Game Review: Deadly Premonition

Deadly Premonition Artwork

So I played this game several years ago back when it was first released on the Xbox 360, and so when The Director’s Cut was released on Steam, and was on sale no less I decided to snap it up, unfortunately I initially struggled to play it as I am not super great with PC gaming, I much prefer having a controller and early on in it’s release the Controller support was not great, so I put the game aside for a year or so and when I was recently made aware that the controller issues had been fixed, and that there was a new game on the horizon I felt compelled to dust off my copy, return to Greenvale and complete the game once again.

So before we move onto my actual review, let me drop some information for you in case you aren’t already familiar with the game. Deadly Premonition is a 2010 release, actually a reboot of an earlier game which was cancelled called Rainy Woods. Deadly Premonition retained several of its predecessors assets while also adding new elements. It is considered to be a very divisive game, receiving both acclaim and criticism, in fact it holds the Guinness World Record for the most critically polarizing survival horror game. A critical component of the game, and one which the awesome Hidetaka Suehiro (also known as SWERY) made sure to include was reality, even amongst the supernatural elements, you need to maintain your character by eating, sleeping and changing clothes and everyone in the game has their own unique schedules, which in all honesty can be inconvenient for progression sake, but for creating a fleshed out and real game, is truly interesting and part of the draw of the game. Anyway, in Deadly Premonition you play as FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan who has come to the rural town of Greenvale to investigate the recent murder of young woman. Once he arrives, things take a turn for the strange, and he ends up staying in town to catch the killer as the body count rises.

So hopefully that’s a solid introduction, now let’s talk about what I thought of the game, firstly a lot of people have drawn comparisons between the game and Twin Peaks and in all honesty I can see the similarities but it doesn’t feel too cut and paste, if anything it feels like an homage to the best parts of Twin Peaks while also maintaining unique elements, and possessing its own quirky sense of humour and engaging story. 

What I like most about Deadly Premonition is that it can be silly, there’s plenty of lightheartedness about it, and it’s not afraid to have fun, but this effervescence is balanced by a rich story and a darker thread tied throughout, there’s genuine tension during the combat and pursuit sections of the game, and a lot of the characters are haunted, and this only becomes clearer throughout, but obvious examples being York himself, George Woodman, and Thomas MacLaine who are complex and at times dark characters. A lot of people seem to overlook this part of it because of the more upbeat moments but I think it makes for a critically engaging game.

I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of combat in games, sometimes when it’s really fun to do like in Marvel’s Spider-Man it’s more enjoyable but for me it’s always been my least favourite part of the game, and in the nicest way possible this holds true for Deadly Premonition, it’s not that it’s bad by any means, although sometimes it can be a little tricky but overall I just felt like the combat intruded in the story, I love the investigation, the breadcrumbs of the mystery, uncovering them and slowly finding out what happened and for the most part the combat detracted from that experience. The exception to this were the Boss fights, which while difficult made sense, as you’d reached a point where the mystery was most solved, and the focus rightly should shift from solving it, to apprehending the suspects. Plus the Boss fights were just fun, I especially liked the finale with the Big Bad, who I won’t reveal in case for some reason you’ve decided to read this before playing the game for yourself.

That being said, because it was an element of the gameplay, I’d like to add that even though I don’t especially like combat in games, it wasn’t altogether too bad in Deadly Premonition, killing the shadows could often be fun, because it made me, someone who is objectively pretty bad at that type of gaming feel competent. I especially liked the crawling shadows which were creepy and required patience, whereas other enemies you could just aggressively fire at until they died.

The true genius of this game though is in the world, firstly it’s largely open meaning you can just travel around at will, which makes it instantly much richer, but it’s not just a big empty map, there’s plenty of locations to visit, and little tip, visit and enter as many buildings as you can as early as you can because once you unlock a certain item through a side mission you will be able to warp between these locations making travelling quicker and easier.

While I am talking about side missions, these are my favourite part of the game, overall I believe there are 50 side missions, some of them like Cold Spot 1 or Map to Psychic Spot A are part of a multiple part story, with each one being unlocked by doing the previous mission, and providing (most of the time) a reward for doing so. These side missions are so fun, and certain ones will net items which will make gameplay considerably easier if you complete them early on, a good example being *SPOILERS* Nice Try Cooking, once you’ve completed it and the two subsequent side missions in you’ll be rewarded a weather doll which can regenerate York’s health without the need for First-Aid kits.

I want to talk about driving, for the most part unless you use the item I alluded to earlier to warp between locations, and even then you’ll still need to visit them once to unlock them, you’ll be driving, and this can be both rewarding and tedious. Firstly, rewarding because some of my personal highlights were listening to York talk with Zach, these conversations were apparently inspired by real life conversations between SWERY and Kenji Goda the writers of Deadly Premonition, and this authenticity really reflected on the show. I just wish it wasn’t limited to exclusively while driving because it would have made the combat sections more engaging had he been taking out shadows while talking about Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. It was however also tedious because the car controls were a little awkward, oftentimes oscillating between two fast to keep control and so slow as to make trips take forever. The map did not help this, I did like that it orientated itself to whatever direction you were facing, but overall it was an issue that you couldn’t see the full map at all times, I also feel like I’ve been spoiled by games like Grand Theft Auto which utilise waypoints in maps and sign post your way to in game locations because until I started to get to grips with the map, I really struggled to make my way around. It’s not a massive issue but it did impact my enjoyment overall.

I touched on the combat above, but the Raincoat Killer sections deserve to be talked about separately, despite it being jarring initially, these sections are very cinematic and made for enjoyable gameplay, sure if you aren’t good at quick time events….and I’m not then you may die a few times, or in my case you needed 12 continues but it’s different and added some diversity to the larger sections where you are either killing or avoiding (by holding your breath) the shadows.

Overall Deadly Premonition has its issues, mostly technical but despite this it’s fun to play, has a really interesting and creative story, has it’s silly elements but also does justice to it’s darker parts and is well worth playing. I am super excited for the release of Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise in the near future. So with all that in mind I think I will give Deadly Premonition a 4/5.


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