Deadly Premonition (N.A. and Europe)
Rainy Woods (development), Red Seeds Profile (Japan)
Ignition Entertainment (N.A.), Marvelous Entertainment (Japan), Rising Star Games (Europe)
Xbox 360 (N.A., Europe, Japan), Playstation 3 (Japan only)
February 17th, 2010 (N.A.), March 11th, 2010 (Japan), October 29th, 2010 (Europe)
Cover art for Deadly Premonition.
What Is This Game?
Deadly Premonition is part open-world adventure game, part survival horror. Deadly Premonition follows a main story arc, but takes place in an open world that allows the player to wander and explore freely, featuring a day/night cycle, side quests, secrets, shops, and even fishing. The story follows FBI Agent Francis York Morgan as he arrives in the small town of Greenvale to investigate the bizarre and unusual murder of a teenage girl. Shortly after his arrival, he finds himself working with the Sheriff, George Woodman, and his deputy, Emily Wyatt, as they try to unravel the mystery behind it all. There is more to this investigation than it seems, everyone is a suspect, and the town has a dark past that it has been trying to forget. Before long, Agent Morgan (along with the mysterious voice in his head, Zack) finds himself in for a long stay in Greenvale as he unravels an increasingly sinister mystery.
Agent Francis York Morgan looks down the road to Greenvale after the game's opening scenes.
Deadly Premonition has gained a sort of notoriety this generation for its cult status and, as such, has become a sort of poster child for obscure, low-budget games the past few years. And for anybody who goes into it with the right mindset, and gives it some time, it becomes very obvious why. In some ways, Deadly Premonition is an incredibly flawed game, however, and it is an easy one to get off on the wrong foot with. The game starts off with what is essentially a protracted “dungeon” area, which places an emphasis on its less-than-stellar combat and movement controls. The graphics, likewise, are sub-par. They’re generally very bland, with dull colors and a lack of detail, and animations are stiff and robotic much of the time. Likewise, the game comes off as incredibly cheesy at first, with dialogue that seems absolutely ridiculous and the vibe of a clichéd, low-budget B-movie. To top it off, Agent Francis York Morgan, the player’s character, seems like a complete goofball…….but then something happens.
You get past the first area, and suddenly….what’s this? This game is open world? You begin to wander a bit, and realize the town of Greenvale, in which Deadly Premonition takes place, is actually open for exploration and investigation. You spend some time with the game, and you realize it’s filled with places, side quests, items and characters. Sure, the characters are ridiculous, but now it’s clear there’s a bit more to this game than you initially thought…..So you play it a bit more, and realize the story is actually becoming something more than you thought, too….what you thought was a parade of B-movie horror clichés is now becoming an engrossing mystery with supernatural elements…..Then, you roam the town and progress with the story a bit more. You get to know the people of Greenvale, and Agent Francis York Morgan…..and slowly it becomes clear that they are not bad or cliché, but instead hilariously, intentionally quirky and eccentric, and surprisingly likeable and deep. Slowly, the game’s technical flaws are forgotten……and, whether intentionally or not, somehow become part of the game’s strange, quirky, oddball charm. It all just works! But how did it work? What’s this game’s deal? Let’s take more of a look and find out……
Just like the mysterious red seeds, there's more than meets the eye to Deadly Premonition.....
History, Release and Reception:
Deadly Premonition was floating around in development for quite a while under the title “Rainy Woods.” Its trailer premiered in 2007, and I personally recall watching the trailer and thinking……wait, is this a “Twin Peaks” game? Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought this, because so many people noted this that the development cycle was prolonged and the release date pushed back to revise the game and lessen some of the similarities between it and the show which served as its inspiration. The game fell off the radar for a while, and when it finally resurfaced, Ignition Games announced it would be releasing the game under the title “Deadly Premonition” in the U.S. The game was released on February 17th 2010; but the brilliance of its release was its super-low-budget retail price of $19.99. This almost certainly lent a huge hand to its surprising success as a cult hit. Twenty bucks? Heck, why not pick it up? I know for a fact that was why I ended up buying it. There I was picking up a copy of Bioshock 2 and….hey, what’s this $20 horror game I’ve never heard of? Might as well get it, it’s only twenty bucks! (funny thing, too, that I ended up putting aside Bioshock 2 to play the random budget game I bought alongside it). In any case, the strategy worked, and the game sold surprisingly well. It was released about a month later in Japan under the title “Red Seeds Profile” and in Europe in the fall.
Maybe even more surprising than the game’s sales was its critical reception. Even with its myriad technical flaws, Deadly Premonition’s quirky charm and underlying genius earned it a generally good reception from a number of major publications and websites. Many major publications and websites gave it good scores and noted its charm and good qualities in spite of its flaws, and Destructoid even gave it a 10/10 and called it a “beautiful trainwreck.” On top of that, Game Informer liked it enough to mention it a number of times throughout the following year, including a few awards at the end of the year. IGN, on the other hand, outright bashed the game, giving it a 2.0; but then doubled back later in the year with a U.K. review that gave it a 7.5. Deadly Premonition seemed to force a bit of a revolution in critical analysis of video games, in any case, and a bit of appreciation rarely seen for similarly flawed or low-budget games. The game did so surprisingly well that its creator, “SWERY,” is making a director’s cut, and has even mentioned a sequel. Who doesn’t like a good underdog story, huh?
Deadly Premonition may not be the best looking game, but beyond its technical shortcomings lie an engrossing open-world and fascinating story that earned it praise from a number of major gaming website and magazines.
There’s no beating around the bush, so let’s get the negative stuff out of the way: And that’s that, from a technical standpoint, Deadly Premonition is a pretty flawed game. From graphics to controls to gameplay mechanics to sound and voice work, Deadly Premonition comes off as low budget, clunky and awkward at first.
As I mentioned earlier, graphics are bland, with drab colors and a general lack of detail. In addition, character animations are often stiff and robotic, and some facial expressions come off as weird and even a bit creepy.
Voice work comes off as a mixed bag with some weird writing at first, too, especially before you begin to realize that much of that quirky awkwardness in the dialogue is actually intentional. It’s not a flaw, really, but can be a turn off before you realize what direction the game is going in. Sound effects are also limited and at times unfitting. One hilarious instance of this which immediately comes to mind is the squirrel in the opening cutscene that Agent Morgan swerves off the road to avoid; it makes a monkey squeal. Also worth noting is how, every time you land a headshot on an enemy, Agent Morgan remarks on it with “Nice!” or “Great!” or something along those lines; which becomes pretty funny when you’re using an automatic weapon and he says it for every single bullet that hits the enemy. Music also tends to overpower voices during cutscenes sometimes, and is oddly unfitting at times, as well.
Likewise, controls and various elements of gameplay are awkward and tough to manage at times. Vehicles in the game, which you’ll use often to navigate and explore the world, control like tanks and can be pretty tough to steer. But when the controls are most problematic is probably during the combat, which you’ll usually encounter during the dungeon-esque “otherworld” sequences. Aiming guns is twitchy and the clunky movements make combat tough, especially when there are multiple or faster enemies. These “otherworld” sequences are also a bit prolonged and repetitive, due to the lack of enemy variety, repetitious environments, and generally straight-forward nature (lots of hallways and finding keys). The boss fights later on in the game are pretty hard to manage, too.
Combat can bit a bit awkward at times.
However, what may be a bigger gameplay-related issue is the confusing and disorienting town map. This was the one problem that actually managed to get a bit frustrating, even for me. Ya see, you can only zoom your view of the map out to a very limited degree; meaning that you can never get a full view of the entire game world on the map, or even a quarter of it, for that matter. It’s just locked on your location and you have to move it around manually to try to get an idea of your surrounding area. But what’s worse than that is that the view of the map is CONSTANTLY readjusting itself based on which direction the Agent Morgan is facing; in other words, when you look at the map one second, and are facing north, you’ll see it one way. Then, when you unpause, turn your character around, and go back to view the map again, you’ll find the entire map has flipped itself upside down. This issue never impairs your progress with the main story or with finding your next objective, as those are clearly marked, but it does make navigating and exploring the town very disorienting and, in a game that so heavily encourages exploring, finding secrets and side quests, and getting to know its world, can become frustrating when you are trying to do just that.
Deadly Premonition was obviously made on a very limited budget, and much of these flaws are likely due to that. However, what’s worth noting more than anything, is how most of these flaws become part of the game’s quirky, strange, low-budget charm. After a while, they almost work FOR the game, not against it. Strange as it seems, this game knows what it is, and almost everything about it, even its low-budget, graphical flaws, hilarious voice and sound work and clunky controls, begin to fit right in and become part of it all. It’s almost uncanny how well it all works, in all its outlandish, low-budget glory. Which leads us to……
Deadly Premonition is filled with quirky dialogue and characters.
Why it’s Worth a Second Look:
Despite all its flaws, or, maybe even partially BECAUSE of them, Deadly Premonition is greater than the sum of its parts. It rises above its flaws because it is filled with genuine creativity and passion, and because it handles itself, even its rough spots, with a certain grace, dignity and insane genius. There is a lot to love about this game.
The story and characters are undoubtedly some of the game’s greatest strengths. What starts out seeming like a bad knock-off of every horror video game ever slowly reveals itself to be anything but typical or predictable, with a genuinely engrossing supernatural murder mystery and a whole town full of fascinatingly quirky and surprisingly deep characters. A long list of side quests do a lot to flesh out the smaller characters, while the main story does a great job of taking the core cast and exploring who they are. Many of them seem strange or stereotypical at first, but as the story progresses you’ll realize they are anything but. Rarely have I cared so much about a cast of characters in a game, and few games I have played take as much time and care as Deadly Premonition does to get to know it’s characters, spend time with them, develop them, and flesh them out. There are a lot of quiet but introspective moments and small but important conversations between characters, and it all serves to create an incredibly likeable and endearing cast. By the end of the game, you’ll find yourself really caring about Agent Francis York Morgan and the strange bunch around him, and it makes for some very powerful and emotional moments later on.
The cast is filled with deep and likeable characters. And conversations and interactions between them are always interesting.
It helps, too, that the story these characters are at the center is so engrossing, and surprisingly well thought-out. Deadly Premonition is a rather long game, and that’s a good thing. It takes its time and invites you into its world. And as you spend time and grow to care about it all, it slowly reveals more of itself to you. It hooks you, drags you into its world and keeps you wanting for more; wanting to see more of the town, wanting to know more about the characters and wanting to know just what in the hell is really going on. The pacing is excellent, and it keeps you intrigued. On top of that, by the end of the game, I was actually impressed by how well thought out and neatly woven together the whole story was. I won’t spoil anything, but the way the characters, the town’s dark past, the axe wielding “Raincoat Killer” and supernatural elements all wove together to create such strange yet fascinating story was actually pretty impressive; and Agent Morgan and his own past were equally interesting. Impressive stuff coming from a game I expected very little from in its humble beginnings.
The story is filled with twists and turns and will keep you guessing throughout.
The game’s world is just as endearing and interesting as its characters and story; which is good, since it is so strongly tied TO its story and characters. The town of Greenvale is surprisingly large and intricately designed. The amount of care put into the game world itself goes to show that, low budget be damned, the game’s creators really cared about this game. The game features a day/night cycle, and that cycle really does affect the game. The townspeople move about town each day on their own schedules, going places, running errands, walking the dog, etc. Shops, bars and restaurants open and close at different hours and the player even has a schedule to keep: get up in the morning, grab some coffee (which Agent Morgan not only loves, but sees premonitions of the future in!) move about town, investigate, send your clothes to the laundry for cleaning, and try to get to bed at a decent time back at the hotel. The town even goes crazy after midnight, and “otherworld” creatures and giant demon dogs come out until morning.
On top of all that, the game is filled with side quests, secret items and areas, and the ability to go off investigating on your own; peering into people’s windows, talking to them for information and trying to find clues. Side quests, likewise, are varied and interesting, and help you get to know the town and its people. Some find you driving a crazy old lady who thinks her “pot is going to get cold” if she doesn’t get home in time, while others have you investigating haunted areas of town. In any case, they are abundant and full of variety. On top of that, there are also a slew of min-games throughout town, including darts, fishing and even vehicle time trials. There’s even collectibles (trading cards!), secret weapons, and hidden items. There’s a lot to do and see in Greenvale.
There's no shortage of things to do in Greenvale. Mini-games, secrets and side quests are everywhere. You can even go fishing!
The music of the game is wonderfully unique and often delightfully unfitting, too. Yes, I know, I mentioned this up in the “flaws” section too, but as with so much of what may be perceived as flaws at first in this game, it ends up becoming a part of the game’s strange, quirky charm. Music ranges from eerie horror undertones, to swanky jazz, to soothing guitars and humming, to a hilarious, jolly “whistling” theme. It’s all so varied and odd, and yet fits the game perfectly. Likewise, the voice acting and dialogue, as mentioned before, may seem silly at first, but as you realize the tone and atmosphere of the game, they too become a perfect fit for the strange and delightful cast. Speaking of the dialogue and voice acting, another delightful point of the game are the numerous conversations and moments referencing classic film and B-movie history. Agent Morgan, and his ‘friend’ Zack, are films buffs, and the conversations and references which spring up because of it are often absolutely priceless.
While the “otherworld” scenes, where Agent Morgan suddenly is transported into supernatural dungeon areas, can be a bit prolonged and repetitive at times, they are also worth it for their better, more intense moments. In particular, your encounters with the murderous “Raincoat Killer” are truly intense and frightening. Often requiring you to mash buttons, perform QTE’s, run for your life, or find a hiding place and hold your breath so he can’t hear you breathing, these scenes are tense, pulse-pounding affairs which make the slower parts of the otherworld scenes completely worthwhile. The feeling of “Oh crap” every time the Raincoat Killer shows up never goes away, and it does a great job of establishing him to the player as a menacing villain.
When the Raincoat Killer shows up, its time to run like hell.
All of this amounts to a very unique feel and atmosphere for Deadly Premonition that really makes it a unique experience. And indeed, the game is very atmospheric; with its own, weird atmosphere. Its gloomy and foreboding at all times, but interspersed with humor and moments of fun. And yet even in its lightest moments, with all the silly characters and humor, there’s still an underlying feeling of dread and mystery in the background. It works, and it keeps you in the game’s world the whole time you’re playing.
Deadly Premonition is a game worth a look by anybody ready to overlook its shortcomings, and maybe even some who aren’t too sure. It defies the odds in that, by all means, it shouldn’t be as damn good as it somehow manages to be. This is most likely due, at least in part, to it being a work that seems to have clearly had a lot of love put into it by its creators. It doesn’t feel like a game trying to please or cater to anybody; and maybe that’s why it ended up with such a miniscule budget. And yet, despite its limitations, it proves that passion and a good idea can overcome a game’s shortcomings or technical limitations. Its true brilliance is really in how well it makes everything work as a whole, even in areas where it is flawed. The depth and intricacy of the game’s world, characters and story is impossible to deny, and overshadows what the game lacks in graphical or mechanical prowess. Deadly Premonition is a pretty long game; between 25 and 35 hours, depending on how much wandering, exploring and side questing you do; and that’s good. Greenvale is a bizarre and engrossing town to get lost in. If you can overlook the technical problems, you’ll find a unique and fascinating game in Deadly Premonition; one that overcomes the odds to become a truly memorable gaming experience.
For all its flaws, Deadly Premonition still manages to come out as an incredibly likeable and engrossing game.
Who should play it?
Any fan of adventure, horror or open-world games, or those with a love for strange and quirky games. As long as you can look past low-end graphics and some faulty gameplay mechanics. Also, any fans of the “Twin Peaks” television series will probably appreciate the inspiration the game draws from that series and the homage it pays to it, as well.
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