Deadly Premonition Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – Rising Star Games – Developer – Access Games – Genre – Survival Horror – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 15+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A
Be it in their visuals, their game design or their stories, some games just have an identity all of their own. Deadly Premonition is certainly a title that took its time coming to the UK, although it’s one of those games that definitely falls into the bracket of being one that just couldn’t be mistaken for another.
Key to this is the story. There’s murder, as many twists as a compelling mystery novel, a very likeable cast of characters and some ridiculously silly humour. Francis York Morgan (call him York, everyone calls him that) is an FBI agent and our very strange hero, and why is he strange may you ask? Well, York has another personality named Zach in his head, meaning the character has a habit of speaking to himself out loud. But even without this craziness, York, with his uncooperative manner and silly lines, would still be a well developed character, but this craziness makes him even more compelling.
The game begins with York (and Zach, of course) arriving in the small town of Greenvale (Postman Pat instantly springs to mind, but he actually lives in Greendale), here to investigate the murder of a young woman. From then on the story just keeps twisting and turning like a nightmarish ride on a rollercoaster after downing too much alcohol. Indeed, in the later portions of the story you may end up with a bit of a headache as you attempt to work out what’s going on. But in no way does this ruin the rest of the plot: it remains intriguing, exciting, emotional and hilariously silly to the end.
But, as a game, what is Deadly Premonition exactly? It’s a game that combines elements from the action, puzzle and driving genres, all of which is set out in the open environment of the town of Greenvale. Greenvale isn’t a large place and is dwarfed by most sandbox environments, although it’s still a memorable place and has all the local amenities that you would expect a town to have. It’s also very much alive – you see the inhabitants living their lives and following their routines, which makes it feel like a real little town breathing inside your TV screen.
The primary manner to get around Greenvale is by car. The driving isn’t anything truly special, but it’s nothing truly bad either – it’s adequate enough and does the job for a game that isn’t about the thrill of driving fast. The map isn’t very helpful for getting around, but Greenvale is small enough to learn the routes given some time, and for those who find and complete a certain side mission, there’s also an invaluable item that will cut out any unwanted journeying by car. In a nice touch when you are driving, with a press of a button York will often prattle on to Zach about all sorts of things, everything from films, Punk Rock to events happening in the story. Yes, it’s all really bizarre, but it’s certainly all very fitting and makes York an even more likeable and memorable character.
Typically, there are your usual story missions as well as those that can be played on the side. These side missions are regularly connected to the larger story, though, which makes them well worth playing, and you’d certainly be missing out on a lot if you were to skip them and just stick to the main storyline. Side missions have you doing all sorts of things from fetch quests, collecting cards, to tidying a storeroom up, and there are 50 of them to find in all.
The main missions are often open to you between certain times of each day, but typically it’s possible to accelerate time by sleeping. York actually needs to sleep and eat to keep in condition and it’s even possible to change suits and keep any whiskers from growing on his face by shaving if you’d rather have a clean shaven FBI agent, while the former needs to be done if you’d rather not have flies buzzing around you, which amusingly results in a small loss of cash. Yes, it’s a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and these likeable but throwaway options are also there for you to join in on the fun.
But sadly it’s not all such fun. The shooting parts, which oddly involve zombie like creatures walking backwards with their backs bent, are serviceable enough, but they just feel bland and are mostly lacking in challenge and all the enemies have you repeating the same tactics to beat them, which gets a bit dull after awhile. The controls are also archaic and clunky, which is another thing that detracts from these portions somewhat.
Visually, Deadly Premonition is alright at times, but at others it doesn’t look too good at all for a 360 game. At least things like the character models (bar some weird facial expressions) frame-rate, rain droplets on car windows, and the lack of any noticeable pop-up are respectable, but budget constraints have obviously kept Deadly Premonition back from looking more like a proper current generation game. Aurally, the voice acting is a little cheesy at times but only really when it’s meant to be, with each actor largely delivering a stellar job, while the music is decent enough, although sadly there’s just not enough of it.
Deadly Premonition is a very mixed experience, but it’s certainly a very memorable one. The story is a major driving point and really doesn’t know when to stop delivering the big twists and the over the top humour, but the game itself can hardly be called a disaster as there is also a fair bit to like here. But there are some nasty flaws, and some of these are difficult to ignore, which is a real shame. Deadly Premonition definitely has the characters and tells a better story than anything else, but it’s still well worth a look for its cheap asking price and lengthy 20+ hour play time.