A good game is much like a perfect slice of apple pie (stick with me on this one). All the individual ingredients come together to make something that just works. So, what do you get if take David Lynch-esque surreal story telling; throw in a handful of survival horror a la Silent Hill, a liberal dose of Resident Evil’s combat controls and top it all off with everyone’s favourite free roaming sand box gameplay? Well, I’ll tell you. You get Deadly Premonition. Is it a good
pie game? Oh god no, not by any standard but instead, it is something best described as an "experience".
Coming to us from the team at Access Games and their ever enigmatic creative director SWERY, Deadly Premonition Directors Cut is a re-release of their 2010 outing of the same name. This time though, it comes with a new narrative bookending as well as enhanced graphics and updated controls... apparently.
The plot casts you as the eccentric and unorthodox FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan, who arrives at a remote township in northern Washington to solve the bizarre murder of a beautiful young woman. Agent York is - what’s the nicest way of putting this - a few pennies short of a dollar. He talks to an imaginary friend, has a crippling love for coffee (which he reads the future in, like any standard law enforcer) and has a dream-like detachment from reality. “Whoa! Hold on a sec, this seems familiar” I hear you saying and you would be right. You ARE indeed playing Twin Peaks the game and this is unfortunately the games only real strength.
SWERY seems to have channelled Lynch’s unique vision in creating his surreal world and the cast of oddball characters who inhabit it. The result is a series of what-the-hell-is-happening moments, punctuated by bizarre dialogue and a jarring musical score, which regularly toes the line of convolution. With this said, it remains, strangely, somewhat engaging, if only to see what M. Night Shyamalan super twists they throw in. Problem is though, the cut scenes have to end at some point and then you’re left with the actual gameplay which is brimming with its own what-the-hell-is-happening moments, only they’re not quirky, oh no, they’re painful, stemming from broken mechanics and technical issues.
First things first, improved graphics and audio is a nice thing to put on the box but it’d be awesome if it was also in the game. There is barely a noticeable difference from the original, with the textures still remaining bland, repetitive and muddy. The audio’s balance is also all out of whack, with the dialogue and background music constantly battling for centre stage and sometimes disappearing all together. They did, however, add frame rate problems and rampant texture-correction (whole model popping this time!), which adds a certain level of extra challenge to the game, I suppose.
So, whilst you’re enjoying these ‘gameplay enhancements’ you’ll normally be doing one of two things, either shooting a bunch of slightly disturbing ghosts... with bullets... because ghosts hate bullets (it’s a well-regarded fact) or driving from point A to point B...then back to point A.
Driving! Driving’s a fun thing in games, right?! Tearing across public streets with reckless abandon, jumping into high performance cars and burning rubber! Well, no, not in Deadly Premonition. Driving takes the form of navigating an urban sprawl that’s been designed by a city planner who hates convenience and is bustling with as much life as Chernobyl. Your mode of transport? A car that sounds like it’s perpetually dying and travels at the pace of a drunken tortoise. Much like that intoxicated reptile, the driving also feels loose and unresponsive, to the point I also highly recommend that you own a boating licence, as the vehicles handle as such and require at least a 9 point turn to go any other direction than straight forward! (I wish I was exaggerating, oh god how I wish...)
When you’re not cruising across the emptiness of the Northwestern United States in a galleon on wheels, you also get to do what FBI agents do best, solve crime and shoot stuff! Agent York will sporadically find himself thrust into a disfigured representation of his world, fighting off twisted creatures and being perused by a giant, who drags a large cutting implement on the floor... wait, haven’t I played this before?
This is when Deadly Premonition has an identity crisis and pops on its "best" action/survival horror suit (I use those terms very loosely). During these scenes of wonderfully mundane combat, Agent York controls with all the finesse of a bipedal tank on ice. Your arsenal for dispatching the threat - no, not "threat", more "nuisance" - of enemies comprises of the usual suspects, pistol, SMG, shotgun, each packing the punch you’d expect.
All notion of horror and urgency is destroyed by ammo being more common than the cold and the enemies being as threating as targets in a shooting range, to the point where killing them is just annoying and boring. These moments are so rinse and repeat the whole way through the game, they lack any tension or even challenge and just come off as padding.
When it’s all said and done Deadly Premonition is a bad game. Bad controls, shoddy frame rate, blurry textures, sketchy audio, the works! Thing is though, I see what they we’re trying to do, I really do. Deadly Premonition, to me, is like the Birdemic of video games. It’s a sincere imitation of something the creator truly loves; it just missed the points that made their source materials so good in the first place. There was potential here, you can see it tucked away throughout the game, but unfortunately we got a swing and a miss, instead of a homerun.
Forged haphazardly from discount parts and blinded by the old world ideals of Sega fanboy-ism. Jonny Robot is half man, half machine and runs on the unstable fuel source of lukewarm coffee. He also owns an Atari Jaguar but can't justify why.... a burden he bears to this day.