Can we all stop for a second and agree, right now, that Deadly Premonition is one of the greatest achievements of mankind? The game has problems, lots, and lots of problems that would enrage me under normal circumstances, but f*** all that because have you played this game? The Director’s Cut, which is what I played, has one of the worst PC ports I’ve ever seen, and Rising Star games can eat my ass because of the amount of time I lost due to crashes. The fact that I can come out the other end, however, and still say that I thoroughly enjoyed the game despite its technical issues should be an indication of its quality. Yet another game recommendation by our Editor-in-Chief, Will Kirk, off the back of our conversation about strange games, I delved into the game that he so happily described as “a Japanese Twin Peaks.”
I’m very particular about my coffee, I like it strong – and prophetic.
The PC port is full of so many technical errors that it made me extremely sad, so I’m going to talk shittiness for a second, and then once this is done we can collectively gush. I’ve played some terrible PC ports before, but Rising Star Games should be ashamed of these blatant technical failings. I had to reinstall PhysX immediately after installing the game just to get the damn thing running in the first place, because reasons. There’s a particular part of the game that will consistently crash as soon as you reach it without re-installing DirectX. This was all done just to keep the game running, once it was actually on its feet there were still a lot of technical problems that plagued my playthrough.
Intermittent frame rate issues that seem to happen apropos of nothing, to a point where for awhile I was convinced it was part of the story. There were even a few good ‘ol invisible walls showing up in places they really shouldn’t, like in the middle of a street. This is all to say nothing of the crashes, the frequency of which makes Fallout 4 look practically stable. Next time you get a hold of a true gaming classic, Rising Star Games, maybe wipe the peanut butter off the greasy ham-hocks you call hands before you get to work. There, now that’s over with, let’s talk about how this is otherwise one of the most perfect games ever.
And don’t let me catch you doing it again!
Enjoying Deadly Premonition is dependent on buying into the ridiculousness of it all, giving yourself to the game wholeheartedly, and saying to yourself “It’s fine that this is happening.” The overarching narrative starts out odd and only escalates from there, refusing to slow down even at the very end. It’s full of so many genuine surprises as well, often taking advantage of the fact that you’re attempting to guess what’ll happen next ahead of time. By the end of the game, I was completely invested in the story and finally seeing it finished felt like such a bittersweet moment, but I can honestly say I did not see that ending coming.
You take the role of Agent Francis York Morgan, a man who speaks openly with his split personality, Zach, and seeks fortune tellings from his morning coffee. He’s not rude, he’s merely efficient, and please – call him York. Everyone calls him that. He has an interest in cases about the murders of young women and he’s been sent back to the boondocks by another occurrence in a string of mysterious murder cases. Working together with Sheriff George Woodman and his deputy, Emily Wyatt, York has to work quickly to catch a deranged killer before he strikes again. Also, there’s some creepy and eccentric locals, more than a few skeletons in the collective closet, and a whole mess of errands to run for the townsfolk. You can go fishing, collect trading cards, bribe the locals, go racing, kill zombie ghosts, travel to an alternate hell dimension– Wait, wasn’t there a murder case or something?
“Profiling specialist, Obscene Cinephile.”
You’re not just playing Deadly Premonition, you’re sort of living it; it’s the first game I would happily describe as “an experience,” without feeling like a pretentious wanker. You’ll get sucked into daily routines within the game and adopt York’s personality quirks as regular gameplay, without even thinking about what you’re doing. As you come to grips with how the world works and after receiving a proper introduction to the town, the murder case almost becomes a back seat priority. This isn’t as bad as it sounds, because the game has a way of snapping you back into the main plot whenever necessary, and means that those moments generally mean a lot more.
This would normally be the point in a review where I start tearing a game to shreds for being entirely too distracted but, somehow, in Deadly Premonition it just works. Greenvale is an amazingly well fleshed out town, if not for its locations then most certainly for its inhabitants, holding many secrets to discover and stories to be heard. There are timed events and side quests for you to take part in that may or may not provide further context to the main case, but always grants greater insight to the meta-narrative at work. Everything in Deadly Premonition has a greater purpose, whether you immediately realise it or not, and watching it all come together is one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in gaming.
Kind of like this, but without the amazing suit.
What you’re actually doing while you’re out and about truly embodies the term “Lynchian.” The seemingly ordinary tasks you undertake will always have a touch of odd, and even when the game starts to get really berko it’s still grounded in familiarity. There’s a trading card series scattered about the town that features local items and inhabitants, yourself included, that everyone’s aware of and not creeped out by. There are “psychic maps” that literally lead you into portals to the spirit realm, maps you can conveniently purchase, along with their ghastly backstory, from the local supermarket. Most of this stuff will have a tenuous connection to the main plot at best but damned if you won’t pursue them as though their completion were critical. I know I certainly did.
It’s worth noting that Deadly Premonition’s gameplay and controls are what might be traditionally described as “f***ing broken.” You’re harangued by the Sherrif at the beginning of the game to drive safely and under the speed limit, but you can tip the car on its side and slide along the road without consequence. Doing exactly that is easy to do since every car moves around like it’s on oil-slicked ice with molasses tires. Moving around on foot is like a strange hybrid of tank-like and over-the-shoulder shooter controls, and feels just as awkward as it sounds. There’s also a stamina meter that’s so long and recovers so fast, its sole purpose for existence seems to be to occasionally annoy the player.
“And then she saw that the milk…. HAD EXPIRED! DUUuuuuOOOOoouuuUUDE!”
The game is fraught with such issues from the aforementioned difficult controls to ludo-narrative dissonance, and even the unfortunate presence of QTE’s – the list goes on. It’s almost impossible to impress, however, that far from ruining the game, these problems actually enrich the experience. Despite the sheriff making a big deal about your driving, he won’t say tikki-boo if you roll the car, or literally smash into people (who also walk away without a scratch or a word.) Miss the very strict deadline you’re given by the local police while chasing down the murder case? “Oh well, we’ll do it tomorrow night. But don’t be late this time!” The fourth wall is never entirely broken during Deadly Premonition, but it remains under extreme strain throughout.
Most of this is sold by the game’s original soundtrack, which is now among my top favorite soundtracks of all time. I’m not a very musically inclined person, it’s not that I don’t like music, just that it’s not the kind of thing I’m naturally good at or pick up on. As a result, video game soundtracks aren’t something I focus on very often, or pay attention to at all really, unless they play a significant part of the narrative. Deadly Premonition’s soundtrack, however, will grab your attention and never let go, even well after you’re done playing. The Woods and the Goddess from the entire soundtrack; I highly recommend a listen even if you aren’t going to play the game, perhaps this song will convince you otherwise.
“You’re gonna love my mixtape.”
While it’s an excellent listen in and of itself, it’s how it’s applied to the game that makes it so brilliant. Deadly Premonition will continually undermine its gravest and tensest moments with the most inappropriate musical choices in gaming history. Standing around a grisly murder scene? Well, that’s the perfect time for an off colour joke from the main character aaaaaand cue the wild jazz. Describing the horrific, mind-wrenching details of a previous case to your new colleagues? Better chuck in some whacky, whistling tunes to set the proper mood! Not that this happens every time, mind you, as some moments were very moving within the context of the game, helped mainly by the brilliant soundtrack. It’s just that the game enjoys taking the piss about as regularly as I do. I enjoyed the OST so much, it’s one of the few I went and purchased separately from the game – and again, I don’t generally listen to video game music.
If you imagine Deadly Premonition as a cake made of strange, its graphical presentation is the sugar-cut-with-coke frosting that completely coats the spongey goodness. For a game that was originally made for the X360 in 2010, things are looking good and if there’s one thing that the remaster got right, it was improving the overall appearance. That said, it’s not the innate quality of the graphics that impress, but rather the creativity and sheer “what-the-f***”ness of your surroundings that’ll leave a lasting impression. Without going into specifics, lest I inadvertently spoil anything, the overall appearance folds nicely into the Lynchian style that pervades Deadly Premonition. Sure, it’s not a triple-A title with a graphics budget the size of a small nation’s GDP, but it’s still one of the best looking games out there, and purely for visual style.
I’ve talked before about media that’s so bad it’s good, stuff that reaches a level of terribleness and absurdity that it’s indistinguishable from genius. Ladies and gentlemen, Deadly Premonition is the epitome of “so bad it’s good.” A convoluted plot that quickly goes off the rails and gets side-tracked, awful, awful controls, and the most bizarre music choices in gaming history. Despite these setbacks, when combined it all just finds a way to work. This game knows that it’s bad, perhaps intentionally tries to reach levels of cringe and weird that would normally be off-putting in other games. It weaves those feelings and awful game tropes into an unbelievably beautiful tapestry. The only parts of this game I would call legitimately terrible are the issues left over from Rising Star’s hack-job of a port. No, far from being a bad game, Deadly Premonition as the closest thing to perfection that any of us will–
“Paddy, are you there?”
I’ll never forget the day I finished Deadly Premonition for the first time, Zach. Do you remember? That night I had a… Spiritual experience. Nick was around for a Hyper-thetical recording. Before the recording, I was telling him about how much I’d enjoyed playing the game, and how we were both surprised at how much we enjoyed it. We’d gone in expecting the worst and had found a game we’d perhaps be willing to call our “favourite.” That would be a real first. I had so many unanswered questions, so many emotions that I didn’t know what to do with. I thought about Agent York Morgan, the Sherrif and his deputies, and all the secrets of Greenvale that I had yet to discover. Thrilling.
After only recording a single episode, however, I began to feel the familiar twinge of a panic attack. No, not a panic attack. Not the typical kind anyway. I looked around and my surroundings slowly morphed, a growing shadow creeping over the room and disgusting, flesh-like vines rapidly growing across every surface. My vision blurred and I began to stumble, barely able to keep steady, and I ended up asking Nick to leave because I feared the worst. I held onto the walls and shuffled into the bathroom, a cold flop sweat forming all over me, a sickening feeling in my gut, and my head swimming in a miasma of dizziness. I couldn’t tell if my heart was racing, I couldn’t focus enough to say but it felt like it was on fire, and my veins were fighting to keep from bursting. I slapped at the cold water tap to turn the show on and tore my now sweat-soaked clothes off. I stepped into the shower, and that’s when it happened, Zach.
From both ends I became a fountain of human excrement. Doubled over, the water of the shower pelting my back, I let forth a torrent of vomit and fecal matter that was instantly washed down the drain with the runoff water. There was no pain, though there was a great deal of discomfort; although I was hardly in a position to relish the humour at the time, it reminded me of that scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life. You know the one I mean, Zach. With the super fat guy in the restaurant, vomiting on the floor? And then the poor maid who had to clean it up, he vomited on her too! Released in 1983, directed by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, starring one of my favorite actors. Can you guess who it is? That’s right – Patricia Quinn. She also starred in Rocky Horror Picture Show as Magenta. But you knew all that, right Zach?
Anyway, whatever had upset my gut subsided and I was able to stand upright again, the stray chunks that had landed on me were flushed away by the shower. It was cleansing, in a way, but ultimately draining, and I stood in total exhaustion, looking up into the shower head as the water flowed over my face and down my body. The flashes hadn’t entirely passed, and for a moment, I swear I could see York, standing in the distance, puffing on one of his trademark cigarettes and flashing me a grin. “You did good, Paddy, but now it is time for me to leave.”
“But York,” I cried out, “there’s still so much I don’t understand! I’m not finished with Greenvale yet, or… or with you!”
Well Zach, York just smiled back at me so proudly, as though to say I’d just completed a job well done. Waving goodbye, he walked away and slowly began to fade from sight. I still think about him, even now, wondering where he is and what he’s doing. Maybe we’ll meet again one day. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it Zach?
Editor’s Note: Uh… What the actual F***, Paddy?!