I was going to make this a short post about a game I’ve been playing recently, but then it turned into a full thousand word review. But rather than put it on a separate page, like my previous reviews, I’ve decided to leave it as a post; my “Reviews” menu is getting a bit cluttered and it’s easier this way. So you can read the review “after the jump” as a blog much more annoying than my own would say. Though once you get to the single post view this is just a superfluous paragraph. The review starts on the next paragraph.
A couple of weeks ago I brought Deadly Premonition, a game I’d heard a lot about and been quite intrigued by. It’s known for being a pretty awful game, technically at least; the graphics wouldn’t look out of place during the last console generation, the controls feel very dated, and the less said about the handling of the cars you can drive, the better. But if you can look past these problems there’s a pretty unique game underneath. It’s a third-person open-world game, with loads of side-quests and stuff to do outside of the main story, so it’s a little bit like GTA in that respect, though the in-game world is much smaller. The game follows the story of an FBI agent sent to investigate a murder in a small town, and the strange things that happen to him while he’s there. I don’t want to write much about the story, because it really deserves to be played, but it’s got quite a few twists and some genuine “WTF” moments, I thought it was great. The dialogue and the cut-scenes deserve special mention, whether by design or not, they can sometimes be very, very funny.
At various points in the game you enter a sort of alternate reality which is inhabited by the game’s enemies, weird zombie like things that disintegrate into a purple cloud when killed, groaning something along the lines of “I don’t want to die” as they do so; I don’t think they’re really scary, but they are a bit unsettling. Assuming I’ve understood everything that happened in the game correctly, this alternate world and the zombie things aren’t explained at all. There are quite a few named characters you can talk to and interact with, and they all have at least one side-mission to give you too. There’s a lot of back-story to explore if you take the time to talk to everybody. One of the great things the game does is make the characters move around depending on what time of day it is; characters who work in a shop arrive in the morning, go out for their lunch around midday, then go back to their homes at night, and you can actually see them driving around as you drive around. Another thing that affects the characters is the weather; for reasons that are explained in the game, when it rains all the shops close and everybody goes home (where you can go and talk to them or snoop around a bit). To me it gives the game much more soul than the heartless automatons who inhabit GTA or any of its numerous clones.
The in-game time and weather conditions are important to the gameplay, with some missions only being available at certain times or with certain weather conditions. You can smoke cigarettes (in the game!) in order to make time pass more quickly, which is particularly helpful if you’re trying to complete all the side-missions, as they often have tighter restrictions than the main story ones. The game makes you eat and sleep fairly often, you have tiredness and hunger bars which are always slowly dropping, although this is never really a problem as plentiful amounts of food are left lying around and beds are placed throughout the game world so you can take a nap. The cars you can drive have to be similarly managed, you have to keep them topped up with fuel and they take damage with the merest of scrapes. This realism is strangely at odds with the humorous dialogue and the crazy zombies, and the fact that you can acquire guns with infinite ammo (in fact you start off with one, your default pistol).
The game has many minor flaws, as well as the major ones (graphics, controls etc.) I’ve already mentioned. The in-game map, for instance, is almost completely useless, as you can’t zoom out far enough to plan a route and it rotates to face the direction you’re facing, which I found incredibly disorienting for my first few hours with the game (pro-tip: find an online map to use instead). The fighting sections can get quite tedious as, excluding the boss fights, there are only four different types of enemy in the game (if I’ve remembered correctly), and three of those are very rare. But these flaws are offset by some moments of genius. There are a few genuinely pulse-raising moments where you have to hide from the main antagonist. You are locked into a room with only one door and they start bashing their way in with an axe (like in The Shining), and you have to hide in something like a cupboard or under a desk before they come in. The screen then splits in two giving you a third-person view of them searching for you and also a first-person view through their eyes. It’s very atmospheric. There are similar sections where you have to run away from them, with one screen following you and the other them, which are also very good.
The more time I spent with the game the less it’s flaws bothered me. I got sucked in to the story so much it didn’t matter that I was going through room after room filled with the same basic enemy, because I wanted to find out what happened next regardless. By the end the problems with the in-game map were a distant memory, because I’d memorised everything, similarly with the controls, once you’re used to them they’re not too bad. All in all, I thought the game was a pretty incredible experience, all I can say is: Buy this game! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (well I didn’t, but someone on a forum I read said they did; I was definitely sad, though maybe that was a pre-existing condition) and you’ll be befuddled.