Deadly Premonition is a comedic survival horror game which was released roughly a year ago as a budget title (~$20 on release day).
Honestly, I don’t know what to write about this game. Half of me wants to give it a phenomenal review and the other thinks being shat on might produce a more pleasurable experience.
Well, let’s jump right into it. The game starts off on the right foot – by confusing the hell out of the player. I think the designers were going for the whole, “The more weird crap we put in here, the more intrigued the player will be.” It works to a point. You start off as an FBI agent driving a car while it’s raining. You’re heading to a small town to look into a murder that may be related to a killer you’ve been tracking. You see a weird figure, swerve and crash off the road. You then get out and suddenly you’re in a town called Silent Hill, er.. I mean, Greenvale. Right.
So here I am, with a car upside down, thinking, “Hey, I just got into a car accident let me try to find my way into town.” Instead, I find some people with Joker-like faces bending over backwards and crab-walking towards me, trying to shove their hands in my mouth. Seriously. This automatically generates a wtf sort of reaction, which is cool… for the first 5 minutes. By the 6th minute the combat is already repetitive and the enemies are boring.
The combat is horrible, and I mean that in the worst way possible. It’s very much like Resident Evil – over the shoulder view with a stop and aim mechanic. The controls are completely not intuitive and aiming is a complete bitch. Perhaps it’s because I’ve become accustomed with the generic dual thumbstick way of moving and aiming, but in order to fire at an enemy I need to hold the right trigger, aim with the left thumbstick (which is used to move when not holding the trigger), and fire with A. It just plain sucks. As a result, there is absolutely no flow to the combat and every time you come across an enemy it’s more of a nuisance than anything else.
The sound is also pretty bad. Firing your standard handgun feels more like flicking a spitball and even sounds like it. The music isn’t so terrible, I kind of like some of the tracks, but there are only about 4 or 5 songs and they tend to play the happy songs during intense scenes. It throws the vibe off a bit. Also, the sound effects are a bit harsh. Every time you go into the menu it sounds like you have done something incredibly wrong. Even if you get used to the horrid sounds as you flip through the menus, which you will do often, you can’t help but notice that your ears are bleeding.
The final thing to complain about – the textures. Actually who am I kidding, there is a ton more to complain about. The textures look like they were done by someone with Parkinson’s disease. You can’t zoom out on the map, so if you’re trying to drive across the town you have no idea the best route to get there because you can’t even see where the roads go. The cars drive like there is just a sheet of ice covering all the roads, and the response time to turning left and right has a bit of a delay. Really, these things are so bad that they can only be described in run-on sentences.
Essentially, it looks bad, sounds bad, and feels bad. So why the hell would you want to play it?
Only half the game is dedicated to the combat, if that. The other half you’re cruising around town, talking to people, helping them out on side quests, and developing your character. I absolutely LOVE this part of the game. It has a sort of Shenmue feel to it, an all-time favorite of mine. The dialogue is great and the story is told very well through this medium.
Deadly Premonition is a perfect example of interactive storytelling. The town in which the game is set bears a strong resemblance to the one in Twin Peaks, down to all its dirty little secrets. At first glance it’s just your typical small American town, but as the story goes on, you uncover the dark side of the townsfolk. Agent York, the main character, is also very flawed. Throughout the game he is constantly talking to a mysterious Zach, an identity we assume to be York’s split personality.
Pop gamers will look at this game and scoff at its immediate appearance. No, it’s not visually appealing, the combat is repetitive, and it can be a pain to work with the controls and mechanics. True gamers, however, will see right past these flaws. That’s because true gamers can see a video game as more than good looks and killing; they can see it as a work of art. That’s exactly what it is. Sure, I dread playing a portion of the game, but the little quips of comedy, the eerie vibe of the seemingly simplistic people of Greenvale, and the internal struggle of the main character more than make up for this. I find myself thirsting to know more about all of the characters, especially my own.
All in all, I recommend all real gamers to give it a shot. You’ll either completely hate it or absolutely love it.