This is the type of game that is actually very difficult to review. It’s obvious that a lot of love and clever ideas went into the game, and if you like it than you could end up investing 20+ hours in the game with all its side quests. Unfortunately this game seems to have missed out on the last five year’s worth of industry progress.
It’s because of this that I have trouble giving Deadly Premonition a score. It’s sure to be a great game by one person’s standards, while I’m positive there are plenty of gamers out there that would think of it as more of an endurance test and less a game. The question is, which one are you? After spending roughly twelve hours trying to figure out just what the hell the guys behind Deadly Premonition were on while designing the game I’ve decided that I lie somewhere in the middle. There’s a ton to do, some genuinely hilarious dialogue, and it never takes itself seriously, and rightfully so. Like all games, it’s strengths are occasionally weighed down by its flaws, and this game has flaws aplenty. The controls, ranging from the combat, to the driving, to the menus are all awkward and clumsy.
There’s also the problem that I can barely describe as music that tends to get in the way. You have your jazzy detective music that is easily the less annoying of the bunch, then there’s the whistling, yes, whistling, that we hear way too often. But that’s not the worst one, oh no sir, there’s also a little something I can only describe as someone strangling an elephant behind the camera. Seriously. That is exactly what it sounds like, and it isn’t just distracting, it’s Mute-The-Damn-Television-Now Annoying.
Let’s return to the controls, because I can’t stress enough how clumsy they are. The combat is in the style of Resident Evil 4 only far less polished, and while that might not sound terrible, go play RE4 right now so you can more clearly remember how awful the combat is and then picture something far worse. That’s pretty bad.
It’s not all bad though. The story is extraordinarily entertaining in an intentionally unintentional way. Read that sentence again because it does make sense. The writers knew they were writing B movie slosh layered in a thick coat of old movie references and a few surprisingly entertaining inner monologues.
For better or worse, Deadly Premonition borrows heavily from survival horror games of the past. Awkward things like the random fixed camera placement brings up not so warm feelings of the first Resident Evil titles, and searching for all the items you’ll need to make it to the next level (these items tend to be keys more often than not). Then there’s the wave of nostalgia that washes over you when you find yourself conserving ammo, searching for hidden items, and choosing between fight or flight when confronted with a horde of enemies and limited ammo.
But a survival horror game’s only as scary as the creatures that hunt you, right? On paper, the things that hunt you sound pretty damn scary: they come out of black stains on the walls and immediately begin to bend into contorted shapes as they reach out to you, emitting creepy electronically-enhanced moans as they draw near, and when they finally do reach you they like to stick their hands down your mouth to choke you until you die a horrible, gross death. Sounds pretty good and, for the most part, they are fairly creepy. This weak illusion of horror is than washed away completely when they say something like, “No, I don’t want to die…” in their whiny, semi-human voice. Is it wrong that that makes me laugh?
This game can be described in one word: Bizarre. This description extends to every aspect of the game. The characters are strange and their animations are completely robotic, the dialogue shifts between uncomfortable and brilliant, and even the loading screens can be strangely funny. You’ll have just ran out of ammo trying to survive against half a dozen of the creatures described above to be greeted with a loading screen that explains the healing properties of a can of tomato sauce. You’ll find yourself fighting for your life one second, and laughing at a line of dialogue the next. You’ll be watching an interesting and even humorous conversation between several characters when you’ll see someone perform the same canned animation for the fifth time. This is the type of game that doesn’t take itself seriously, and it wants you to do the same. It simply wants to entertain you, and in that it succeeds. For $20, you could do much worse.
Final Score: 3.5/5 Skulls