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 Deadly Premonition - The Best Worst Game Ever

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Posts : 1149
Join date : 2010-05-06
Location : Citadel Station

PostSubject: Deadly Premonition - The Best Worst Game Ever   Sat Jul 24, 2010 12:38 am

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time now, but it has taken me a while to get my thoughts in order. Those of you who are Chatbox regulars have more than likely heard me mention a game by the name of Deadly Premonition. You’ve probably also heard me recommend this game, as if it were the best game ever. Now that I’ve had some me to let this game ferment in my psyche, I feel like I should elaborate on this subject.

Objectively, functionally, technically, Deadly Premonition is nothing special. In fact, it’s far below the par that we come to expect from video games that are released on this current generation of consoles.

It’s becomes apparent even before you reach the title screen that this was a game that was meant for the PlayStation 2, not the Xbox 360. The textures are almost all blurry and flat. Only the character models seem to have gotten the “next-gen” spackle in order to justify the change of consoles. And even then, the effect only serves to highlight how graphically deficient the game is. FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan has an incongruously good character model, but only a handful of stock animations (including, but not limited to, the most intense lighting of a cigarettes ever) to accompany it.

Sound is also a very sub-par experience. There are only a handful (literally about 5) stock mood songs that get reused all thought a twenty-plus hour game, and they are almost all hilariously inappropriate. It’s not uncommon to hear the same songs appear multiple times in the same cutscene. The enemies only have a handful (again, literally about 5) phrases that they never stop saying. The gunfire sound muted, as to the rest of the general sound effects.

Gameplay is split up into two sections that are completely separate from each other; exploration and combat. The majority of the game is spent wandering the labyrinthine streets of Greenvale, trying to figure out what to do to pass the time until the next major event. It’s in theses sections that this game was not meant for a console more advanced than the PS2. Greenvale is a convoluted, poorly laid out town. It’s also huge. Your first time behind the wheel, it becomes apparent that the town was designed to me taken in smaller sections, not as one lump sum.

Speaking of the driving; the driving in Deadly Premonition is equal parts realistic and fanciful. The cars all come equipped with fully functional horns, windshield wipers, and turn signals. All of which are completely unnecessary, as your presence on the road seems to go completely unnoticed by the other motorists. Collisions feel like they have absolutely no impact, which would probably explain why the cars can absorb a ludicrous amount of damage. These same cars are also the least fuel-efficient vehicles in existence, as a trek from one side of Greenvale to another will drain your gas tank to dangerously low levels.

Within the exploration is a life simulator. As you explore, your tiredness and hunger will deplete, necessitating sleep and eating. Greenvale is home to the worst inflation in the United States. A pack of four crackers costs thirty-four dollars. York's beard also grows in real time, requiring shaving if you do not want a beard.

The combat of Deadly Premonition plays very similar to that of Resident Evil 4, so much so that it’s likely that the game began its development shortly after the latter’s meteoric rise in popularity. You control York in the third person, with the camera over his shoulder. When a treat appears and you draw your weapon, York plants his feet to take aim. Ranged weapons all come with superfluous laser sights. Whenever you are aiming at something that can be shot, a reticule appears, rendering the laser pointless. The reticule is arguably the most functionally important part of combat, as it will close when you are targeting a critical area, drastically reducing the often protracted fights. There are also melee weapons, but their breakability combined with your staring pistols infinite ammo render them useless.

Enemy design also takes another lesson from Resident Evil 4. The only enemies you will encounter will be the ambiguously malevolent residents of Greenvale. There are only about five (seems to be a pattern here) variants. Sometimes they have shovels, sometimes they have shotguns. But they are always the same five guys, saying the same five lines. Now, in Resident Evil 4, there are only about four different enemy types in each area. But there are 3 distinct areas. The enemies remain the same thought in Deadly Premonition. There is a second enemy type that is introduced later in the game, but the less said about them, the better.

Another aspect taken form Resident Evil 4 are quick-time events. Every prompt is accompanied with a visual timer and a halt of the game play. It's a nice way to implement them, as it gives the player a chance to figure out what buttons to press and to actually press them, but in the same token, it defeats the purpose. Quick-Time events are supposed to be a test of reflexes, and the ones in Deadly Premonition are anything but.

Technically, Deadly Premonition is about as close to a train wreck as you can get while remaining on the tracks. Everything about it is below average.

And it had me enthralled every step of the way.

Deadly Premonition is probably the example of the saying “hit or miss.” It is a game that will either sink it’s hooks into you so deep that they won’t be removed, even after the end credits roll, or it will leave you unmoved and perplexed, all within the first ten minutes.

As deficient as this game is in almost every other category, the plot is incredibly good. In a nutshell, a young woman is murdered in the rural town of Greenvale, and FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan is dispatched to investigate. Needless to say, not everything is as it appears.

The glue that holds the whole experience together is York himself. York, for lack of a better term, is crazy. He has a split personality named Zach that he talks to regularly, often in front of others. When driving around town, York will randomly strike of conversations with Zach, on topics ranging from 80’s B Horror movies to past cases he’s worked on.

It’s in these sections that the games two strengths come through; it’s writing and voice acting.

To call either of them “good” would be a stretch. A better word would be appropriate. The dialogue is ridiculous, and is delivery only serves to enforce how surreal everything is. Much in the same way that Silent Hill 2’s disjointed wildly varying deliveries only served to enforce a central plot point.

In fact, the plot will be the driving force behind continued play. It's been a very long time since I've played a game into the late hours of the night, just to see what happens next. The cast of characters is one of the, if not the, most memorable in any game that I’ve played ever. Sazh may have been memorable, but I will never forget Thomas.

The aforementioned music is as amazing as it is inappropriate. The track Life is Beautiful is delightfully infectious and has risen to meme status. York's Theme Song (which you hear every time you drive Police car, among other numerous occasions), contains a jazz vibraphone solo, which is something I can appreciate.

The last cue taken from Resident Evil 4 is that of failed horror. But the reason for the failure is different. In Resident Evil 4, Leon is just too capable a combatant for there to be any real fear. In Deadly Premonition, you'll be too busy laughing to be scared. Any tension that they games may have is shattered by everything else in the game. The music may be so loud that you can't hear the dialogue, of the music may just undermine the moment entirely. It's not uncommon to listen to a dissertation of necrophilia and sadism while a jazz saxophone wails away erratically in the background.

In fact, these moments happen so frequently that they must be deliberate. This game is deliberately bad. In the beginning, you may think that you are laughing at it, but in reality, you are laughing with it. The game is aware of how absurd it is and isn't afraid to show it. I can't help but think of Alan Wake, and how furiously that game tried to ignore how absurd it was, thereby making it funnier, though unintentionally. Deadly Premonition, on the other hand, has it's tongue firmly in it's cheek, with just enough seriousness dashed in to make sure it's not a complete write off.

I feel like trying to describe Deadly Premonition’s is a futile endeavor. Its charm is an abstract concept. It is an experience that is truly greater than the sum of all its parts.

The only thing that is quantifiable about Deadly Premonition is the price. It only cost twenty dollars new. The shear amount of game you get for this price (quality aside) is truly impressive. There are over a hundred side quests that you can take up from the numerous residents of Greenvale, along with a ton of collectibles. My play though clocked in at just over twenty hours, and that was straight. You could easily add another ten on if you are a completionist.

It's price tag also gives some very important insight into the game itself. It's a budget title, made from very little money. It uses this to it's advantage, however. Deadly Premonition is a very socially ambitious title, touching on (and in some cases thrusting on to the player) several subject that most mainstream AAA titles wouldn't dare go near, culminating in one of the most memorable boss fights I've ever experienced.

I suppose the best way to find out if Deadly Premonition is for you is to watch these videos (warning for very, very mild spoilers).

If you watched those and thought to yourself “What is this?” while shaking your head, then save your money for something else. If you watched them and though “What is this?” while laughing and smiling, then do yourself a favor and pick this game up. Now.

[Deadly Premonition is slated for a September 17 release in the UK, but it is available for import on the PS3 now under the tilte The Red Seed Profile, if you absolutely can't wait.]

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