Greetings single players, today I have the pleasure of introducing a title that cult gamers may be on the fence about: Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut.
Since it has been some time since I’ve done a Cult Gamer feature and it was originally conceived for our sister site the gist of it is that I run down, unofficially and without a score, what makes a not-so-AAA production a great game for a select type of gamer.
Somewhere between Heavy Rain and Silent Hill but also somehow within a curious B-movie realm all its own, Deadly Premonition sits and chuckles. It lands a one-two punch of weirdness that is so addictive it will have lovers of the obscure enthralled for hours on end. I never played the original so I have no comment on the improvements, I can only tell you what I see in the overhaul, and I like what I see.
This game is at once a complete mess and an unstoppable force of gaming greatness. It takes place in the small town (actually not so small) of Greenvale where eccentric FBI agent Francis York Morgan is on the trail of a killer. In the town he will clash with local enigmatic personalities at every turn. York (as he likes to be called) frequently addresses his inner psychic personality Zach out loud and nobody seems to think this is strange. If the idea of an FBI profiler with a psychic way into criminal doings showing up in a small town to investigate a murder sounds like the setup to dozens of B level horror movies it is supposed to. As you drive around the unnecessarily long distances from place to place York even talks B-movie facts with Zach that will have you reminiscing if you’re like me and remember lots of 80’s movies.
The graphics are dated but attractive in their own way at times and the world has details that even modern games often don’t. Greenvale is a persistent world and the town is alive. I don’t mean people walk back and forth from place to place like in Fallout 3, I mean they go to work and drive home and cook and it all makes you feel like you’re just intruding all the time. And you are. You can follow people around, peek in their windows, grill them about the case, or take part in completely out-of-place activities around town like racing and collecting stuff.
As an FBI agent you’ve got to perform well right? Doing so will get you paid. To do well you need to keep your clothes clean, shave regularly, eat when you’re hungry, be on time, and get some sleep. If that sounds a bit like the real-life simulation stuff from Heavy Rain then toss that thought out of your head. This game doesn’t blur any lines between games and cinematic drama, you are always 100% positive that you are playing a video game. The game goes out of its way to remind you of this, and it’s totally charming in this day and age. Glittering floaty things tell you where stuff is, big red markers point out where to go, menus hover in the air, agent medals are scattered about, and just moving around is somewhat unnatural. Also being a good agent means doing super old gaming things like breaking fences and boxes to get paid. The good news is the controls aren’t nearly as awkward as the old survival/horror titles like the original Resident Evils.
Speaking of Resident Evil, the combat is a bit like that from RE4. You can’t walk and aim, sorry. You do however get plenty of melee weapons and guns, the greatest help of all is the unlimited bullets in your 9mm.You get a taste of the combat early, you’ll have to gun down or beat down these super creepy wandering corpse-like people that bend over backwards (literally) to chase you down. Oh yes, they also mutter things in slow-motion audio that will either make you laugh or haunt your dreams.
The combat is augmented by some ancient quicktime events which are wonderfully frustrating. They take place during some truly intense scenes where the game really shows of its fear factor. Pulse-pounding music accompanies things like a dual screen setup where you see both through the eyes of the killer and the third person view of yourself hiding. Seriously, it’s great. Then, after all of that things just slow down big time. This game is not for gamers who bore easily because after every series of serious weirdness things slow way down and all of the sudden you find yourself having to waste time until your next appointment, worrying about the fact that you haven’t slept or eaten and you might not have enough gas to get to where you need to go. Still though, if you can get to a phone and save your game and quit you’ll probably find yourself thinking about what might come next in the game within a couple hours of leaving it alone.
Finally a note about the driving. It isn’t good. You have three view options, no matter how you like to play your driving games just stick with the in-car view if you value your sanity. Use your wipers and lights and don’t bother with the turn signals. Stick to this plan and if you are the kind of gamer who can amuse himself with a bit of banter with a psychic side-personality and some dated vistas then you’re in good shape. Once I realized that driving felt a lot like an early 90’s arcade cruiser game I was perfectly happy just taking a spin out in the rain. You see the game makes you completely responsible for yourself, it doesn’t force you down very many paths. When it does those are in the action portions and it works well in that way where you know what to do but it doesn’t become boring. It doesn’t become boring because if you keep playing through the slow parts the damn thing keeps surprising the hell out of you with something new. You have to embrace the drawbacks; the sooner you get used to the fact that the map is almost useless and allows no personal waypoints the sooner you can get on with your life.
Cheesy, dated, terrifying, eccentric, tense, unique, awesome. All of these words describe Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut. I wouldn’t even want to attempt to attach an objective score to this game. You just have to give it 3-4 hours of your time and it will either suck you right in for the ride or throw you out of its own twisted little world feeling like a failure of a gamer.
I’m not even done and I’d kill for a sequel. You can grab this for your Playstation 3 and if you are a true cult gamer you should do so post-haste.