I stumbled across a copy of Deadly Premonition while I was looking for something else in my local Game store. I picked up a copy as I was intrigued by the cover and by the fact that I’d never actually heard of it. It’s not often that video games slip past my radar, especially weird Japanese ones, which I particularly enjoy.
It came out last October to little fanfare, although it did briefly manage to get some coverage when IGN gave it a brutal 2 out of 10 and Destructoid declared it “simply stunning” and awarded it 10 out of 10. Clearly this is a game you either love or hate, and I love it. I think more people should know about it, which is why I’m writing this review now.
I can see why IGN scored it so low – there are so many things about it that are frankly, rubbish. The combat is monotonous, when it moves to a third person camera the controls are dire, graphically it looks like a PS2 game and the music is repetitive, irritating and all wrong for the game’s mood.
But, surprisingly, these niggles didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the game. Add to this the fact that it was released at the budget price point of £24.99 (or £19.99 on Xbox Live, or you can pick it up second hand for even less than that, like I did) and it’s definitely a game you should give a try, particularly if you like strange things.
You play as FBI agent Francis York Morgan, or rather you play as Zach, York’s imaginary friend. You arrive in Greenvale, small town America, to investigate the brutal murder of an attractive young woman who was disembowelled and hung up on a tree. York suspects that her death is linked to other murders and that there is a serial killer on the loose. For some reason, this killer leaves red seeds in the victim’s mouth as a kind of calling card (in fact in Japan, the literal translation of the game’s name is the Red Seeds Profile).
Deadly Premonition is an open-world horror survival game with plenty of colourful characters, side quests and places to explore. The story is weird in that uniquely Japanese way and often carries the game, leaving you curious to find out what strangeness happens next. It gets you through the parts with dodgy controls and having to play what feels like exactly the same action sequences when you enter a crime scene.
In between following the main story, you get plenty of time to explore the town and take on various side quests. The town’s inhabitants are all reeling from the murder in their midst and it seems they all also have something to hide. These characters are all a bit quirky. There’s wheelchair-bound Mr Stewart, who owns most of the town, wears a gasmask and only communicates in rhyming couplets through one of his staff, for instance. That should give you an idea of what to expect.
You can choose to take on the quests people give you, all of which will reward you with extra background info and reveal secrets if you want them. However, if you prefer to blitz through and do the major quests you can smoke some cigarettes (they speed up time) to hurry things along. If you enjoy being thorough in your games, though, Deadly Premonition is a real treat — there’s lots of things to collect and do.
Tasks you can take on include picking up trading cards that are hidden in strategic locations around the world, along with a full set of human bones which when collected will solve the mystery of whose they are and how come they’ve been scattered around town. There are also car races and fishing mini games to play.
Everything’s a little bit strange in Deadly Premonition, swinging from the strange-creepy-and-confusing to the strange-laughably-funny. At the beginning of each level, you find yourself in a room with two young twin boys who give you advice in riddles. You have to kill creatures that bend over backwards, make strange grunting noises and try to stick their arms down your throat. York can tell the future in his morning cup of coffee, openly talks to his persona Zach in public and chats casually over dinner about horrific details in other murder cases he’s investigated (quote “but it was the fact that he’d urinated in the skull that got me”).
This game is not for everyone – if you don’t enjoy your games if they don’t make a whole lot of sense and are a little old fashioned, then Deadly Premonition is probably not for you. Likewise, if you’re not very patient and find yourself easily frustrated, it’s likely you’re not going to enjoy it. However, if you enjoy solving mysteries, memorable characters and original stories, you’re going to love this.
Deadly Premonition is an Xbox 360 exclusive and is out now.
Kit-Guru says: Give this underdog gem a go.