Deadly Premonition is the perfect definition of a work that’s whole is better than the sum of its parts. As you would expect for a game that holds the dubious title of the world’s most divisive game (literally), it is easy to make a convincing argument on either side of the scale.
So let us start with what Deadly Premonition is. First off, it is technically classified as a survival horror game, but it has some unusual sub-genre attributes tied with it. One is that it is an open world game, and the other is that it is heavily slanted towards dark comedy. So if that does not sound weird enough, the game also pays homage (or rips off, you can decide that for yourself) to the classic cult TV series, Twin Peaks. While you might have heard the comparison before and not taken it seriously, well think again, because nearly every character from Twin Peaks has a Deadly Premonition analogue, as do many plot devices.
You take the roll of Francis York Morgan, a thirty-something FBI Special Agent who has been on the trail of a nationwide string of murders which are seemingly connected, except in who committed the actual murders. His latest lead takes him to the sleepy small-town village of Greenvale in (naturally) the Pacific Northwest. York (as he likes to be called), finds himself enchanted by the local folk, their coffee and a certain charming police officer. Oh, and did I mention he has someone whom no one else can see that he is constantly talking to? Zach is evidently you, and by you, I mean the player. Lord forbid your name is actually Zach, because this game will just start freaking you out.
The first thing that you will notice about Deadly Premonition is the visual fidelity, or lack thereof. When you see the game, you will immediately have a knee-jerk reaction to the atrocious graphics. In what basically looks like an up-scaled PS2 game, it make sense that with only a little digging, you will find out that it was indeed started as a last-gen title. Presumably, this PS3 Director’s Cut has improved visuals over the original released 360 version. If that is the case, then they certainly cannot be substantial, because I see no difference. There is however, a different color timing throughout the game and an option for 3D and also for Move (neither of which I tried). The original release had a dingy, green filter over the game that has been more or less removed. Various direct comparison videos (Such as this) show the difference clearly. Which version you prefer is really of no consequence since this game’s strengths are not in the visual department.
Sound also is not a point of praise for Deadly Premonition. The voice acting is actually very satisfying (although, not timed perfectly well), and the development of characters really is owed to that goofy, but good dialogue that you really start to connect with. Unfortunately, the recordings of the actors are very hit and miss. Sometimes, even within the same scene, the recording quality will vary, or the processes will change. This effect is especially noticeable during later scenes with Harry Stewart. You would think that with the extra development time they would have re-recorded some of the dialogue, and added in better sound-effects. Come to think of it, I am not really sure what they spent the extra couple years doing, aside from porting it and a few extra cut-scenes. And on the topic of those cut-scenes, they are definitely a fun addition, but not entirely necessary for the full effect of the game. I will not bother going into what the extra scenes are, but if you do play either version I would recommend looking them up online to decide their importance for yourself.
The game-play is slightly improved in the Director’s Cut, but marginally sharper controls do not dictate that this be the version you buy. You will be doing one of three things at any given time in this game, driving, shooting undead(?), and staking out the city for dialogue. Advancing the main story is definitely the draw here. Cars can be upgraded, but feel worse than Cruisin’ USA no matter what. And the various weapons, items and various other mechanics are not necessary either. You will likely find one of the infinite weapons in the game and not bother switching, especially since the game is extremely easy. So both of these end up making for a game that you might be more interested in watching rather than playing. The one improvement I would ask for, if I could, would be better pacing. A quick travel option would really make this experience easier to enjoy.
As a story, the game slowly draws you in until a bizarre and climactic ending make you feel like you just witnessed something truly special. It is hard to say anything without spoiling the story, but I can say that the game really deals with mortality, sacrifice, and how people deal with trauma. Close to the end of the game, it makes you feel, and it pulls you in tighter and tighter while growing a huge pit in your stomach that starts to make you feel deeply emotionally connected with the characters. I cannot say that it drew me to the point of tears, but given a shot-glass of Silk and I might have been bawling, either way, I was left devastated.
I am not saying this game is for everyone, there is a mediocre game to wade through for a great narrative, but there is no guarantee that you will like it. You may not connect with the story at all, but if you like more surreal and abstract narratives, then you may well love this game.