Deadly Premonition - Xbox 360

I just saw Deadly Premonition on sale for 10 dollars. Granted it only launched at 20 bucks, but it was still quite something. Why? Because I just put damn near 20 hours into it and really enjoyed, so the idea of this game being available for the price of a Baconator meal is crazy to me.

I’ve said before how much I love a pleasant surprise. A game you start playing with low expectations (if any at all) and end up really enjoying. It doesn’t happen all that often to me, with the weird exceptions seemingly always being in the survival horror genre. Last year’s Cursed Mountain on the Wii (also available now for 10 dollars, no excuse not to pick that one up) was one that impressed me on damn near every level. It had flaws, but was overall a well made title that had great atmosphere and tons of quirky touches.

Much of this also applies to Deadly Premonition as well. The only things I knew going in was that it was a budget title, and IGN gave it a 2. Needless to say I wasn’t expecting much from this one. Turns out the budget price just makes it a great deal and IGN is out of their fucking minds because this game is actually pretty awesome.

Fair warning however, this game is made for a very select audience. You should know after watching just a couple of minutes worth of game play whether or not you fall into said audience. For example if you are someone who can’t play a game with subpar graphics, which this game has in spades, you’re going to want to avoid this one. You should know though, you’re missing out you silly graphics whore.

You know what, while we’re on the subject let’s just continue on with the flaws of the game and get all of that out of the way right up front. We’ve covered the graphics, which, while certainly not great, don’t hinder the game in any way I don’t think. There are some pretty significant pacing issues, with many sections having you drive long distances from end of town to the other. Of course these sections come complete with less than stellar driving controls. However even these sections have an upside, which I will touch on a little later. Oh and the shooting controls aren’t great either, just to quickly throw that out there. Sadly there is not really an upside to that one.

There’s also this strange audio problem where all too often the music will start to dramatically overpower the dialogue. You have subtitles so you don’t lose anything technically, it’s just weird that it happens at all, let alone during just about every other cut scene.

Alright let’s recap everything we’ve learned about this game so far: it has pretty low quality graphics, poor controls, and rampant audio problems. So why did I enjoy it so much? For all the reasons I’m about to throw at you.

There’s one primary reason that I was sucked into this game as much as it was, one very simple reason – it’s really fucking weird. Like seriously this game is unlike anything else that I’ve ever encountered. It’s got this real Twin Peaks vibe to it and you never can quite tell if the game knows how silly it is or if it really is meant to be taken completely seriously. No matter its intention, there’s no denying that it’s quite an experience.

Let me set it all up for you. The main character is an FBI agent who sees messages in his coffee, has these weird dreams involving small cherub children, and spends the majority of the game talking to an imaginary friend named Zach, something that not a single other character in the game finds strange.

Also remember I mentioned an existing upside to the tedious driving sequences? Well brace yourself because here comes the conclusion to that cliffhanger. During just about all of the driving sections your character will start to talk with his alter ego. The conversations range from 80’s horror movies to obscure punk bands. It’s completely random and never has anything to do with the actual story, but it never fails to entertain.

The actual story is surprisingly engaging. A lot of is fairly standard murder mystery stuff but it’s presented in such an odd fashion with some actual surprising twists and turns. The story was a big aspect of what kept me pushing forward because I genuinely wanted to see how everything was going to unfold.

Every so often in the game you will have to do battle with…zombies? I’m not really sure what the hell they are but they move slow and moan a lot. Although some of them weild guns which I don’t think zombies are really known to do. It doesn’t matter, the point is that every now and then you have to do some fighting. These weren’t my favourite sections, since as I said the shooting isn’t great. It’s functional, but it feels clunky. Plus as the game goes on each enemy starts to take a ridiculous amount of ammo to take down. These enemies also tend to respawn, which adds another level of frustration.

However those complaints are nothing compared to this one. For the most part you fight these shambling zombie-ish things, and all is well. Eventually though the game changes things up and you fight this Grudge-like long-haired girl who runs along the walls and ceilings. At first I figured it was a boss fight and thought nothing of it. The fight itself isn’t hard, just monotonous as the pattern is ridiculously simple. But whatever, when the fight ended I figured I had won and could move on. Then something happened; that same enemy showed up again…..and again. Sometimes I would fight two or three of them in a row, just one after the other. When part of a game is so ridiculously unpleasant that you are relieved to finish it, the absolute last thing you want to do is repeat that same sequence again and again. There were only a few times where playing the game was a complete drag, and this is one of the shinier examples.

Finally, there are two things about the game that really surprised me. The first was how much I enjoyed the music. There isn’t a large variety of tracks. In fact the game usually switches between three or four main tracks. You would think over the course of the game I would tire of them, but I never did. There is this one track that consists mostly of a dude whistling and it’s been caught in my head for weeks now! I never thought I would say this, but I’m fairly certain I would buy the Deadly Premonition soundtrack, even if it was only 14 minutes long with five songs on it.

The second element that really surprised me about the game was the length. Most survival horror type games last what, maybe 12 hours at the most? This one is around 20 hours, and that’s if you choose to ignore all of the side quests and collecting the dozens of trading cards that are scattered throughout the map. If you were to do those things, you could easily double that number of hours. Sure some of that is padding, like the aforementioned lengthy driving sequences and that god damn Grudge thing, but the majority of that time is spent moving the story forward and even though I may have been occasionally frustrated, I was never once bored.

I’ve both praised and slammed it but in the end I really freakin’ liked Deadly Premonition. It’s so unlike anything I’ve ever played through. As I write this Giant Bomb.com is starting out on a full playthrough of the game, and I really hope that helps give it some further exposure because honestly for 20 bucks, this is one of the best gaming deals you can get right now.