“I’m Special Agent Francis York Morgan. Please call me York, everyone does”
These words sum up ‘Deadly Premonition’ better than I ever could! If everyone calls him “York” then why go to the bother of introducing yourself with your job title, full name and end with what you prefer to be called! Why not just introduce yourself as “York”?
You’ll find yourself asking questions like this throughout the entire duration of York’s investigation of the ‘Raincoat Killer’ – you’ll also find yourself laughing, getting scared and wondering why that musical cue was there!
You’re probably aware of ‘Deadly Premonition’ and its status as the best/worst game of the last console generation. So you may want to consider this review my investigation into whether or not you should commit your time (and it will require a substantial investment) to ‘Deadly Premonition’.
Should you play this game? Let’s look at the evidence and come to the right verdict.
Exhibit A – Graphics
How do I say this while maintaining a sense of objectivity? They are terrible (close enough)!
‘Deadly Premonition’ quite simply looks like a PS2 game; and not a particularly pretty one either. Much of the game seemingly has non-existent textures, jaggies as far as the eye can see and more frame drops than a drunken optician.
The graphical ineptitude goes far beyond these issues though, the characters are so low polygon and with rudimentary facial animation there is a disjointed sense behind every cut scene leading you to seeing a strange de-sync between what you hear and what you see. It is extremely off-putting and lo-fi (it was in 2007 but even more so in 2015).
…none of these graphical frailties really matter, and none of them detract from the game. If anything it adds a certain charm to proceedings; its old-fashioned but that is exactly what SWERY was going for; if the grind-house filter over everything is an indication.
The set design of the game is also very good and contributes to the overall tone of everything. It sits somewhere between ‘Shenmue’ and ‘Silent hill’ yet retains some uniqueness. The same cannot be said of the character and creature design – they are very generic.
Somehow the game manages to rise above these frailties and is still able to create an experience that still manages to be frightening when it needs to be.
Exhibit B – Sound
This was probably my favour aspect of ‘Deadly Premonition’! From the infectious whistling theme that is seemingly in every cut scene (no matter the mood) to the dramatic “shock” chime that accompanies every plot development – it is charming!
And then there’s the sax solo…seemingly ripped straight from SWERY’s “greatest porno soundtracks ever” album. Although surely the best part of the sound management is the timing that it exhibits. Apparently the musicians were asleep a lot of the time because they regularly miss their cues by about a second! The “shock” chime is consistently a good second behind the actual review! It’s hilarious.
The most serious issues though is the car engine noises – they are monotonic and sound like a nest of angry, tone-deaf hornets! And the inappropriate musical cues; I lost count of the times that I was being told, investigating or inquiring about a murder only for the whistling tune to kick in inappropriately and ruin the immersion slightly. I felt wrong that I was laughing during these vital scenes – but maybe I don’t want to be right!
Exhibit C – Gameplay
This is the strongest aspect of ‘Deadly Premonition’ – the game plays like a strange combination of ‘Shenmue’, ‘LA Noire’ and ‘Silent Hill’.
It’s like ‘Shenmue’ in that you can run around town, watch people on their routines, meet them and befriend them, maybe grab coffee and some food, this benefits you by beefing up your skills (driving etc.) and you get an intimate knowledge of the inhabitants. It riffs on ‘LA Noire’ in its; admittedly more action-packed, investigations for clues and it’s obviously like ‘Silent Hill’ in its horror aspects and its dual worlds.
There is a lot to like in this game, sure it has tank controls, shooting is iffy and lacks feedback and there is no real challenge, this allows us to focus on the story and enjoy the world that has been created for us. The world map is massive but outside the town there is very little to do outside of finding agent honor points and bones from other murders!
You will however want to stay in the town however because every character has a proper personality and more often than not they have a rich back-story with motivations and reasons to suspect them. Oh and they’re all batshit crazy!
I recently wrote a post about value in games, well I more than got my moneys worth from ‘Deadly Premonition’ based on the laughs it gave me. Every time someone spoke there was reason to laugh, be it wonky dialogue, misplaced music, a graphical glitch or merely just a wonky animation. And somehow I was hooked on the story, I didn’t want to get to the bottom of the raincoat murders, I NEEDED to know! ‘Deadly Premonition’ ropes you in and has a great story, with enough twists and turns to satisfy even Jenson Button.
‘Deadly Premonition’ is a marmite game, I understand that fully – but I had an absolute blast with this game, in my 20 hours I laughed, I got frightened (those chase scenes) and spent a fair amount of time talking to the strange characters.
It’s not a great game, but nor is it a terrible one.
It is merely a game that is more than the sum of its parts and gives the player a meaty story to delve into and enjoy – if they can get past the flaws.