The back cover of Deadly Premonition Director’s Cut for the Playstation 3 declares that the original Xbox version was “the most critically polarizing game of recent times.” They aren’t kidding: reviews on Metacritic range from a perfect 100 score to a barrel-scraping 20, with a slew of scores in between. I’ll be frank and tell you that Deadly Premonition is in no way a game for everyone. Its graphics are uneven, the gameplay seems ripped from the Playstation 1 era, and the voice acting is so goddamn hammy and cheesy that if you threw in a couple eggs you’d have one hell of an omelet. Despite these “issues,” and sometimes even because of them, Deadly Premonition is a game like no other.
Simply summing up the game in a sentence speaks volumes of its lunacy. Imagine Twin Peaks if it was directed by Takashi Miike after he’d gobbled a handful of random pills…and that just barely scrapes the surface. The opening cinematic of the game doesn’t even try to hide its intentions: a grandfather leads his twin grandsons through a field where they stumble upon a mutilated woman crucified to a tree (shades of Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic). The death sends ripples throughout the town of Greenvale, where we see its citizens reacting to the loss to the wailing strains of an acid-jazz soundtrack.
The lunacy continues from there, with the introduction of FBI Agent Francis York Morgan, who frequently talks to his alternate personality Zach (again, shades of Twin Peaks’ Dale Cooper and his tape recorder) as he drives towards Greenvale. He swerves to miss a mysterious figure and rolls his car—almost into a pair of squirrels who inexplicably shriek like monkeys—on the outskirts of town. Then he faces the zombies. These are not typical zombies. They creep at you while bending over backwards, their eyes black hollows and their mouths slit open into Chelsea grins. It’s complete and utter madness, but it fits the nuttiness of the game perfectly. Does it make sense? No. Does it work within the complete lack of logic that Deadly Premonition operates under? Absolutely. There’s an overarching storyline involving the Red Seed Murders and a mysterious serial killer, but it’s only the thinnest of threads in the overall tapestry of madness.
The main reason the game succeeds so well is because of its lack of logic and proper structure. There are no concessions made to what should or shouldn’t be done in a game. The game can’t go off the rails because it was never on them, or even within miles of them. This is a game that has you fighting inverted ghouls, staving off an indestructible serial killer in a raincoat, and interacting with characters so strange that you find yourself completely shocked with what you’re being presented with. What other game has a gas-masked paraplegic having his assistant (who speaks in rhyming couplets, no less) order a “sinner’s sandwich” of turkey, strawberry jam, and cereal, all set to a soundtrack that changes from lilting muzak to squealing saxophones to upbeat guitar rock in a matter of seconds? What other game parades its low-resolution textures and stiff models for all to see without a care in the world? What other game completely throws all logic and sense to the wind and all but rubs your nose in it? Designer Swery simply made the game that he wanted to make, and it simply seems like he doesn’t give a shit if you like or understand it, but he does so without pretentiousness or arrogance.
The Playstation 3 release of the game is also worth a look, even for those who have already played the original version on the Xbox 360. Graphics have been slightly enhanced (not so much as to lose their slipshod charm, however), and there are now options for Move controls (meh) and 3D for those with the right hardware (again, meh). The main appeal is that the storyline has been beefed up, adding in additional scenes that only add to the madness on display.
Again, I can’t stress enough that Deadly Premonition is not a game for everyone. The sloppy controls and odd, open-world gameplay will turn people off as surely as the behind-the-curve graphics and awful voice acting. However, this is a game that is completely dedicated to its vision, and stays the path no matter how crazy it may get. That has to count for something, and gamers with open minds—and possibly a supply of psychedelics—will get nothing but immense, insane joy from it. Details on the game have been left intentionally vague, as this game cannot be described properly through words…it truly needs to be experienced to be appreciated, no matter how fucking nuts it seems.