DEADLY PREMONITION is a videogame developed by Access Games, published by Ignition Entertainment (USA) and by Marvelous Entertainment (Japan) for the Playstation 3 (Japan only) and Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 version was played for this review. It was directed by SWERY.
This article contains the following type of spoiler:
- One or two vague references to the ending
- The reward of Side Quest 005
- Some of the rewards you get by beating the game
First of all, I would like to say that Deadly Premonition is a good game and (given its price) I don’t care if you have to kill someone, but play this game.
This is my fifth post about Deadly Premonition. As I have already written most things I wanted to say in the previous Gaming Diaries entries (here are Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4), this will be mostly a resume of my findings.
First, a warning: if you ever play this game, DO SIDE-QUEST NUMBER 005 AS SOON AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN!! Seriously. I cannot emphasise that enough. I didn’t. I only found out about it as I was playing the game again to get all side-quests (which are usually very rewarding – and sometimes, like in this very case, that’s far from being a good thing). The reason why you absolutely MUST do side-quest number 005 is because it allows you to fast-travel. Sure driving through the town is very pleasant – poignant even – in the beginning. Eventually, by the time you reach Episode 3, it will tire you out.
You are welcome.
So, the reason I got interested in Deadly Premonition in the first place was because it received completely opposite reviews (which is, for better or worse, always a mark of a remarkable game). IGN gave it a 2.0. Destructoid gave it a 10.0. I think it’s fair to start by commenting those reviews then.
I disagree with both.
IGN‘s review, by Erik Brudvig, is clearly the worst offender. All the facts it mentions are true: the controls ARE bad, the graphics ARE last gen’s, etc. But Erik repeats what seems to be the most dreadful feature of an IGN review: it reduces the game to its technicalities and never sees beyond them. A movie comparison would be the guy that analyses a film scene by scene and yet does not get what the film is about (or, like my ex once asked me: “So… Rosebud killed him?”). His review is ridden with “the game didn’t have this or that feature that other game did” complaints. The lowest point in that review is its conclusion: “Maybe you can convince yourself that these things don’t matter as you work through this surreal and quirky storyline. The rest of us will be off playing better videogames.” This is just asinine as starting a review with the opposite, by saying “this game is not for everyone”, which basically means “I, the reviewer, am always right and if you disagree maybe you are too much of a simpleton to truly understand the game”.
No. I’ve changed my mind. Erik’s sentence was even more asinine, because one who says the latter sentence is not being aggressively insulting like Erik was.
At the antipodal point Jim Sterling wrote Destructoid‘s review by weaving 2 praises for every shortcoming the game possesses. He does hit the mark when he says that “compared to your average budget game, Deadly Premonition is a new gold standard” (it is!), but ultimately, the entire point of his review is to say that Deadly Premonition is a game so bad, it’s good or even close to perfect. I do not agree with that.
Deadly Premonition is not good for being bad. Deadly Premonition is good, because it actually *is* good!
So here is the rundown.
- I absolutely loved 90% of the story. I’m grateful for the symbolism (anti-peace symbols, duality references, twins, snakes, etc), the death scenes, and how the mystery is played out. I loved how the Raincoat Killer made sense and the revelation didn’t feel gratuitous. I liked that 90% so much I am willing to forgive the obvious plot holes and uses of the Dumbest Action Possible by some of the suspects.
- I deeply enjoyed the characters. They are ridiculous (or ‘unique’ for an euphemism): a sheriff from YMCA, a overly effeminate police officer, a middle-aged singer, a rhyming butler and so on. But they are well characterized – especially York, through his quirks and dialogs with his Zach persona – and you even start caring for some of them. Last, but not least, I liked how they looked (although how they were animated is a different matter).
- I liked most side-missions, but I wished they were more vital to the plot – or even defined part of it (the way it is, you can probably finish the game without doing any of those missions and chances are that you won’t be puzzled at the end) and less vital to the gameplay. It is equally rewarding to receive a clue about someone’s past and a device that allows for fast-traveling – but merely receiving something as important as fast-travel in a mere side-quest (instead of the main quest) is an intrinsically flawed concept!
- I enjoyed the contrived humor, the instantly memorable lines, the awkwardly stiff animation and how I always cracked up when someone smiled. Deadly Premonition’s PS2 graphics give the game more than a B-movie feel (or was that because of all those 80’s movie references?); it allowed us to enjoy NOW idiosyncrasies that we usually only find out when the graphics become dated (like Toad flipping us the finger in Super Mario Bros).
- Finally, I pretty much adored using a guitar as my most powerful weapon and hiding from the Raincoat Killer for the first time. However, all the subsequent times I had to hide from him felt pretty pointless. Repeating scary passages kills the fear – that should be pretty obvious.
- The thing I despised the most the sequences requiring me to press the analog stick left and right continuously during certain moments. Only the Shy Guy spinning minigame from Mario Party was more harmful to my controller. Another extremely problematic game mechanism are the sequences requiring you to run for about 4 minutes. Those were simply inane. Didn’t anyone tested those mindless segments before publishing the game? After only 2 minutes running, anyone would stop paying attention to the TV and start doing something else while keeping the Up control pressed.
- I was annoyed by the remaining 10% of the story (I was initially angrier, but I suppose time made me a bit calmer). I’m referring here to the supernatural turn that was mostly uncalled for and the silly optimistic epilogue. I did enjoy the dog’s cameo, though. That SWERY fellow apparently knows his Simpsons.
- I hated how the game tried to rationalize some stuff. The monsters, for example. Without an explanation, they add to the protagonist’s apparent lunacy; but the lame explanation the game provided only made it obvious that there were no real reason to insert any of those fighting segments at all! On the other hand, terms like “The Red Room” and “The White Room” were so redundant that I was required to read the director’s blog to understand their differences.
- I was aghast on how no attention whatsoever was paid to the Loading Screens. Lollipops recover hunger; Fish recover hunger – I got that! I don’t need the game to show me every kind of food that can recover my character’s hunger during every single loading screen! Even a completely BLACK screen would be preferable.
- Oh, I also think that the font used in this game was amateurish and that the US game cover is not only generic, but unjustified, as you never meet any monster using a blindfold.
And finally some neutral comments:
- I can’t comment on the voice acting other than saying I wasn’t bothered by it. Maybe because English is not my first language, I usually don’t notice bad voice acting unless it is REALLY terrible, a la Baten Kaitos, which was almost painful to hear.
- The city of Greenvale, with its sparse layout and low-profile buildings, reminded me more of the time I lived in the US than GTA IV‘s Liberty City reminded me of New York. It is really cool to finish the game and see the pictures from the actual towns from which Greenvale was based. On the other hand, it’s a dead city, with absolutely nobody on the streets and only a maximum of 3 cars.
- Being able to use the turn signal on your car is as superfluous as it is awesome! Using it feels almost like an inside joke.
- Polly Oxford may just be the most idiot game characters ever conceived – or there was a blatant plot hole the developers missed…
Presto! I’m done!
Other reviews for Deadly Premonition that were cited: