How can a survival horror title that has outdated graphics, a mind numbingly annoying soundtrack; and gameplay consisting of repetitive Easter egg hunts, taxiing, and two dimensional combat be considered the best survival horror game I’ve played in a long while? Well dualism is what this title is all about as your split personal protagonist, York, (or it is Zach?) will tell you.
If this has you scratching your head well that’s just what Deadly Premonitions does best. The game kicks off in what seems like a Resident Evil/Silent Hill type atmosphere with ghost-zombies called “shadows” lumbering after you, but; after a short sequence in “the dark world”—ala Silent Hill—York , big city FBI agent, stumbles into the sunlit small-town paradise of Greenvale, where young girls are being murdered and the inhabitants are nearly as crazy as York in a sort of directed by David Lynch kinda way. Twin Peek fans will be at home as a Billionaire Tycoon in a skull shaped gas mask speaks through his poetry spouting aid, a pink glowing eyed killer stalks the streets on rainy nights, and Greenvale’s answer to “the log lady”, Sigourney, wanders around town talking to her pot.
Once you meet this circus parade of suspects and settle into town, the world opens into a brilliant sandbox environment of mini-games, challenges and side quests to check out while visiting Greenvale. Fishing in the mountain streams, playing darts at the local bars, testing out your new wheels in a circuit race, or beefing up on your aim at the police firing range are just a handful of ways to earn power-ups and enjoy the sights. Sound dull? Not here to vacation? Then, York can even buy maps at the convenience store to uncover the truth behind local ghost stories that place the player in sides quest challenges where if you survive an undead horde you’ll be rewarded with more powerful weapons. The varied gameplay and open environment succeeds in ways that titles like Alone in the Dark (5) failed miserable. Instead, Deadly Premonitions’ take on the open environment parallels to the old 90s Sierra Games like Quest for Glory where developing a daily routine of practicing skills, finding places to sleep, eat lunch, have drinks or play darts at night adds a realism to the experience that pulls the player into the game by mirroring a life’s day-to-day of down time and work time.
The details of York’s daily regime are even taken far beyond what Sierra ever dreamed up as the player is in charge of shaving a beard that grows in real time and keeping his clothes clean or suffer the embarrassment of having actual bugs circle your character. York needs to do everything short of dropping anchor in many toilets offered in the game. With the amount of coffee you need to drink to keep his sleep meter up and the amount of food you chow down on to keep the hunger meter up, it’s surprising the player doesn’t all have to rush York to the toilet, but I digress.
However, attention to detail does not extend much to combat, and I can agree that fighting the same re-skinned shadow with only a different weapons or two over and over does get lame, but the game as has the ability to surprise you. Just when you’ve had it with repetitive combat the game’s second enemy type “The crawler,” —think Samara from the ring- comes sulking along the ceiling and walls at you, naked and pissed off. The game has a way of lolling you into a false sense of security and then dropping a new twisting on you or changing the gameplay style on the fly. While I tend to hate reaction test sequence, and their overuse in games today, DP has a couple that are interesting and exciting as you engage in chase sequences with the game’s boogie man, “The Raincoat Killer.”
While the game’s general bestiary is limited to four, plus a handful of boss fights, the overall gameplay is not just about the combat. Deadly Premonitions borrows gameplay from GTA, Resident Evil/Silent Hill, Crazy Taxi, Police Quest, Quest for Glory, Haunting Grounds and the overall experience never feels disjointed with pieces tacked on just for fluff—well maybe the ability to use your car’s windshield wipers and blinkers, which serves no purpose, but whose nit-picking?
While most critics have more to complain about than the dashboard functions of the cars, but these people are missing the point. In a genre, where both Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil screwed up their franchise with too much innovation and too much action, respectively, Deadly Premonition enters with one of the most original survival horror gameplay experience in years and most people will miss it because of some superficial flaws, but my eyes are open.
“DPs” bad reviews focus on the game seeming “dated” while they should be addressing the most original characters, atmosphere, and dark storyline since Harvester, and one of the best “manageable” RPG open environments since Quest for Glory. While the town may not rival the map of Fallout or Oblivion, its size allows the player a more intimate experience of reoccurring characters and locations. Instead of the conceptual RPG format: “we’ll I’m done with your quest-I’m off to the other end of the map, see you never,” character development and the small town atmosphere are always at work.
Games are all about having fun, and Deadly Premonitions only takes itself seriously in moments where it has to. The rest of the game is even willing to laugh at its self, and it often does almost poking fun at the characters limited expressions, movements, and over reactions. Cynical critics are exaggerating standards they think make it look like it should have come out ten years ago; but, even if that was the case, the best games are timeless, and this one is instant classic: hilarious, creepy, and intriguing.
Where else can you get up, predict the future by how the cream mixes in your coffee, go fishing and catch ammo, fight off a horde of the undead in an old tunnel with a flamethrower, eat lunch, race a crazy woman home because she doesn’t want the pot she’s carrying to get cool, help the crazy Vet at the junk yard find parts to build you a new hotrod, interrogate suspects, eat dinner, play darts, race your new hot rod, and when night falls, take out the hot deputy for drinks then fight off giant supernatural dogs with a shot gun under the full moon. It’s all in a day’s work when your Francis York Morgan. “Isn’t that right Zach?”
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