Deadly Premonition Review

It looks ancient and controls poorly, but this entertaining and unpredictable horror adventure delivers more shocks than schlock.

by

Considering its feeble production values, ancient controls, and all-round nuttiness, it would be tempting to dismiss Deadly Premonition as merely "so bad it's good," as if this creepy and crazy horror adventure were entertaining because it's so laughably and horrifically misguided. But you should harbor no such misconception: Deadly Premonition is good because it's actually good. There is no overlooking the shortcomings--the inappropriate sound effects, the flimsy visuals, and the impractical city map. These elements and more scream "budget game," and as well they should, considering the game's $20 price tag. But the foibles and frailties quickly fade when you realize that Deadly Premonition possesses one of video gaming's most treasured traits: unpredictability. And just as the story and gameplay cover remarkably varied ground, so too will your emotions waver, tossed about by funny characterizations, shocking twists, and touching revelations that will affect all but the most jaded players. In most games, Deadly Premonition's archaic gameplay mechanics and narrative quirks would be laughable, if not pitiable. But in context, they combine to create a truly unique experience that cribs from various sources but resembles none of them.

One of Deadly Premonition's many inspirations is the 1990s television drama Twin Peaks. The influence of David Lynch's odd opus is splattered all over the game's increasingly convoluted murder mystery. There's an elderly Log Lady-like lass who carries around an ever-cooling pot filled with God-knows-what instead of a log. Player character Francis York Morgan is a coffee-loving FBI agent prone to strange dreams, much like Twin Peaks' Dale Cooper. The game and the show both take place in a small rural town, they both center on the murder of a beautiful young girl, and, well, you get the idea. But Deadly Premonition is no mere rip-off, as becomes clear as you get to know its charming lead character and supporting cast. The story takes a shocking number of twists, but the narrative is paced well, so the mind-boggling revelations that continue to rain down upon you never feel overwhelming. There are a few questions left unanswered, even if you pursue the numerous side quests that further flesh out the oddball cast. Then again, this is a story more interested in providing a skewed alternate reality than in answering every question it asks. The untied strands seem weirdly fitting, giving the impression that in this crooked world, some things don't require explanation--they simply are.

The weirdness doesn't always work out. There are times when you aren't laughing with Deadly Premonition, but at it. There are frequent odd pauses between lines of dialogue while the awkward character models attempt to look mystified or horrified. Misspellings, nonsensical attempts at humor, and monotone voice acting make some events seem beyond ridiculous. But more often, the game is genuinely amusing and perfectly aware of its role as the interactive equivalent of a B movie. York chats with his invisible companion, Zach, about cheesy '80s films and sits at an impossibly long table with the wrinkled proprietor of the local hotel. A repetitive but kooky soundtrack whistles along while York drives about town and swoons during close-ups of attractive blondes. But in spite of the constant winking, Deadly Premonition seats you on a roller coaster of emotions. There are hideously violent moments that will disturb you and personal disclosures that will move you, either because you didn't see them coming, or because what you thought you knew is turned on its head.

You wouldn't expect to find such an elaborate sarcophagus in a small rural town.

As for Deadly Premonition's mechanics, you couldn't say that any one facet is all that good. You spend some of your time shooting at a small assortment of lurching spirit-things, some equipped with pitchforks or similar implements and a few brandishing shotguns. These meanies amble about with their weird animations, maybe teleporting a few feet forward to get a whack in, but generally don't put up much of a fight. Even the few boss fights aren't all that challenging, though multiple encounters with stringy-haired, wall-crawling ghost girls may frustrate you, not because they're difficult, but because they last much too long. Your main struggle will be with the controls. York moves with all the grace of an Abrams tank and aims with the precision of a drunk walking a straight line; you strafe with the bumpers, but York's slothful speed makes this a mostly useless feature. The combat isn't putrid, but it isn't exciting or refined, either. The same is true of most of Deadly Premonition's individual elements. You tool about the town of Greenvale, Grand Theft Auto-style, in a variety of oafish vehicles, though luckily there is a way to improve them, and even eliminate the need for them entirely. The main map's most distant zoom level is still much, much too close for it to be useful; some of the quick-time button-mashing events are clumsy to the nth degree; and figuring out how side quests work is a trial in and of itself.

Yet while the problems are evident, Deadly Premonition comes together because it continually does the unexpected. Out of the blue, you will need to perform actions you haven't performed yet in the game. A scary grim reaper fellow pops up and waggles his finger at you, and suddenly you must hide in a locker and hold your breath while the screen goes all picture-in-picture. You answer pop quizzes that summarize the day's events. You solve puzzles involving paintings of trees, chess references, and decorative deer heads. You go fishing for documents, send your suits out for cleaning, and tail suspects in the most conspicuous vehicle possible. In the meanwhile, the citizens of Greenvale go about their business as the clock ticks onward. They go to work, they have meals, they go for walks, and they visit each other. They invite you to join them for lunch and drop tantalizing bits of backstory. The final chapters offer their own shocks, again dropping new activities into your lap that have major narrative significance. Like with any given story sequence, a moment of gameplay captured on film may look graceless at best. But with this story, the stream of surreal surprises will keep you engrossed in spite of the creaks and squeaks of the rusty gears churning underneath.

They don't have any speaking lines, but trees still play an important role.

If you've played a game in the last five years, Deadly Premonition might flabbergast you at first glance. Fields are covered with low-resolution grass textures, and characters emote with the expressiveness of wannabe divas puffed up with Botox. Yards are surrounded by boxy hedges that clunk like oil drums when you drive into them, and while the victim of the murder you're there to investigate was apparently a ravishing beauty, the face appearing on her character model is one only a mother could love. But even amid all the homeliness, certain elements were crafted with obvious care. For example, electrifying scenes in an art museum and a bathroom make such good use of color and camera angles that you barely notice the technical deficiencies. A sequence of colorful boss battles and a grainy flashback make later chapters stand out. Your imagination needs to fill in some of the gaps, but this budget game makes the rudimentary graphics count when they most need to. When it comes to the messy sound design, however, the chasms are too wide for even the most fertile minds to fill in. Sometimes, the game is so silent it's as if sound effects have gone missing. Dialogue will get soft or loud out of the blue; weapons sound as if they were purchased in a toy store; and the monotonous moans of the horrors that hound you lose their charm early on.

Deadly Premonition is not a lovely game, or a refined one. It's easy to dismiss it for its bad looks, its ancient control scheme, and its general user-unfriendliness. But this is a case in which the bigger picture dwarfs the flaws and the foibles. Here is a game that pilfers ideas from a number of sources yet feels wholly distinct, and just when you think you have it figured out, it somehow manages to pull another trick rabbit out of its hat. In fact, you get dozens of hours of trick rabbits for only $20, making this game a great value for anyone looking for something a bit different. And Deadly Premonition is certainly different. It has its ups and downs, but the one direction you'll most associate with this flawed and unique game is sideways.

The Good
Bizarre and entertaining story keeps you guessing
Memorable cast of characters will get under your skin
Lots of variety leads to pleasant unpredictability
Many hours of gameplay for only $20
The Bad
Poor visuals
Terrible sound effects
Useless map
Awkward controls
7
Good
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Discussion

25 comments
Silverline62
Silverline62

This is a very unique game, it's so odd that it almost started a revolution about games as art.

campbell22
campbell22

I just finished and I play this 23 hours. Beggining was terrible and i was disapoint, but after 1 hour i just cant stop playing.

Shawn45
Shawn45

This game is absolutely amazing. Once you get over the controls and the shoddy graphics, you'll realize that this is quite a gem. I bought it for PS3, and I'm definitely going to buy it on Steam once it's up. I've never played another game like this, and I really hope a sequel is made!

oOhedzOo
oOhedzOo

I wouldn't have believed it if it wasn't written by Kevin VanOrd This game looks awful but then you actually read about the good and the bad things about it you find the same things most don't like about it:

The Bad
  • Poor visuals
  • Terrible sound effects
  • Useless map
  • Awkward controls.
This proves that games can be this bad and still be enjoyable to have such score. Not only Kevin the best reviewer in GS liked it, but also many reviewed it and some of them said this game is NOT FOR EVERYONE.

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

Great example of "great graphics do not make a great game" and the opposite.

toffy666
toffy666

this is a very good game if ur looking for old school horror game

The_Great_Purge
The_Great_Purge

The guy who gave RE6 a rating of 4.5 gave this game a 7.0? Lol! Nice choice of game. I don't know what to say. But I think it's about time GS reviewers lay out a criteria score in each aspect of the game that will explain the overall rating rather than judging the game based on "what he felt" during gameplay. I don't like the sound of gun fire and creepy creatures' sounds lame to me. If IGN rated this at 2.0, I think that's pretty darn right.

CaptainBerserk
CaptainBerserk

Characters and story of this game put a lot of big titles to shame!

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

This game really is amazing for reasons that you couldn't *quite* stick in a review.

 

Obviously if you're a COD idiot you'll not like it, but there's something about the story and the progression and the drab, cold presentation that, should you make it through to the end, I really find it difficult imagining anyone describing it as a waste of time.

It's the stories that stay with you after all, and this one has a very, very good story.

 

Just think of it this way.  It it was released *years* ago, it would have been universally accepted as a fantastic game.

 

BryanParksSuper
BryanParksSuper

Are you kidding me this game sucks. Because it recieved terrible scores the developer team is coming with a Director's Cut just to get sales. How pathetic.

high_strung
high_strung

This game is probably my second favorite game of all time. I'm anxiously awaiting the director's cut edition that is supposedly coming out!

Jimmy2Crack
Jimmy2Crack

So glad I bought this game, I bought it completely based on this review. I love ps2 games, I love twin peaks, and I love b-horror flicks. I'm about 3 hours into this game and am totally enjoying myself. Well worth the 6 bucks I spent on it!

toby7ten
toby7ten

I loved the atmosphere, quirkyness and feel of this game. Looking beyond the graphics, it suited me down to a T! Agreed with the below comment, "It's the ultimate PS2 game". lol. The storyline and atmosphere is great, who cares about the graphics. I like the way you can tell you are in a videogame world too. Like early games, computers trying to emulate reality (noises etc) but not quite getting it right, made the whole thing feel kind of.. Odd. And Creepy. Deadly Premonition goes a good way to giving out that feeling.The only games that got me this freaked out were Hellnight and Silent Hill on the PS1.  I haven't finished it yet, but looking forwards to doing so. Good review!

Iamshmee
Iamshmee

Wow not a single comment in here? Kevin I'm glad to see your one of the few big reviewers who actually got this game. I picked this up for $10 a couple days ago and am astonished by the amount of gameplay to be had. It's like having the ultimate PS2 game with fun gameplay and story and the characters are awesome. I'm sad to see some site like IGN giving it a 2.0. I somehow get the feeling they didn't put much time into it, or don't have respect for the type of title this is.

FaeLKuN
FaeLKuN

@The_Great_Purge but 4.5 was a perfect score for RE6, completely agree with Kevin on that one... RE6 is just about generic, linear CODtesque action. No horror, just straightforward shooting.

Deadly Premonition is not a perfect game, but it's a very good one. It just need more refinement.

King9999
King9999

 @BryanParksSuper I don't know how you think the industry works, but they couldn't release a Director's Cut based only on scores.  The scores are irrelevant if they got enough sales, which they obviously did.  Nobody is going to release a game on another console if it failed on a previous one.

TheEveryMan
TheEveryMan

 @Iamshmee 

 

I myself like small games that aren't financially successful, but leave their mark on specific groups of small players. A new story to play and examine until you have finished the game. Large companies have put too much action into their products and pay little attention to the actual "horror" story that pulls me in. See you around.

VanOrdSucks
VanOrdSucks

@FaeLKuN @The_Great_Purge Resident Evil 6 was much more than a 4.5 lol, especially when he gave Operation Racoon City the same score lmfao. What a joke. 

FaeLKuN
FaeLKuN

@VanOrdSucks @FaeLKuN @The_Great_Purge Much more than a 4.5!? Now that is a real joke... so RE6 have great graphics and an interesting narrative structure, right, but what else? Boring and constant QTEs, extreme linearity, mediocre action, inconstant pace, no horror... the entire game is broken, it sucks... and ORC sucks too (ORC received 4.0, even worse...)

Deadly Premonition More Info

First Release on Feb 17, 2010
  • Xbox 360
  • PlayStation 3
  • PC
Go on a decidedly Twin Peaks-like adventure with this new PS3 game from Marvelous.
7.6
Average User RatingOut of 763 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Access Games
Published by:
Marvelous, Ignition Entertainment, Rising Star Games, Marvelous AQL, Mastertronic
Genres:
3D, Action, Adventure, Open-World
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
All Platforms
Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes