I re-reviewed this game in 2020. Please disregard this original review.
There are games that I enjoy, there are games that I consider to be prime examples of art. There are games that I consider to be bad, and there are games I consider to be stupid. There are games that I love, and games that I am more than content with if they are just one singular entity. There are games that I want to explore, and games that I want everyone to, at the very least, try. Deadly Premonition is all of those things and more.
The Deadly Premonition Review
Release Date: 17/2/2010
Platform: Xbox 360
Price I Paid: ~$13.99
Before we delve back into the town of Greenvale, I believe that we should first talk about the history of this game. Back at Tokyo Game Show 2007, a game known as Rainy Hills was shown. The game itself was nearly done, or at least in some form of Alpha, and the game was often compared to the television show, Twin Peaks. Due to the massive amounts of similarities that people drew between the two entities, the game itself was scrapped, canceled, revived, and went through numerous iterations, but what resulted from this very bizarre experiment was Deadly Premonition, a game that is similar to rainy Hills, but it made some notable changes, like the protagonist’s face, name, and personality. The name of the town changed from the on the nose name of Rainy Hills, to the generic sounding Greenvale, and two dwarves in a red hotel room were replaced by with two blonde youths in a red forest with a moving deer head. There are numerous other oddities, like how it was originally going to be PSP title, or how this, a Japanese game, had only an English voice cast, which was redone sometime in 2009, well before this game’s release. But I want to plant seeds of information in you and hope they bloom and you actually give this game a shot. So, let’s delve into the insanity of this game’s head creator, SWERY 65!
Deadly Premonition tells the story of the murder of several individuals in the town of Greenvale, a former logging community that has been long forgotten by the rest of the world. After a ritualistic murder is found by two blonde twins and their Grandfather, F.B.I. Agent Francis York Morgan, formerly known as David Young Hemming, is sent to investigate this town with the help of a little man who may or may not be real, named Zach, formerly Jeter. York himself is one of the oddest characters that I have ever seen in any game, let alone played as. He has a scared up face, childhood trauma, a love for the media of the 1980’s,
The actual game begins with FBI Agent Francis York Morgan visiting a red forest where two blonde twins with colorful wings are whispering something to each other. Afterwards, York talks to an imaginary friend of sorts named Zach, formerly Jeter , who you respond for, which is one of the more interesting oddities in the game, but more on that later. We see York driving out to the former logging community of Greenvale, where a young blonde woman was recently murdered. York, being a professional is talking to someone about Tom & Jerry, while driving in the rain, with no streetlights, typing on a laptop, and lighting up a cigarette. But while he is bragging about one of his facial scars, York nearly runs over a man in a red raincoat and nearly crashes into some squirrels that sound like monkeys. Which I found surprising due to a part where you need to learn about squirrels to find a key, I am not joking, that happens in the third of the 27 chapters.
York then proceeds down a linear path filled with some amazingly flat trees, canned pickles, and limboing zombies who take a few headshots to kill with your infinite pistol, or Melee weapons, but they break like they are made of stickle bricks. Anyways, you find a can of pickles, and then some eyeless zombie, who bleeds purple or green depending on the color choice, even though blood is prevalent in this game. ambushes you while you are fixing a generator, only to the encounter the same man who helped cause the crash, and he wants to play a QTE with you. And then you are given blurry still images of what will happen throughout the game, right up until the second to last scene.
I just wanted to open with that to provide the necessary tone for this odd, odd game. As you could gather, York is chasing a murderer in a red raincoat, while he learns the values that country life can grant. There is also childhood trauma, very awkward romance, a bunch of trivia regarding 80’s movies, about 30 characters living in this town with their own problems that you can choose to do if you want an infinite RPG or are obsessive enough to get all 65 trading cards. Or just go around and do some of the 50 side quests and absorb the world like a sponge, and just enjoy the oddities that lurk within it.
The story itself does make some turns, and is presented in a very odd manner, but at its heart is just about a murderer in a forest who goes after young women, which was cliche by the 1990’s. But this game is a prime example of how you should not judge a game based on what it sets out to do, but how it is done. The want to craft a mystery, they give it away in the first 2 hours if one is keen enough. They want to create a town that feels alive and real, they create character who are enduring as characters, but are so simple that they do not feel like actual humans. Normally that would be an insult, but the game steadily avoids the uncanny valley and goes on the second highest peak, where something is clearly not real, but you care about it immensely. Even though the town is filled with such characters as, Keith the former rock star who is running a convenience store that is put down by the advertisements of an unseen competitor, who you can never see beyond the outer building. He also gives you maps to fights in circular rooms, where you can get infinite ammo weapons. Or a secondary character, Emily Wyatt, who has a chain of side quests where you teach her to cook more like her wimpy co-worker, Thomas. And as a reward for your efforts, you get a hawaiian suit and regenerating health.
But what makes it worth playing is hearing SWERY’s justifications for what is going on. Which is amazingly well done, because it is not explained. I am not being sarcastic either, there is a loose justification as to why eyeless housewives that bleed purple goo are rising from the ground. But you are floating in space, traverse between life and death, and fight a man with skin that is immune to bullets. To be honest I do not want to know what caused that giant hound to fall onto my car. And speaking of cars, let’s move onto gameplay.
Now, back when this game was in some form of Alpha (the interview was vague about which of the iterations this game had) gunplay and combat in general was just then introduced. Now, this can explain why, from a gameplay perspective, Deadly Premonition is pretty damn bad. The main movement feels sticky, the gunplay does not offer a redicle unless you are pointing at a foe or breakable object. Cars have a gas amount and health bars, and you must maintain hunger and stay well rested or else York will control like rubbish. Top this off with the ability to hide, shave your face, and clean your clothes to prevent odors, and you have one of the most immersive experiences that I have ever played. This game challenges just how far you can balance realism and avoiding killer crows that leave speed lines. You have to make sure everything is okay, limit your inventory, make sure that your car is okay, pay for gas, and so much more. If you want to wait for an event, you need to wait 20 seconds per ingame minute. It really makes it easy to get inside of York’s shoes, and makes him feel like you are controlling a human, but I am never sure if it is actually York, or his fascinating buddy, Zach.
Zach has a major role in the game, and it is explained, but you are not sure what happened, it keeps an aura of mystery, and makes you want to learn more about the world. He never speaks until far later in the game, but when his identity is revealed, you start to wonder if the bar that stated who you were playing as was accurate. And this can be applied to many characters, like Brian the Insomniac, who offers you a flamethrower if you give him scattered dog bones, and may be immortal according to an easter egg. Or Roaming Sigourney, who may or may not be a vessel for a magical pot that is given life by being warm. While on the subject of magic, let’s talk about York’s reaction to all of the crazy occurrences in this game, namely the zombies, York reacts to the walking dead the same way he reacts to a cereal and strawberry jam turkey sandwich being good, with mild surprise and notable fascination, but he never pursues it.
Even after you get to know the guy and listen to his intriguing performance with an intentional lack of emotions. Yet, York has tons of personality, we see him regularly tap his chest, evolve relationships, help out innocents, work people to get his way, smoke cigarettes, and act like a living IMDB. But even after I beat the game, I still did not understand him at a level that I felt comfortable with, which I believe to be one of this game’s greatest strengths. I know enough to be satisfied, but I don’t know enough to let the game go. I am actually just as happy as I am frightful of the prospect of Deadly Premonition getting a sequel or a prequel. I don’t want to see the mystery shatter, but I want it to grow. It is like inflating a balloon, you want it to be nice and big, but also stable, so it does not pop. Or like a dog you got from the pound, who may be missing a chunk of an ear or have a tangled leg, but if those problems were fixed, the dog would lose a lot of its charm.
But if I had to play the bad guy, I would have to say that the game has some of the most inconsistent graphical quality that I have ever seen. York looks amazing with his scars, growing facial hair, hell, even his bland haircut looks good. However, his animation as jittery at best, and very awkward at worse. The trees can be decent, or contain about 4 sets of 2D vertical leaves. But I use the York’s vision excuse and say that this is just how York sees the world, a bunch or awkward motions and plain characters, but very odd and filled with vines when he is locked in a building by himself, fighting wall climbing invisible women. The man sees red and white rooms when he sleeps or is in need. But my theory does not hold water when you consider one absolutely bonkers section where the game takes the turn from an odd jog across an inverted pond, interesting, but stable. And becomes a sprint across the dreams of someone who marathoned Twin Peaks and Psychonauts, while abusing some kind of substance. During said transition, you take the role of another character, who sees the same things York does, but now with an out of place, but amazing song. However, I Like to think that Zach possessed the other character, since they and Zach have an implied relationship, and York sleeps during the other characters section. Yet, if that doesn’t work, this game was remade over the course of a year or so, I’m surprised it even ran without crashing, let alone looks good. Hell, half the AAA games I buy crash at least once. But this game is surprisingly clean, and only glitched to improve the overall experience.
Now to shift gears to the music, I have one thing to say about this game’s audio: Often awesome by itself, poorly edited, but knows just the right moments to change the track and cause a reaction of some kind. This includes listening to a song entitled, “Life Is Beautiful”, which is comprised mostly of whistling, shortly after you witnessed a grizzly murder. Or just how calm the atmosphere is while York talks about the man who raped 700 people, seriously, the reaction on my face was priceless, I could just feel it. And outside of that, I love listening to this game’s soundtrack, from the ambient tracks, to the sleazy sounding Miss Stiletto Heels tracks, to the addictive race theme. Did I forget to mention that? This game has 3 race courses that you do for trading cards.
You know the best part, the atmosphere, this feels not like a game, but a world, the characters, the limitations, even the size and shape, it all felt like I was walking into another universe, one outside of my own, where things were similar, but nothing was alike. I can forgive a lot in terms of gameplay, and what many would consider to be essentials to making games if the game feels like nothing that I had ever seen before. The dedication put into this game by SWERY and his team could make a game with a AAA budget look like it came from the gods themselves, but this, a game sold for only a third of the standard price, it is something amazing. I sure as hell cannot place what made this game oh so special, but I sure as hell want everyone to give it a whirl for at least the first episode, it’s only $15-$20.
Now, I feel bad about giving this game a score, but after thinking about it, all I would do is make the trees look a bit better, and make the guns aim a bit better, since the normal aim is uncomfortable, despite my defenses for it. But those are both negligible facts that I can forgive, just like the hard as balls bosses, which made me felt like a bug, which only worked due to their size and power. So I am proud to grant Deadly Premonition my first perfect score, not for being flawless, but for being so unique that I would regret anything lower.
The game does something unlike any other, or does what it does with an amazing finesse that the minor qualms seem like nitpicking.
For more information, check out: http://shshatteredmemories.com/greenvale/ It may not be the best fansite out there, but the dedication and love placed into it, is just like what was placed in the game itself. I personally found the interviews fascinating, because from what I heard, most developers are not happy in their final product, yet SWERY seems overjoyed that the game even got done. However, I would not recommend exploration before you actually play the game. I had little to no spoilers going in, and I feel bad for even giving away as much as I did.