Note: Portions of this review appeared in our PS3 Review of Deadly Premonition.
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 just days away and yet Deadly Premonition is still making itself known in an insanely competitive market. Swery and his team at Access Games have brought their imaginative open world horror title to the PC platform with all the enhancements seen in the PlayStation 3 release, hopefully allowing the dedicated community to do their own work. There’s no doubting the heart the game possesses, but can it hold its own on PC?
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 disheartening 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. While there’s no cure for that, what has been fixed is the horrendous framerate that plagued both previous releases. Going from 15-30fps to 60fps constant (depending on your hardware) is an absolute blessing, but it comes at the cost of expectations. The game runs at a locked 1280×720 resolution with no ability to change it; in fact, there aren’t any graphical options to be found, so what you see is what you get. Additionally, there are a number of sound bugs that range from poorly mixed audio tracks to music cutting out at random times. On top of that, I ran into a staggering amount of crashes, causing nothing but frustration. While the framerate is as smooth as butter, that isn’t the case for the rest of the game. The massive collection of bugs and technical issues found cause only dissatisfaction and disappointment.
The new keyboard and mouse controls are somewhat serviceable, but there are moments where they aren’t particularly good. Driving in the third person, for example, is atrocious as the camera is locked to the mouse while moving the vehicle is assigned to the keyboard, causing a lack control when turning. It certainly doesn’t help that there isn’t controller support, so a fallback plan isn’t in place. With that said, though, the clunky Resident Evil 4 inspired gunplay remains largely the same, with some minor tweaks here and there, and transitions relatively well to the keyboard and mouse.
Apart from that, this is a surprisingly large world to explore as, while Greenvale may be a small town, the activities that are scattered throughout are varied enough to make a difference. 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. There’s no shortage of things to do in Greenvale, and everything that is done helps expand a set of personalities.
Deadly Premonition is a mechanically stiff game that’s fortunate enough to have a compelling and intriguing murder mystery backing it up. Unfortunately, the PC port is mired with issues. It’s not the lackluster visuals, repeating animation or the slow and unappealing gameplay that’s the problem; it’s the multitude of technical issues that will push players away. Even with a butter smooth framerate, the Director’s Cut of Deadly Premonition ends up being a scanty attempt to broaden its fanbase without fully comprehending what the players want.
Version Reviewed: PC