‘F K’… in the coffee!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a part of the soundtrack, a gameplay mechanic, a line of dialogue, or anything else about the game that is particularly noteworthy and/or awesome.
This series will no doubt contain spoilers for the games being discussed, so keep that in mind if you plan on playing the game for the first time.
This entry is all about the awesomely bad Deadly Premonition. Feel free to share some of your own favorite things about the game in the comments!
The man who wasn’t there
The big question on everyone’s minds while playing Deadly Premonition is always, “Who is Zach?!” York talks to himself a lot, and he’s always addressing someone named Zach who is not actually present. There’s never a physical manifestation of the person he’s talking to, and Zach never responds out loud, although York does speak as if Zach is talking to him as well. They seem to be best friends, and York always asks him for advice.
So who is he? Is Zach an imaginary friend? Does York have some kind of mental disorder such as a split personality? Did Zach die and York is still in denial?
All of these possibilities crossed my mind while playing through Deadly Premonition, but about halfway through I decided on something else which I kind of liked. Maybe Zach is the player, meaning every time it seems like York is talking to himself, he’s really trying to have a conversation with the player to try and piece together the mystery of what’s going on around town. It would have been a clever way to make the player feel included in the story, even if their name wasn’t actually Zach.
Zach’s true identity is revealed towards the end of the story, and it’s about as cheesy and melodramatic as I would have expected from this game. I do sort of wish they had kept his identity a mystery, though. Coming up with possible theories about Zach was a lot more fun than learning the truth about him.
Let’s take this baby for a ride
For a perfect example of the kind of thing that makes Deadly Premonition an awesomely bad game, let’s take a look at the driving mechanics. The first time I got in a car, the controls seemed jarring and overwhelmingly complicated. The game assaults you with a huge list of controls. Every single button seems to do something different. Not only can York steer, accelerate, brake, and change the camera angles, but there are also buttons for honking, turning on the headlights, using the windshield wipers, signaling turns, and talking (either to a passenger or to himself). I’m surprised they didn’t include buttons for the radio and air conditioner too, while they were at it.
All of these controls may seem like a lot to remember, but really, none of these things are necessary aside from steering, accelerating, and braking. The headlights don’t really help much when it’s dark, and likewise, the wipers don’t help much while it’s raining. And who knows why anyone would ever need to use turn signals in a video game.
So why were all of these complex controls included? Beats me. I guess they wanted the experience to feel more realistic, but it honestly just makes it feel way more absurd. And not only do the vehicles have superfluous controls, they also break down over time and run out of gas, meaning if York wants to keep driving the same car, he’ll have to take it to the gas station for refills and repairs. All of this just to drive from one location to the next in a murder mystery game, as if it’s trying to be a driving simulator on top of everything else.
The driving mechanics are incredibly bizarre and mostly unnecessary, but I kind of love them for those exact reasons. There’s so many things to do in the car with no real justification for their inclusion, and I think that’s hilarious in a way.
All the girls say I’m pretty fly
One of my favorite things in Deadly Premonition is its random inclusion of beard growth and hygiene mechanics. It may not be obvious at first, but York’s face will slowly start to accumulate stubble over time, and his clothes will become dirtier the longer he wears them.
At first I was confused about why he was able to shave at every mirror he came across, not to mention the fact that he was dry shaving (sometimes mere seconds after he had just shaved, if I kept making him… ouch!). Soon I stopped shaving, because it didn’t seem to do anything. And then the stubble started to come in. I was pleasantly surprised. Beard growth mechanics in Deadly Premonition? Unexpected, but why not? The game already has everything else going for it. Obviously, I kept the beard for the remainder of my playthrough, because beards are awesome.
But what about the hygiene mechanics? This one took me a lot longer to figure out. Eventually, as I was playing, I began to notice flies hovering around York. It started with one fly, and I thought it was just a random background element of the specific scene that was happening. Maybe the police station had a fly problem? Who knows. Soon the flies began to multiply, to the point where York was holding a town meeting amid a veritable swarm of insects. Only none of the characters were reacting to them. I thought, “Okay, now this is getting ridiculous! What is the deal with these flies?!”
I had to resort to looking it up online, because I was seriously confused. Apparently, York’s clothing gets dirty over time, so he needs to get his suits dry cleaned every now and then to stay fresh and keep the flies away. Who would have guessed? After I found this out, I honestly considered staying in my dirty pink suit for the rest of the game anyway, just because of how hilarious all of the cutscenes were with a horde of flies swarming around York during serious moments. It made me laugh, but ultimately the little bugs were too distracting, so I had to get rid of them. Geez, York, take a shower or something!
A damn fine cup of coffee
There are many reasons to love Mr. Francis York Morgan (I mean look at that smile… how could you not love a face like that?), but my favorite thing about him is his unbridled, almost alarming excitement for food and coffee. Much like FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper’s enthusiasm for coffee and pie in Twin Peaks, York can’t hold back his love for certain foodstuffs.
A few of the most memorable scenes in Deadly Premonition are about food, such as when Polly brings York a cup of coffee for his first day on the case. Before she brings it over to him, he warns, “I am very particular about my coffee. The very best you have, please,” with a charming smile that surely melted the old lady’s heart (or her eyes). He takes his time enjoying the cup, and even has a surprising revelation while staring into the dark brown liquid.
Afterwards, he can go back for another cup (and another… and another), and each drink gives him a new fortune. I have to wonder how he gets these fortunes, though. Are they appearing to him in the coffee itself, like the letters “F K” did? The fortunes are pretty long, so that would be rather impressive. Maybe he just has such a strong connection to coffee that it speaks to him every time he drinks it. Maybe he is the coffee whisperer.
Another great scene is when he tries a special sandwich for the first time. After ordering a turkey and gravy sandwich and a fresh cup of coffee (obviously) from the local diner, Mr. Stewart stops by to pick up his lunch and convinces York to change his order to a turkey, strawberry jam, and cereal sandwich. Or as York calls it, the “Sinner’s Sandwich.” York is skeptical at first, but tries it anyway. His reaction to eating the concoction is perfect. He takes one bite and literally jumps back out of his seat, staring at the sandwich in awe and proclaiming, “I can’t believe it! This is… fantastic!” The camera then pans to Emily, who has a look of thorough disappointment at her friend’s choices.
I have yet to try this sandwich myself, but it sure sounds… interesting. I can’t imagine turkey and strawberry jam going well together, and “cereal” is a pretty vague ingredient. I wonder what kind of cereal would be best to use?
Beauty in death
Deadly Premonition had some of the best death sequences I’ve ever seen in a video game. Obviously, this is a bit of a touchy topic, because I don’t want to spoil too much for anyone who hasn’t played the game yet. But even the very first victim, Anna Graham, who we see strung up to a tree in the opening cutscene, looks like some kind of beautiful, bloody angel of death. Creepy and unsettling, but at the same time aesthetically pleasing. We don’t actually see her being killed, though.
The rest of the victims’ deaths are just as dramatic, except the player must watch as they happen. I think the second victim’s scene was my personal favorite, because the tension was so incredibly palpable. It was such an intense moment, and the color palette and placement of the body helped make everything stand out.
I’m usually not one for appreciating blood and gore, but Deadly Premonition‘s death sequences were just so well executed that it was hard not to appreciate them.
More than just a pretty (ugly) face
If there’s one thing that Deadly Premonition does legitimately well, it’s character development. Every single character is memorable in their own way. They all have unique personalities and backgrounds. Even minor characters seemed interesting, even though I might have only talked to them a couple of times.
Take the hospital receptionist, Fiona, for example. York really only has to talk to her once or twice during the entire game, but in that small amount of time I learned that she likes reading best-selling books, she’s studying for a medical exam, and she has a crush on the hunky doctor she works with. She could have easily just been another random NPC with no personality, but they fleshed her out and made her seem important. I was actually surprised when I got to the end of the game and realized I only talked to her twice, because it almost felt like it was setting her up to be more crucial to the plot.
And I could say the same for just about every other character. There was Mr. Stewart, the creepy, quiet, gas mask-wearing man and Michael who talks for him; Polly, the kind old hotel owner who is hard of hearing; Thomas, the shy police assistant who is great at cooking and knows a lot about squirrels; Kaysen, the friendly traveling plant salesman who has a cool pet dalmatian; Isaach and Isaiah, the creepy-cute twins; Nick, the art-loving cook who is very quick to anger; Lysander, the “general” who wears a sergeant’s uniform; and even “Roaming” Sigourney, the crazy old lady who is always lost and carrying a pot around. They’re all wonderful characters with so much personality packed into each and every one of them.
I think the characters are the biggest reason why Deadly Premonition became such a huge cult hit. If the characters had been dull and uninteresting, I’m not sure most people would have put up with the weird controls, poor graphics, and sometimes tedious gameplay to make it to the end. I know the reason I couldn’t put the game down was because the characters were all so likable and I couldn’t wait to see more of the story to find out how things turned out for everyone.
Past Experience Points
Level 1: .01 – .20