As a bit of an apology for nothing being written last week due to Mass Effect 3, a video project, a video shoot, and general laziness. Here are my first impressions on Deadly Premonition, a cult classic game that is horrible from a gameplay standpoint, but is an amazing piece of entertainment. //Bland intro is bland, and old meme is old, just read what happened when I first tried to express my love of Deadly Premonition.
Deadly Premonition First (~20%) Impressions
Platforms: 360(reviewed), Playstation 3(Japan Only)
Release Date: 17/2/2010
Price I Paid: ~$16
Notice: I spoil a few things that happen in the first out of 6 episodes, so only read until you want to buy the game, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be hooked
The title starts and FBI agent named Francis York Morgan, a scared up man who is the most socially awkward main character that I’ve seen in any game, nay, any work of entertainment. Let’s begin with the first thing we learn about him as a person, the fact that this man has some form of imaginary friend, or dead co-worker’s ghost, or tiny fetus below his left thigh, I don’t know what it is, but he’s named Zach and I believe that you are actually controlling him, not Agent York. I say this because whenever Zach is asked something, you respond, that and he talks to Zach while he’s driving around the northwestern woods of Greenvale. But what really kills me is how York talks to Zach about movies from the 70’s and 80’s.
I am not making this up, this man mentions everything from Xanadu, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Superman IV, Tremors, Jaws, and so much more. It is so unique to see a main character who just talks about the most random things when he’s not wandering the woods fighting limboing zombies that bleed purple, and being ambushed by 5 meter tall bloodhounds who fall from the sky. Believe me when I say that I could ramble on about how the Pot Lady is among the best minor characters in the last decade of video games.
The actual controls in this game feel like slightly looser Tank controls, or as I call them, Hog controls, turning is awkward, running has a reverse stamina bar that takes 1-2 minutes to fill up. the main gameplay consists of shooting zombies or hitting them with random bars and pipes. What is great about the zombies is that they are wearing face paint that looks just like the Joker’s from The Dark Night, and that they either fade in before you or just stumble into you while you are shooting them in the face 5 times with your handgun of no finite ammo.
There are also hunger and tiredness meters that are regained by eating unripe tomatoes and canned pickles sleeping in a hospital filled with red vines and zombies with pipes who are literally begging to die. What really does astound me is how the game is designed around you controlling like a combination of meat and metal, and manages to be creepy because of that. Even though I got an upgrade to an infinite SMG, I still was a bit disturbed of these strange beings that only exist in York’s head, or at least I think.
But when you are not shooting zombies in the face, you are going around, racing, collecting trading cards, and doing side quests by driving around in your car that can not only be damaged, but has a gas meter. Now if that sentence made you cock your head, then I’m doing my job, because there is nothing more head scratching than adding in racing mini-games in a Survival Horror title. But the trading cards, oh the trading cards, there are about 65 of these things, but the ideas ran out fast, there are only about 25 NPCs that you meet, so of course they need to resort to using sponges and bags of chips are trading card characters. The inclusion of a gas meter really does help add to the survival horror idea if you are out during a rainy night and the giant dogs are ready to eat your face and your car only has 1 hit point remaining, it’s the kind of stuff that makes games like Skyrim and Minecraft more than art and turns them into experiences. I can barely contain myself while vigorously typing my thoughts about this astounding title.
It only occurred to me that this game does have a plot and is more than just a guy goes to the woods to find a small town to do things in, Agent York is sent to investigate the murder of a young woman named Anna, who managed to traumatize two young children who enter York into every new chapter of the game and sometimes give him cookies, none of this is being made up! I would describe the process of investigation half pissing off Burt Reynolds and the cop from Silent Hill 1 by leaving them in the middle of nowhere and then talking to them at my destination, only to be scolded to going in without them and checking in, by checking in, it is amazing! The other half is looking at sparkly red things that cause blurry images to appear in York’s head and somehow allow him to learn how a crime was committed, it’s like L.A. Noire for dummies mixed with those hidden glyphs of naked people in Assassin’s Creed II.
One thing that I was certainly not expecting in this game was an amazing cast of secondary characters. Not to say that they’re very unique or three dimensional, but their stereotypes are done so well and somehow manage to be engaging, despite the fact that you could sum up every character in one or two sentences. There’s a rock and roll guy who owns a Milk store that has low resolution boxes of Trix cereal, and a wife who gives you a discount if you do a Pokemon like block puzzle. There is a black doctor named Ushah, who wants a saltier bag of potato chips. There are hidden maps to challenge rooms that give you rocket launchers! Zounds, I cannot write enough about how amazing this game is.
Before I enter a coma of drool and talking about coffee and a dog that steal bones that York kept in his surprisingly deep pockets, let’s talk about the audio visual aspects of this game. The first thing the game shows you is a pine tree that is an octagon with 4 columns of 2D leaves, needless to say, the game can look like crap sometimes, but the game never draws attention to it, and the character models are far better looking than the unexplorable background.
Characters look uninspired, yet have an indescribable draw towards them, York’s face is the only one give much attention, it is at the point where a bead can grow if you don’t shave. Which only has the consequence of losing money that you would get by shaving. Yes, you are paid for shaving, changing clothes, and even saving the game, although money does not have much purpose once I had and infinite SMG, with the exception of the fishing mini-game… You heard me right, a fishing mini-game in a “Survival Horror” game. The animations are very minimalistic, and areas are not very well joined, but it actually feels like I’m traversing a small mountain town.
From the few songs provided and the manner that they are used are a prime example, happy music is far too happy for this game, and most others, and it gets in your head and before you know it, you’re whistling along. From the cheesy sounding detective music whenever York is being an intellectual, to the eerie sounding LaLas in one track, which brings the atmosphere and tone back to a serious one faster than York can murmur something about how he needs his coffee. The voice acting sounds like something out of a B-movie, but its presentation makes most cutscenes very memorable, something that I cannot say about 90% of other titles, from examining corpses, to the two screen vision that you have while a killer is chasing York, it is something that only a handful of titles can accomplish.
There is one thing that I think that Deadly Premonition has more of than any other game that I can think of besides The World Ends With You and Earthbound, charm. I think that charm may be among the most important aspects of any entertainment medium, and anyone who can take what looks like a very poorly made product, and turn it into something that kept a smile on my face for 14 hours is not only good in terms of execution, it’s borderline genius.
If you have a 360, you can get the game for $20 or less, but if you have a PS3, you can either import the Japanese version, or wait until the Director’s Cut is released. Give it 2-3 hours and you’ll be waist deep in a liquid that is the physical representation of sheer bliss. Or at least as long as you pay attention to the QTEs thrown at you by a less subtle Pyramid-Head like foe, which include the bloody shoulder buttons and require control stick movements that you will end up using your palm for.
//God do I love Deadly Premonition, I’ll post my review up this Sunday so you can see me go absolutely bananas over a game that is just that, nuttier than a Circus Elephants diet. And I would not have it any other way.