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Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut (PlayStation 3) artwork

Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut (PlayStation 3) review

"When local woman Anna Graham is found strung up to a tree and completely gutted, FBI agent Francis York Morgan (York, for short) is called to the little mountain hamlet of Greenvale to investigate. Greenvale is no ordinary town, which is perfect for York since he’s no ordinary federal agent."

When local woman Anna Graham is found strung up to a tree and completely gutted, FBI agent Francis York Morgan (York, for short) is called to the little mountain hamlet of Greenvale to investigate. He’s drawn to this case because of its similarity to a series of other murders he’s been investigating that all involve an attractive young woman and the same odd, red seeds found near the body. Greenvale is no ordinary town, which is perfect for York since he’s no ordinary federal agent. York has an uncanny sixth sense that manifests itself through messages in his coffee that can predict anything from the weather to the next clue to solving his case. He discusses his abilities as well as 80‘s movies, punk rock and other general goings on about town with an unseen, omnipresent ally named Zack. It’s unclear at first whether Zack is some imaginary friend, an otherworldly being or a separate personality, but all will be revealed.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should, as Deadly Premonition owes more than a little to David Lynch’s cult classic TV series “Twin Peaks.” Small lumber town in the middle of nowhere? Check. Straight-talking, quirky, coffee-guzzling FBI agent? Check. Undercurrent of weirdness about the town that pulls the protagonist further and further into the seedy, absurd underbelly of this seemingly normal place full of seemingly normal people who turn out to be a cadre of weirdos, freaks, perverts and criminals? Big ol’ check. In fact, for the first few hours the game feels like “Twin Peaks” with the serial numbers filed off. In a masterful stroke, Deadly Premonition actually uses its up front weirdness to lull the player into a false sense of security. I mean, surely it can’t get weirder, can it? Oh it can, Zack. It definitely can.

In the opening cutscene, the body of our first victim is discovered by Jim Green and his two grandchildren Isaach and Isaiah. Jim is properly affected by discovering dead body that’s been hollowed out like a human Go-Gurt, but the glassy-eyed children just continue skipping about like it’s no big deal. I guess kids don’t really understand death like adults, but if I were eight and saw a person I knew spilled all over the ground like a cooler at the end of a barbecue, I’d be a little concerned. The two children become a source of information about the town and the murders, so I suppose they know more than they let on. They’re just a couple of the colorful characters that populate Greenvale, also including another deputy who moonlights as a cross-dressing bartender, a wheelchair-bound millionaire who owns most of the town, wears a gasmask at all times and speaks through two metal vents on his neck, and his rhyming manservant. It’s a bit difficult to narrow down your list murder suspects in Greenvale when everyone is batpoop crazy.

Along his investigation, York travels the town learning about its inhabitants and its history as the murderer racks up quite the body count. In the regular world (boy, do I use that term loosely), York collects clues and items that lead him to his next destination. He solves puzzles that are mostly about as exciting as a large-print Word Find and divines information from the locals through conversation, threats and bribery. Occasionally he will slip into the Other World, which is populated by zombies and the crimson specter known as the Raincoat Killer. This is where all the game’s combat happens. The enemies are dispatched with a series of firearms and melee weapons strewn about the world. Though, it’s practically useless to upgrade from York’s standard pistol, which has unlimited ammunition and works fine against anyone.

The baddies are ridiculously easy to defeat. A couple well-placed shots to the head or a few more to the torso and they’re dust. Eventually, I just decided to run past them and they were all pretty cool with it. This tactic didn’t come from necessity like in Silent Hill where ammo is precious; like I said, the pistol is unlimited and there are bullets for your more powerful guns every few yards. In the odd event that an enemy does get a hold of you, health items are also plentiful. Very often the game would even set up a guy with a cutscene to make it seem like a boss fight. Then I’d just take out any melee weapon and that would take care of him in one hit. I don’t mean that I’d purposefully choose a weapon that kills in one hit. I mean that any melee weapon will kill an enemy in one hit. They break easily, but again, they’re everywhere. The enemies never evolve, either. The guys you fight in the first chapter are the exact same ones you’ll be killing before you reach the final boss. It feels like I started out the game over-leveled -- like it was a New Game+ or something. There isn’t even an option to change the difficulty in the Director’s Cut. I’d complain about the clunky combat that’s hampered by the awful camera and rickety aiming if it weren’t so easy.

Also found in the Other World is the aforementioned Raincoat Killer. He serves as the game’s omnipresent boss and prime suspect in the murders. He’s encountered in three fashions: York knows he’s coming into the room and will hide somewhere inconspicuous like under a tiny table, a QTE-driven fight scene commences, or a QTE-driven chase scene is initiated. Each type of encounter is similarly terrible. No one likes QTEs. They’re even worse here considering they don’t even make any sense. Throughout this game, York is mowing down undead foes like they’re weeds, and a somehow a dude with an axe in a raincoat is this untouchable monster. When armed with a shotgun, a machine gun, two pistols and a crowbar, York would rather hide in a closet than deal with someone who he’s pretty sure is murdering people. I mean, his name is the Raincoat Killer. He’s killing somebody. Hell, he’s actively trying to kill York! And yet this FBI agent allows him to get away multiple times without so much as yelling “Freeze!” or firing a single shot. That’s not very good detecting, York. I know this is the super weird “Twin Peaks”-y game where nothing makes sense, but why even continue investigating these murders if my protagonist is a putz? Get it together, York! Luckily, these boring set pieces are repeated ad nauseum.

Each next scene is clearly marked either by a waypoint on the map or a character outright telling you to “go here.” Very rarely did I find myself not knowing where to go next, but the open world is always a draw away from the game’s main path. The player can wrap up the story in under fifteen hours, but the open world of Greenvale provides hours of extra content. York can investigate goings on about town, interview pretty much whomever he likes, collect collectibles and participate in mini-games like races. Greenvale really feels like a living, breathing town. As you go about your day, you’ll notice the townsfolk doing the same. Other cars on the road are driven by recognizable characters and you’ll actually see people arriving at timed events just like you’re supposed to. Your main mode of transportation is the assortment of squad cars on loan to York by the Greenvale PD. The town is pretty freakin’ big so you spend the majority of your time driving.

The best writing in the game is on display while driving, when York talks to Zack about things that interest him like punk music and DVD special features. It’s a fun distraction from the abysmal controls. To start, the gas and reverse are mapped to the R1 and L1 buttons respectively, not the pressure-sensitive R2 and L2 like EVERY OTHER PS3 GAME WITH DRIVING IN IT. This means that the car effectively has two speeds -- moving and not moving. The developers were attentive enough to include blinkers and windshield wipers, but the car rarely breaks 40 MPH… though it feels way faster when York gently taps the brake to turn and the car goes spinning off the road like he’s a Kennedy. This wouldn’t be an issue if turning without the brakes... existed. Spinning the wheel manages to slightly drift the car in either direction, but isn’t good for right angles. I know the weather can be tough in mountain towns, but I doubt the roads are constantly frozen over the way it feels like they are in this game. York drives like he's wearing boxing gloves. On sticks. Blindfolded. And the blindfold is an enraged ferret on PCP.

The imperfections (more like sucking, gangrenous wounds) aren’t all in the gameplay. Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut performs like an alpha build, not like a game that came out years ago on another platform. Deadly Premonition is known for its flaws and quirks, which in many cases only improve the game’s B-movie feel, but the technical problems with this new edition are just unforgivable. The framerate constantly drops to slideshow speed and the sound will cut out randomly both in-engine and during cutscenes. Textures and models pop in and out only feet away from the characters and big chunks of environments look unfinished. There’s a pretty important set in the hotel where York’s staying and where the classic “FK in the coffee" scene happens that has a huge area just outside a window that’s obviously not completed. It’s gone from fun-cheap to cheap-cheap, which really sucks considering this one costs twice as much to purchase as the last version does by now. They even managed to suck a lot of the color out. The color pallette in the 360 version pops and only makes the game feel weirder. Now everything is browns and greys. The game has always looked like a Dreamcast era title, but it seems like they’ve made it worse with this iteration. Even issues I’ve mentioned like the difficulty and the driving are new problems exclusive to the Director’s Cut. It’s by no means unplayable, but it’s insulting that they’d consider this a shippable product.

This was SWERY’s chance to get his opus the attention it deserves. With a new coat of paint, enhanced gameplay and a few other tweaks, Deadly Premonition could rise above its niche status as a B-game and get noticed by a bigger audience. But unfortunately, this Director’s Cut just isn’t gonna do that. The core of what made Deadly Premonition brilliant is still there, but all SWERY has done is produce a worse version of his beloved game and charge twice as much for it. Everyone should absolutely play Deadly Premonition. Hell, even this edition should be played if it’s your only option, but only in that case. And don’t pay 40 bucks for it. There’s still a great, incredibly charming game here that’s unlike anything you’ve played before. It’s a wholly unique experience, but the Director’s Cut is not the best way to experience it.


JayButton's avatar
Freelance review by Matthew Jay (May 07, 2013)

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