Overall Score: 4.7Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: Access Games
Released: February 2010
Played on: X360
Play time: 20 hours
The cult classic in movies usually applies to a movie that is not widely popular but has great recognition within the hardcore movie connoisseur. Some are cult classics simply because they are so bad that they can be enjoyed in some twisted form of entertainment. Can a video game achieve that same kind of status? It is a very different kind of medium; it is not passive, it is not over in less than two hours. The player needs to put much effort into playing something that is “bad” in order to get through the whole experience. Deadly Premonition is the best example of a cult classic “so bad it is good” kind of game, but I personally cannot understand how anyone can give the gameplay a pass just cause the cutscenes are so stupidly awesome. Make no mistake about it, this game is terrible; but it has so much charm and is the antithesis of the big budget gaming we have been overwhelmed with lately that I can see why people enjoy it.
Deadly Premonition is a very odd action/adventure title that takes elements of games like Resident Evil 4, Yakuza and open world titles. It looks and plays like a long lost Dreamcast game except games back in the Dreamcast days had an excuse for being very rough and for having crazy gameplay ideas that don’t really work well. They were still exploring 3D gaming back then. Games like Blue Stinger were a genuine attempt at making a unique game for that time, and honestly it is way better than this game (seriously just play that if you are looking for some weird horror game). Deadly Premonition is not from that era, there is no excuse for a game in 2010 to play like crap. And wow does this game play like crap. The RE4 style shooting segments are terrible with awful slow aiming. Nothing about shooting feels right, a machine gun has the feel of a pea shooter. There is driving where steering the car feels like controlling a slippery drunken fish while on a street made of butter. ))
The game is split into exploration segments and RE4 style action segments. The exploration segment is where all the quality of this title is located. Your character FBI agent Francis York Morgan (call him York, everyone calls him that) is brought to the quirky town of Greenvale where there has been a brutal murder. Greenvale is a large city of mostly empty roads and forests which you will have to drive across which can lead to some driving segments taking 5 minutes of doing nothing. The main township has a collection of small town staples like the local bar, sheriff department, hotel, drug store, and gun shop. There is a world clock with which the townfolk live their lives and many offer side quests at certain points of the day and story. Usually you are given a location to arrive at within a certain amount of time but you may explore the town and do side quests between that time. I would implore you to do so because the side quests are the only fun to be had in terms of actually playing the game.
The side quests are generic but they work. Stuff like box puzzle mini game, dart mini game, a multiple choice quiz, time trial races, and other tired and true gameplay staples of open world game. They are not great but they provide a nice change of pace and offer genuinely great rewards, stuff that greatly impact the the way you play like the ability for fast travel, the ability to hold more weapons and even infinite ammo weapons. Each side quest comes from one of the towns eccentric citizens which makes exploring the side quests all the more compelling to complete because these characters are very interesting. This aspect of the game works very well and I would love for more survival horror games to include open world elements and attempt such grand gameplay ideas. But first it has to play well or everything else crumbles.
Most of the core gameplay comes from RE4 like action segments that are some of the worst shooter segments I have ever played. There are a total of TWO enemy types the entire game. Most of the enemies are standard humanoid monsters that look like rejects from the movie “The Ring”. All they do is strangely teleport toward you. Later some hold weapons that very very very slowly shoot at you. Any good action game understands the balance between your characters powers, how that is used to kill the enemies and the locations that create interesting scenarios to kill the enemies. There is no attention being paid to any of those elements here. Every single segment is a room or hallway with a random scattering of enemies with no thought put to create any kind of compelling shooting scenario. York carries the usual assortment of weapons but once you get the infinite SMG there is really nothing else you need, just aim at a head and hold A, rinse and repeat. These segments go on far too long and every room with enemies is painfully bad.
Then there is the other type of enemy which needs to go into the worst video game enemy hall of fame. There is this semi-invisible wall crawling woman that slowly tries to attack you which creates the small window you are allowed to actually hurt it. These fights take forever and they all play out exactly the same every time. As the game goes on there are more and more of these enemies, always one at a time, always in the same looking hallway. I wanted to throw my controller at the screen any time this enemy showed up.
Once in a while you may be chased by the raincoat killer, this is when the game attempts some kind of cat and mouse style gameplay. What could have been an interesting change of pace is just a QTE heavy bore. Moments where you need to hide are ruined as you have only two options of where to hide, one is a painfully obvious terrible idea like hiding under an open desk right in front of the door where the killer will enter, and the other a closet or the like. You should obviously choose the closet then killer walks around the room for like 3 minutes and you press a button when the game tells you, the end of that. You do that exact same moment about 4 times in the game.
Amazingly there are small moments where the game actually throws a decent puzzle at you. Or creates an area where some semblance of thinking is required to pass. Why there wasn’t more of these I don’t know, almost everything involving controlling the game is reduced to the most simplistic and boring possible scenario. There seems to be segments created simply to bore the player to death. One strange moment forces York to go fishing for a file, the mechanics of this will blow your mind, I did not know it was possible to create something so bad. This makes the ending all the more puzzling cause out of nowhere there is a series of very traditional boss battles that can be classified as average, which is way better than anything else in the game. Where were these bosses throughout the rest of the 20 hour adventure?!
So why don’t I hate this game, and why is it so loved by some; it is because the story is hilariously awesome. I have never watched Twin Peaks but I hear the influences are there, all I know is that nearly every character is compelling in some way. The murder mystery takes all sorts of odd twists and turns which make you want to keep playing to see what happens next. I laughed out loud quite a few times, sometimes the game was in on the joke, other times it was so ridiculously stupid you couldn’t help but laugh at it (which was probably intentional as well). If this game were an adventure game or graphic novel adventure like 999 I think it would have been fantastic. But instead it forces you to trudge through utter crap to enjoy this compelling world.
The production values are obviously terrible. As I mentioned before this game looks like a Dreamcast game, which isn’t a terrible thing as I did like that stylized look of games from that era. The sound effects deserve awards for worst sound effects in a game ever. Squirrels that sound like monkeys and footsteps that sound the same no matter what surface you are on to name a few. I don’t know whether to love or hate the music, what I do know is that they intentionally put the wrong music at the wrong times just to mess up a scene. You can be in front of a mutilated body as happy piano music plays. Or be in a life or death chase while Spanish hip-hop randomly plays in the background. Perhaps this adds to the so bad it is good quality of the game, I don’t know, it was plain stupid to me.
Deadly Premonition should have been a game we celebrated for actually being a good game. It is very ambitious and personally I love games like this; mixing action with exploration in a horror setting, hello that’s like a perfect game for me. But I need to enjoy playing the game. WE PLAY GAMES, we don’t watch them, we can’t skip a bad moment cause you don’t enjoy it. There is no excuse for having gameplay this terrible. And I will not buy into any bullshit theory that it plays terrible on purpose, no, it is terrible because it is terrible. Only play this game if you have an extremely high tolerance for playing complete shit in order to experience a very interesting original video game.
Overall Score: 4.7
I’m mainly a console gamer who enjoys playing a wide variety of games. My favorite genres are action adventure games and platformers. I use a 100 point scale in my reviews because I like the amount of freedom it provides in distinguishing between games. I don’t believe all 9 score games are equal, or 7 score games, etc. Don’t try to over analyze the scoring for instance trying to understand what makes a game go up .1. I use the industry standard scoring definitions, 7-10 is good to excellent, 5-6 are average, anything under 5 is bad. I don’t use it cause I particularly like it, I just think it is easier to understand what the score means when it is familiar.
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The most controversial game in recent years returns in this special director's cut. Unofficially the best game of the year (2010) according to fans and critics alike, Deadly Premonition split the gaming community right down the middle and earned itself cult status for its memorable cast and story.