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Deadly Premonition Day#1: Outlook Not So Good

Deadly Premonition is a bargain-bin, long-time-in-development game that has a lot of cult interest, so I decided to try it to see what the hype is about. Day 1 can only be summed up in one word: awful. The art is bad, the music is completely inappropriate, the controls are wonky, the story makes no sense, and I have no connection to any of the characters or anything in the world. It is frankly impressive how bad this game is. I’m giving it two more sessions to see where it goes, but wow is this a poor start. Spoilers within.

So there has been a ton of mixed press about this game. Some people seem to be saying, only slightly tongue-in-cheek, that it’s the great game of the year; others are saying it’s crap. I have no idea what to expect, but it’s had some Heavy Rain comparisons and this is a dead period for new releases, so I figure why not? The game starts with a CS zoom into a forest. There are an old man and two kids walking through a very shallow stream. Let me say off the bat this art is very old and pretty crappy. It is in a very literal sense that I am saying I could imagine this game as a mid-lifespan PS2 release. Low poly-count, bad texture — these characters are just plain UGLY. The kids find a ladybug and pick it up. The old man says it’s dangerous – the text is spoken but also annoyingly appears at the bottom of the screen as captioning. The energy between these characters has a weird subtext, but that might just be due to the bad art. The kids run ahead, and we start to see credits over the background. A couple shots of the woods and then to the kids staring ahead at something. The music is also quite weird; it’s a j-pop song, which is fine, but it’s not creepy in the least. We cut to a bird picking at the hand of crucified woman who has been cut open in her chest and is hanging on a tree. The dissonance between the music and scene cannot be stressed enough — I’m hearing Katy Perry while I’m watching a low-quality tape of Saw. The old guy says the woman’s name, so he knows her. Then a white thing, revealed to be a snake, winds up the woman and hisses at the camera. The title appears in lower right and we fade to black.

From here, we cut to a big mustached man and tough-as-nails woman with old man looking at the tree. The new man and woman are cops.  The kids are oblivious and still playing with the ladybug. It flies up and we follow it to the city for a montage of ridiculous grief. There’s a woman uncannily crying in her apartment looking at a picture, presumably of the woman who was killed. We cut to another woman crying to a locket. Then there’s a third woman in a huge mansion looking down at a statue. In the most silly scene, there’s a male  cop crying in an unbelievably melodramatic way in front of a woman in a bar. After that, we cut to the title card accompanied by weird classical guitar music. What is going on with the tone here? There’s a crude start button which leads to a crude menu page – all the buttons are in a system font and have very old button sound effects. My God, this is a PS2 game! I pick  normal difficulty from a three step range of easy to hard and a Notice window pops up to tell me I will need skillful use of weapons to succeed at this level. Bring it on! The game starts loads and again the music is SO WRONG on this red loading screen. I’m given some weapon info as I wait that tells me that a 9mm is a Low weapon. How spooky!

I get my very first dose of control as a  lamp turns on in a red velvet dream room. It’s a circular room with an open living room set-up in the center and grass on the outside. Two girls vaguely dressed like angels on chairs in the center are whispering in a nonsense language. I learn the basic controls (left analog to move, X to run, X and arrow to quick turn) and walk up to the two boys (sorry about that — blame the art). They ask me to wait, and say it won’t take long. I wander around the room exploring it. I first find a playing card of me that’s part of some collection mechanic in the game. Wow this game’s movement is weird — right analog moves the camera, but the character does not turn with it, so turning the character involves ridiculously wide circles. Didn’t we solve this control problem years ago? I continue looking around the room, using B to observe an object and get a text description of the thing I am looking at. Not really having anything else to do, I check in with the boys again, but it’s the same text. I look around more and double-check that the two doors are locked. Finally, for seemingly no reason, the boys say it’s about time to get started. There’s a CS zoom in on me, and we fade to black.

The next thing that happens is someone named York calling Zack in the darkness.  I click a button to answer in the time limit indicated by a receding bar on the screen. He says the crime took place in country so we should take it slow. We fade in to a CS of a car driving.  York is an FBI agent in a car.  He’s looking at a screen of some kind of crime scene. He’s talking to someone on his phone about Tom and Jerry in relation to some real-world torture. He loses connection and drops the phone. He’s upset about going to the boonies. He’s talking to someone named Zack, but where is Zack? There’s no one else in the car, and the phone is off. He tries to light a cigarette and looks away from road for a second. A figure in red suddenly appears on the street and the car swerves. There’s a CS of the car driving into woods, and in a I think unintentionally hilarious moment,  squirrels leap out of the way as the car crashes.  York gets out to see his  laptop busted up next to the wrecked car.  He gets his cigarette lit and tells Zack that there goes the civilized world. The game pauses to  save.

I finally get control around the wreck of the car. Man, the camera control is so wonky — it whips around, but the fact that it doesn’t change my facing is completely disorienting every time I try to move. I find a toolbox to store items (very Resident Evil). I pick a pipe and run into a wooden gate which I assume is pipe-breakable. I stare at it for a moment trying to find out how to use the pipe before the game explains itself. Ok, to attack it’s hold right trigger to wield the weapon and then hit A. Seriously. I’m sorry, that is the least immersive control I have seen in as long as I can remember. Is that how I shoot too? I don’t use the TRIGGER to pull the TRIGGER? Anyway, I break the gate and get some non-diegetic award (looks like a medal) for that accomplishment. There’s a CS of  me looking at the path and I’m suddenly given the option to hit A to profile.  I hit A and see a bunch of images that mean nothing. I have no idea what that accomplished.

In CS York says they are being welcomed and will let Zack handle the meet-and-greet.  Good god, my guy’s back even blocks the screen. Jerky camera, tank movement, bad button mapping, and my main character is an obstacle to my vision — did any human being look at this game? I run a bit and find in CS a dead dog.  As York looks at,  something moves behind him but is gone when he turns around. Up ahead, we see a figure creep into a shack all zombie-like. When I get control, I go into the shack and I see no zombie girl. There is however a generator that I turn on. A short CS shows me that I unlocked a gate outside, so I guess I solved a puzzle I didn’t see yet.  When I turn around, the girl reappears in white in a creepy pose, bent-backward at an impossible arch with her head facing me. The game teaches me to shoot (RT trigger to man gun, LT to autotarget, A to shoot — I am not kidding here) and I kill her, purple stuff flying out of her corpse. I search the shack quickly and find some first aid, but as I’m leaving, there’s another bent-backward girl. I don’t remember right away the complex dance that is shooting, so this second one attacks me by putting her hand in my mouth. It’s weird, but it works as a creepy attack. I have to shake it off with the L stick. I then kill it and another one outside. I heal with a first aid kit, which is a lot harder than it sounds because the healing stuff in buried three steps down in the menu screens. (Pause – inventory – item subcategory – object is how you access things in Deadly Premonition.) I then go through gate I opened on to a wooden path.

I get another option to profile and I do it again to no effect other than a flurry of still images. York says in CS that it’s the first time he’s been attacked so directly. He’s now talking to Zack in a non-existent headpiece, and he brushes off Zack’s lack of response. There’s a payphone up ahead that’s a save point. I save and call it a night for this unbelievably crappy game.

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3 Responses

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  1. Chris says

    I also picked up Deadly Premonition based on one or two frothingly positive reviews, and wow. Excruciating. My OCD demands that I complete the thing at some point, but all I know is that time is not now.

  2. Chris2 says

    WOW! I just watched the opening on YouTube and I have to say, it was hysterical. Seriously, this looks like a port of an old PS2 game. Voice acting, textures, models, MUSIC (HA!), all horrible! Seriously, Nick, you are a strong man for stomaching this one!

  3. admin says

    Thank you, Chris2. I appreciate your concern. Let’s see how long my stomach holds.

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