Deadly Premonition was an absolute video game anomaly when it originally released. Usually, when a game is poor in every aspect, it is simply a bad game. It’s rare that you can enjoy a bad game in the same way as a bad movie, because the fact that you have to physically interact with it rather than simply sit back and laugh makes poor graphics, controls and gameplay oddities a struggle, and the joke soon wears thin. Yet, Deadly Premonition, with its mix of awful and genius, pulled this off.
Now here we are, three years later, with the highly anticipated, PS3-exclusive enhanced version. For those who got the chance to enjoy the weird and wonderful original, you can skip the next few paragraphs if you want to know what’s new in this re-release. For those uninitiated, Deadly Premonition is probably one of the strangest, most unique and funniest experiences of this entire generation.
You play as Francis York Morgan (but please, call him York–that’s what everyone calls him), an eccentric FBI agent with a split personality. York is investigating a murder of a young girl in the small town known as Greenvale, becoming acquainted with the local police team and the other odd inhabitants. So it’s a Twin Peaks rip-off, right? Not quite. It’s clear where Deadly Premonition takes its inspirations from, with Resident Evil 4-style shooting and Silent Hill-esque ‘otherworld’ sequences. Yet, despite sharing similarities, it manages to remain like nothing else I’ve ever played.
Like York’s personality, the game is split between open-world missions and survival horror combat. It also split critics right down the middle, with the reviews scale going from 2/10 to 10/10 upon the original release, earning its place as the Guinness World Record’s ‘Most Critically Polarizing Survival Horror Game’. But, odd premise aside, what is it that makes this game so divisive and weird?
If you take one look at the screenshots, you’ll notice the graphics aren’t exactly ‘current-gen’. In fact, as well as the visuals, the story, dialogue and audio mixing are ridiculous. Yet, this plays in favour of the game’s charm. It’s so terrible, it becomes amazing. It’s so weird, it’s absolutely compelling, never knowing what the game will throw at you next. The cutscenes, voice acting, facial animations are so awkward, that the game is unbelievably hilarious.
The appeal of the whole experience doesn’t solely derive from that B-movie vibe, though. There are some genuinely great ideas in the game, and some intentionally funny dark humour thrown in for good measure. York will tell his second personality, Zach, exactly what he thinks about the individuals he meets right in front of them. He will discuss a case he solved over dinner wherein the culprit urinated in his victim’s skull. He will become highly suspicious, serious and philosophical–over a sandwich.
All NPC characters live their daily routine round a 24 hour clock cycle, with buildings opening and closing at certain times. You can partake in nonsensical yet fun sidequests, and must keep York clean, fed and well-rested. Plus, if real-time beard-growing isn’t a system-seller, I don’t know what is.
So, the burning question for a lot of fans: what’s new in The Director’s Cut? Unfortunately, the most disappointing aspect of this version is the lack of new content. There are no new playable chapters or sequences whatsoever. There are new cutscenes, which provide a new prologue and epilogue, but these probably amount to no more than 5-10 minutes of footage in total. The launch trailer showed off some new costumes and cars, but these are only available through pre-order DLC. Considering a director’s cut is supposed to be the complete experience, it’s a hugely missed opportunity to have new features and leave them out of the retail package. There is PlayStation Move and 3D support, though neither will appeal to many people nor do they work very well in the game’s favour.
There is also one aspect of this version even makes it worse than the original. The game runs poorer than its Xbox 360 counterpart, with unbelievable frame rate dips. Thankfully but strangely, this is only a problem during the game’s prologue. At the very beginning, the game will struggle to even keep up with your progression, almost like it’s testing your commitment to playing such a strange game even more than before. After this prologue is over, it’s a lot smoother–though it still dips quite drastically in the more populated areas and doesn’t match up to the 360 version overall.
One of my main issues with the original game, the map, has sadly not been addressed here. You can still barely zoom out far enough for it to be of much use, and it still rotates depending on which direction York is facing. It’s incredibly disorientating and it’s difficult to find your way anywhere unless you keep a map jpeg kept open on your computer. The visuals have improved slightly, though not to the degree of an graphical overhaul. It’s more like a remaster than a remake, but in this game’s case, it’s actually a good thing–the wacky animations and cutscenes stay intact, but are now clearer to enjoy.
The most significant and positive change is that of the controls. York controls far smoother and more in line with modern third-person shooters, and the button layout is a lot more sensible. The game has also removed the easy, normal and hard difficulty options and replaced it with only one difficulty, that appears to fall closer to the ‘easy’ end. Usually, removing tank controls and going easier on the player is a travesty to fans of a survival horror game. But again, this really works in Deadly Premonition‘s favour. The appeal of the experience does not lie within the horror aspect. The game isn’t scary, and the enemies were never challenging to begin with. They are simply obstructions, and the fact that the otherworld sections are now far less tedious means that the pace is far smoother and improved–allowing the player to experience the next absurdity in the story faster.
Perhaps the biggest draw of this version for fans is the promise of more playable chapters via future DLC. As it currently stands, though, Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut is rather disappointing in what it has to offer. However, if you were planning a revisit to Greenvale or have yet to experience this beautiful abortion of a game, then performance issues aside, this is the marginally superior version. To the incredibly dedicated, you may also get a kick out of the new features and cutscenes. If you’re new to Swery65’s stunning vision, however, then you can go ahead and increase this review score to 5/5.