Making a video game is hard. Having a good idea is only one small part of it. After the designer says “I got a great idea for a game!” the developers then spend years programing it, making art, editing sound, writing dialog, and trying to get it released to the public. Deadly Premonition is a game that started with a great idea – “Silent Hill meets Twin Peaks meets Grand Theft Auto” – but it was crushed by the cruel reality that makin’ stuff is HARD.
When it came out for Xbox 360 in 2010 it was hated by half of the press, and praised by the other half. Despite its horrendous gameplay it managed to develop enough of a cult following to get a PS3 edition, and eventually came to PC a few months ago.
According to the gamer social network Raptr, the average PC player spends about two hours playing Deadly Premonition. It takes around 20 hours to complete the story, so this means that for every person who finishes the experience, there are about 20 other people who give up after the prolog.
It isn’t hard to sympathize with the people who try out the first level, then delete the game, or write angry letters to Steam demanding refunds, or just ram meat thermometers into their skulls to escape a world where Deadly Premonition is an actual commercial product. The opening level puts players up against a series of un-challenging enemies and puzzles, then ends with a section where they run in a straight line down an empty highway for a full minute.
Yet there are still people who insist that there is some kernel of genius hidden beneath the horrid graphics, terrible controls, alienating gameplay and mindflaying story. These people are right.
Deadly Premonition is a game where the developers tried very hard to bring their brilliant idea to life and failed, but the idea is still amazing and players who can tolerate the flaws will find it to be an utterly surreal experience that ranges from farcical comedy to disturbing horror. Players just need to know what they’re getting themselves in to, and brace for it.
It’s been around for years, and a few gamers might have held out on buying it hoping for a new version that would correct the worst problems. Unfortunately this game does almost everything wrong, and the PC Director’s Cut does very little to mitigate the catastrophe. The Xbox 360 version of the game looked like it was developed on the Dreamcast, and played like an early Playstation survival horror game. The new version has “Improved” graphics, but that just means that it now looks like a PS2 launch title.
The controls have been changed too, now it plays more like a traditional third person shooter, especially if players are using a gamepad on their PC. Yet even with a gamepad it still refuses to use standard controls like aiming and shooting with the triggers. Oh, no – even now players will have to hold down the shoulder button to ready their gun and push the other shoulder button to shoot. Use the analog stick to accelerate when in a car? Nope! Hit the right shoulder button to slowly (So slowly) accelerate, and left to break.
Adding to the unfathomable horror of the driving controls is that the D-Pad is dedicated to controlling the windshield wipers and turn signals. Even the “A” button is dedicated to making the driver engage in chatter while driving! Without a gamepad players will still find the controls awkward, with the space bar is used to make the character draw his gun and other unintuitive layouts.
Players no doubt will scream “But surely my powerful graphics card will at least allow me to play at a higher resolution than on my Xbox 360?!”
No, dear reader! Deadly Premonition is not so merciful! Even on a high-end PC the game is locked at 720p. There is a player-made mod that fixes this, but the developers have not yet resolved this issue with an official patch. It’s as though they are looking the consumer straight in the eye and screaming “It’s Deadly Premonition! What the hell did you expect!”
With so many problems weighing down Deadly Premonition on PC, how can any players stick it out? Well, the original game was riddled with problems and still managed to cultivate a following of discriminating fans, and the good news is that everything good about the game is still there.
The quirky townsfolk, the weird backwards zombie monsters, the cross-dressing lawmen, the bizarre hero and his imaginary friend are all still just as entertaining as ever. A whole down of quaint delights awaits those who dare enter. Players who do take the precaution of hooking up a gamepad, and downloading the “DPfix” mod that fixes the resolution problems will find this to be the best version of the game. It even includes DLC that adds in some extra missions, more drivable cars and some silly new outfits.
Among the DLC are costumes that make the game easier, but they aren’t really necessary since the improved controls make combat easier too. Players will find that the enemies are rarely dangerous, and that the spooky supernatural sequences are more of a chore than challenge for the PC edition. However the option of playing dress-up is still there for people who need yet more goofiness to the proceedings (Why shouldn’t a female police officer walk around in a sexy leather cat costume).
Even though Deadly Premonition is a must-play game for discriminating nerds, it still asks players to put up with a lot of flaws. It’ll take close to twenty hours of torture to join the ranks of the smug, pretentious geeks who brag about how much they love this game, and there are plenty of players who don’t have the right combination of snooty masochism to justify buying Deadly Premonition.
However, players who don’t own a console, but like the idea of “Alan Wake meets Saints Row meets a malfunctioning graphic card” should clear their schedules, pour themselves a damn fine cup of coffee and grab Deadly Premonition Director’s Cut.