You will never play a game quite like Deadly Premonition. You just might even come to appreciate it for reasons you weren't expecting.
While I was playing, occasionally something my mother always said would come to mind. That people will always think more highly of the D/C/B students, rather than endlessly praise the straight-A students. Because, often enough, those D/C/B students worked hard for the grades they got. They stayed up late and, perhaps, sometimes got zero hours of sleep. Social get-together's were cancelled out of the blue. God forbid, they had to stay after class. Always one of the last ones to finish that test.
They worried far too much. But, they, most certainly, cared.
Similarly, SWERY's idea for a video game was grand and exciting, but they hardly had all the resources they needed for it to be as perfect as they likely had hoped. However, they fucking damn well tried their hardest with what they had. That much is obvious. And, for that, I appreciate Deadly Premonition.
No. I love it.
The game stars you. Your name is Zach.
But that's not the protagonist you control. That guy is named Francis York Morgan. An FBI investigator with a heavy interest in finding out just what the heck's been up with the small, not so quiet at the moment town of Greenvale.
Unfortunately, it seems some idiot is out doing idiot things. Killing people, no less. And, as far as I know (or at least as far as how much I want to know), that's all he's been doing thus far. However, York (just York; everyone calls him that) isn't an idiot. And he talks to his coffee. He's the perfect man for the job.
It is in these first couple scenes you view, once you start up a new game, that we get a pretty good feel for how Francis is as a character. He speaks in a generally flat tone, but has a sense of humor and personality. Thanks in part to the game's less than stellar graphics engine, his expressions are often priceless, but appropriate. Expressive in the way that a classic Tex Avery cartoon character is, although not quite as nutty.
When he's puzzled, his right eyebrow just about rockets off his forehead. When he's happy, you're just a little bit frightened, but you're happy that he's happy. He's infectious.
His character design is also not without it's charm.
It is also here where I am pleasantly surprised by how solid the voice acting is.
They knew to spend whatever budget they had on stuff like decent actors rather than on an outstanding polygon count. Because they're not that naive. And this game is UGLY. Had the game been made any uglier, they'd be plastering and stretching dev photographs onto the character models ala Max Payne.
Accompanying the voice acting are some equally as solid lines of dialogue. Along with some genuine moments of horror, humor and some great music.
All that taken into account, I'll forgive the occasionally ever so awkward presentation. Long stalls of silence between two gracelessly animated avatars, an explosion of cheesy cop thriller horn sections as Francis' name flashes on the screen for the first time, and I'm barely an hour into the game. There's likely plenty more of that to go around.
And I'm looking forward to it.
"Shutup and tell me about the gameplay, you schlock."
As lighthearted as the game can be, there is a pleasant amount of survivor horror to be experienced. Not in the vein of Dead Space or even RE4. No no no. I'm talking classic, kick you in the pants, smart, tense (but fair) survival horror gameplay.
Although the gameplay does borrow quite a handful from RE4, it is not RE4 by any means. Imagine RE4 released between 1997-2002 or so. That's what this game feels like. You still stop to shoot and reload, you still have those wondrous tank controls, you have the over-the-shoulder view, there's even been a couple quicktime events (bare with me, nerds), but what ultimately makes this game so similar yet so different from RE4 is that it's actually properly tense and somewhat tactical.
For as many bullets as you have, sometimes melee combat is simply better. Run of the mill fodder can shock and nail you down if you're caught off-guard. Some weapons degrade over time. Even your default combat knife will break pretty early on, provided you use it from time to time.
RE4's combat knife is made from hardened, electric, diamond magma. This one is 99 cent store plastic.
Best part is, despite the game being on the low-end of low budget, it is very playable.
To call this game anywhere near unplayable is, quite frankly, a bit of a stretch. Just a bit. Have you played Sonic Adventure lately? Or the console version of GTA: Vice City? Pah-lease. This game feels solid enough for it to retain at least a hint of fun throughout. Although, most of the time, it's actually pretty exciting.
From the slippery enemy movements and their hilarious concepts, having to balance your limited stock of items, the surprising amount of variety (that's not to say there's a real buttload of it, though), to that need to find out what happens next. In the first hour, I've been fisted by a female Heath Ledger, attacked by the game's main antagonist, casually walked several hundred yards down the road to Greenvale (it's more awesome than it sounds, given the proper mood), "stuffed my face" with a lollipop, even the little things like that are strangely alluring.
Eventually, I've heard the game becomes what is basically an open world game. With sidequests and having to worry about hunger, tiredness and even your basic hygiene. Why does that interest me? I don't fucking know, but I can't wait. Perhaps it's those tantalizing contrasts between hardcore survival horror, open world simulation and a lighthearted/dark/bonkers story.
The game is everywhere, but so tightly focused. No game, with a budget so small, has seemingly accomplished so much.
As I type this, I'm wondering how I could love such a stupid game. And there's no getting around that. The game is beyond stupid.
"I didn't actually enjoy that, did I?", I would ask myself.
But then I follow up with "Well, what was so bad about it?".