Over three years ago, one of the most ambitious and charismatic adventures hit the Xbox 360, and while it certainly had its share of issues, it was an unforgettable experience. Jump to present day where next generation consoles are on the horizon and yet Deadly Premonition is still making itself known in an insanely competitive market. Swery and his team at Access Games have developed a Director’s Cut version of the open-world horror title, featuring new cinematics, enhanced gameplay mechanics and upgraded textures, hoping to ensnare those who missed out on the original. There’s no doubting the heart the game possesses, but can it hold its own in 2013?
Deadly Premonition is an experience most will never forget; good or bad. It is a difficult thing to recommend because the visuals are still below average and the gameplay mechanics feel stiff. At the same time, it’s the story and wide cast of characters that shine a beacon of light on the title, giving it something special most games are unable to recreate. These are the reasons why it’s one of the most polarizing games ever made, and a reason why everyone should at least give it a chance. It has it all: zombie-like creatures that want to stick their fists down your throat, a distinguished cheeky protagonist, and silly humor that will make you a little uncomfortable.
The story behind Deadly Premonition is very reminiscent that of Twin Peaks: FBI special agent Francis York Morgan arrives in the small town of Greenvale to investigate the murder of a young girl. During his investigation, he meets an incredibly robust cast of characters, and unravels a mystery many years in the making. The plotline is a charming and mysterious adventure that will have everyone champing at the bit for the next big event, not to mention getting attached to specific individuals. The way they’re able to build on characters and give them meaning ever so subtly is astounding. Being that someone in the town is most definitely a murderer, it’s up to the player to investigate everyone and make their own assessments. The structure of progression is also similar to a TV series in that there are multiple episodes in this, let’s call it season, even going as far to include recap video after significant break points in the plot. I just can’t say enough positive things about the story and the characters as they make Deadly Premonition a worthwhile time investment. You won’t see the twists coming and you won’t believe what happens next.
While the story is outstanding, it’s hampered by some rather disappointing technical flaws, mainly in terms of graphical performance. If you didn’t know, this isn’t particularly the best looking game; not for 2010 and certainly not for 2013. It comes as a greater shock that the framerate is horrid. While there were cringe-worthy moments in the original game, you just can’t go two steps in the Director’s Cut without the framerate tanking. It’s uneven, rarely staying even close to 30fps and generally going well below, that it’s hard to say where the problem is. For example, it looks butter smooth in a small nook in the art gallery, while it’s all over the place in the rest of the game. There was even an instance where, after retrieving eight consecutive items, the game found its way to output less than five frames per second until Sony’s system was restarted. It’s difficult to fathom how the Director’s Cut runs so poorly when it doesn’t even particularly look all that great to begin with. It may have some slightly better looking textures, but it has been poorly optimized for the system.
The combat remains largely the same, with some minor tweaks here and there to make the content a little more accessible. Don’t get me wrong: the controls are still very clunky, but serviceable like a less impressive Resident Evil 4. Thankfully, what makes this a more enjoyable time is the open world that Agent York is able to venture upon. Greenvale may be a small town, but it’s large in terms of what can be done. There are fifty side missions that, while a few are simple fetch quests, require a good amount of knowledge and understanding to get through. Some may be box puzzles, others may be quizzes on medical information or maybe York has to break out a line and hook and go fishing. Everything also requires weather and time specific conditions to be met to either start or finish a quest. There’s no shortage of things to do in Greenvale, and everything that is done helps expand a set of personalities.
Other than some tweaks to the visuals and gameplay mechanics, there really hasn’t been much added on. In addition to 3D and Playstation Move support, there are a number of new cinematics that have been attached to the beginning and endings of each episode, but that’s about it. If you’ve played or own the original game, it’s hard to recommend an upgrade unless you’re a dedicated fan and want to support such a unique title. It really is a tossup; on one hand, the framerate is a horrible step down and borderline frustrating at times, but the improved mechanics and few new cinematics do add quite a bit to the fiction and overall charm. Now all we need is more Life is Beautiful and things will be golden.
Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut won’t win any awards for its visuals or mechanics, but the player will be completely immersed within a world just brimming with life thanks to the intriguing storyline and highly likeable cast of characters. It may push away gamers desiring a revolutionary third-person shooter, but instead draw in those who enjoy a good tale by the fire. It’s actually bewildering that Deadly Premonition received a Director’s Cut in the first place, and while it has a number of technical issues that don’t live up to modern standards, it still comes out a winner.
Version Reviewed: PS3