I have to warn you: I’m very particular about my coffee.
Originally released for the Xbox 360 in 2010, Deadly Premonition has earned itself a bit of a strange cult following since its release. Possibly the most famous game from director Hidetaka “SWERY” Suehiro, it’s famous (or infamous) for being the video game equivalent of a B-movie, and it turns out this is an apt description. Deadly Premonition is a hard game to review, perhaps the hardest I have done yet; every flaw also serves as a piece of the most bizarre and almost charming puzzle.
In Deadly Premonition, players take control of Francis York Morgan, an FBI agent who has been sent to the small country town of Greenvale to investigate a murder. A young woman named Anna Graham is found dead in the forest in a manner similar to a series of serial killings also happening throughout America, and York has been sent to uncover the connection. He begins to work with the local sheriff’s department, and the stakes grow higher as more victims are added to the list and supernatural phenomena begin to occur all around him. Everybody is a suspect as you attempt to learn the secret of the mysterious red seeds and the sinister raincoat killer who seems to threaten York at every turn.
During gameplay, you have free reign of the setting of Greenvale, though you may not always be able to meet exactly who you want when you want. Similar to those of Shenmue, the citizens of the town have their own daily schedules that operate on an in-game clock, and certain venues are only open at certain times. A weather system also exists that can affect where NPCs are or even how they respond to York if they are questioned. Certain objectives can also only be accomplished during specific time slots, though there is no real consequence for missing them other than having to try again the next day. NPCs aren’t the only ones who have to sleep either, as York has his own hunger and rest meters that must be maintained in order to keep him in peak condition. Failure to do so will cause his health to begin depleting, meaning the player must always be cognizant of these meters.
The game also features combat areas not unlike Silent Hill’s “otherworld” segments. These segments are not all that long, but they are primarily where the game falls short. Aiming York’s gun feels slow and overly sensitive, and most of the time just running past enemies is the smarter decision. This strategy can quickly turn on you, however, as getting stuck dealing with several enemies at once proves to be an extreme challenge due to the aiming and York’s staggered movement. In general, these parts just feel like they impede the investigation sections and the incredibly goofy everything else, which is much more enjoyable.
To put it bluntly, the characters in Deadly Premonition are probably some of the biggest weirdos in gaming history. Each one has their own strange personality quirks and features some of the cheesiest voice performances I have ever heard, as if they’ve come straight out of the original Resident Evil at certain points. Not that you’ll be able to hear that voice acting if music begins to play at any point during the scene, as the sound mixing is so bad that it will nearly drown out anything being said. There doesn’t seem to be a way to turn subtitles off, and perhaps for good reason. Somehow this actually adds to the hilarity of these scenes most of the time, being yet another thing added to the pile of things Deadly Premonition does so weirdly that I am almost convinced it was intentional.
In the end, Deadly Premonition is the game I’d expect a group of aliens to make if they simply had the concept of a video game explained to them over the course of one evening. It’s impossible to take seriously in any way, and yet all of the things it does wrong congeal into one awkward mess that has the weirdest charm I’ve ever experienced. Playing Deadly Premonition is not unlike sitting down to watch a bad movie with a friend, and this might just be the perfect way to experience it. The Switch port seems to run quite well, and with an upcoming sequel confirmed alongside its release, now is the best time to jump in. I certainly can’t call it a good game, but I can definitely call it a fun game. If you enjoy a cheesy bad movie from time to time, Deadly Premonition is probably for you.