town of Greenvale for a seemingly uneventful homicide. After Morgan speaks to his imaginary friend Zach and reads his daily fortune in his cup of coffee, (really) he crashes his car and awakens to a nightmare world of Greenvale where ghoulish creatures moan and writhe in pain as they verbally remind Morgan they do not want to die (no, really!). Afterwards, Morgan has a hallucination of two angels sitting in oak chairs in the woods watching T.V. while a talking, stuffed deer head hangs above a fireplace in front of a random tree. (I wish I was creative enough to make this up.)

In what sounds like a great idea on paper, Deadly Premonition tries to mix the best parts of Silent Hill with the open world nature of Grand Theft Auto. Unfortunately for most players, that isn't where the genre mixing ends. Deadly Premonition also incorporates elements of many "Sim" games like a health meter, hunger meter, sleep meter, and even a hygiene meter to monitor. Throw in a little bit of Shenmue's mundane side missions and you come close to understanding the needlessly complex world of Deadly Premonition.

There is a core story to follow that involves a mysterious serial killer, called the "Raincoat Killer" that bites out his victim's tongues and stuffs their mouths with red seeds, but the only reason I kept wanting to play more of Deadly Premonition was the characters. As terrible as the delivery is on many of the different aspects of Deadly Premonition, the dialogue and writing are truly remarkable, in both senses of the word. For every one-dimensional caricature of small-town residents that Deadly Premonition offers, there is a surprisingly deep and detailed back story to dig into. Where many people will see inane and obtuse characters like a surly biker who loves 100 dollar bills because he likes to talk to Ben Franklin (!), I see something in Deadly Premonition that many games lack today: heart. As many outdated and obscure gaming conventions that Deadly Premonition utilizes, and there are many, it always does its best to deliver an experience you have never had before.


Difficulty:

Deadly Premonition is plagued with pacing issues and difficulty spikes. I wouldn't imagine it is from intentional design, but rather I think the team ran out of time. Many of the ideas and challenges seem half-baked or even like place-holders for a better idea the design team never got around to finishing. Many missions have you driving across town in real time, (sometimes upwards of ten minutes) just to start the next story sequence so you can drive for another five minutes back from where you came. All of the problems Deadly Premonition suffers from only make the game harder to play as a time investment because you are bored instead of stimulating your brain from mind-bending logic puzzles, or intense action sequences.

There are six chapters and a prologue divided across roughly twenty hours of game time. The speed in which most players will get through Deadly Premonition depends solely on their ability to endure immense tedium and monotony. I never regretted a single minute I spent with Deadly Premonition, but with every passing second, I knew I could always be playing something a lot better.


Game Mechanics:

Regardless of which gameplay mechanic Deadly Premonition decides to use for each scene, I can assure you all of them are awful or adequate at best. Anyone that has played a survival-horror game from 1995 - 2002 knows about "tank" controls. For those that don't, it means you move Morgan around the environment like you were driving a tank. Pressing the Analog Stick up does not mean Morgan moves in the direction you are pointing. Instead, "up" on the Analog Stick means "forward" for Morgan, so any orientation you might find yourself could mean pressing "up" to move Morgan to the right of left. Because the camera is behind Morgan's shoulder, this isn't readily noticeable. It isn't until the camera starts to change perspective for no reason, especially in stairwells and empty hallways, that it becomes a frustration.

There are weapons in the game for Morgan to defend himself, like sub-machine guns and golf clubs, but even that is made overly complex by adopting an outdated aiming system. Holding down (RT) aims the selected weapon and (A) fires while (B) reloads. (RB) and (LB) strafe to the left or right, but never while aiming. The only gameplay mechanic that Deadly Premonition uses well is during investigations. As Morgan scours crime scenes and nightmare worlds for clues, each clue reveals pieces of a video that approximate the details of the crime. It is genuinely interesting and maybe the only reason to tolerate the dull or lengthy action sequences.

Deadly Premonition is a guilty pleasure that prides itself on bizarre attitude and a double dose of "camp." No one in their right mind would play it willingly. But like the worst movie you keep in your DVD collection, there is at least one justifiable reason to own Deadly Premonition. For fans that can see past games with glaring flaws like Earth Defense Force 2017 or OneChanBara, the twenty dollar price-point is the only reason they need. For everyone else, it might as well be invisible.


-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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