Developed by Rising Star Games
Horror – Single Player – rated 15 (BBFC)
From budget games studio, Rising Star, comes this quirky title. On paper, I can’t think of a single reason why this game should work. The graphics are last generation at best, the controls, particularly the driving are ropey and has dialogue that makes Resident Evil look like Shakespeare. However, this game defies logic.
Deadly Premonition opens in the small North American town of Greenvale, as a woman’s body is found tied to a tree by an old man and his grandchildren, the FBI are called to the case. Sent to investigate is Special (in more ways than one) Agent Francis York Morgan, or Agent York as he prefers. The killing is similar to one he has previously been investigating and therefore he has a particular interest in the case. We first see him in his car driving to Greenvale, going through some evidence and clues to the murder, whilst dictating to someone called Zach (someone who Agent York will be talking to a lot throughout the game). En route a hooded figure (who it transpires is the ‘Raincoat Killer, the games antagonist) appears in the road forcing Agent York to swerve, crashing his car.
Herein starts the game play.
Agent York is controlled through a standard third person perspective. The controller layout is typical of the genre, very much in the same vein as Silent Hill and the current Resident Evil games. It’s not long before the enemies are encountered. The best way to describe them, are zombie Joker, type monsters with spinal problems. With a desire to stick their arms as far down your throat as possible.
You are equipped with a standard issue FBI custom 9mm which makes short work of these nightmarish creatures. When one-on-one, at least. The weapons throughout the game vary from close range melee – crow bar, pipe, sword etc – to hand guns, machine guns and a sawn off shotgun. The melee weapons are useful for destroying obstacles, whereas the machine gun has the stopping power when over encumbered with enemies.
After an introduction to the enemies you encounter through the game, we once again run into the hooded figure. After a short QTE (Quick Time Event) in which you struggle to get away, you find your way through the woods to a road side where the local law enforcement happen to be waiting. This is where we are introduced to Sherriff George Woodman and his Deputy Emily Wyatt. A lot of your time is going to be spent in their company. From then on, the investigation starts to build momentum as you drive around town with your new friends from the sheriffs department, questioning suspects and following leads.
There are many similarities with hit 90’s TV show Twin Peaks. From the basic plot (quirky FBI agent called to the sticks to investigate murder), location (picturesque town with plenty of trees and lakes, even a saw mill) and even the characters (nervous rookie deputy, diner owner with strained relationship with husband, Pot lady!).
The game is made up of different sections and types of game play. There are the investigations, in which you hunt around locations and crime scenes piecing together what has happened. These tend to be in a Silent Hill style alternative universe in which you are also up against the weird Jokery bad guys (the giveaway is the loading screen turns red when in weirdsville and green when all is normal). Sometimes these climax in a QTE brush with the Rain Coat Killer. I think these may be trips into the special agents own psyche, as finding a clue will trigger an event or another location being revealed, however when you find what you’re looking for, everything returns to ‘normal’.
There are driving sections, which at times can be frustrating as the handling is quite poor. If the journey lasts more than a couple of minutes, you get the option to talk. If selected, you are more than likely to sit through York talking about his favourite films and DVD special features (according to the games director, this is so you associate with the game, next time you see/hear of any of the films. Personally, I think it’s more to do with the boredom of the driving sections). I find that part quite entertaining. However, the cars don’t go very fast and you soon find yourself losing a little patience.
There are also plenty of cut scenes with our favourite agent getting to know his colleagues in the local sheriffs department, as well as all of the locals, ranging from the normal to the downright bizarre. Normally I’m rather impatient when it comes to cut scenes, but the conversations and the characters are so wonderfully odd. A particular curiosity is the wheelchair bound, weird mask wearing Harry Stewart. Who will only speak via his personal assistant/carer. So says Mr Stewart.
The soundtrack also adds some character to the game as well. If it’s not a haunting acoustic guitar track, it’s some strange lounge jazz music that at times, is louder than the dialogue! This game won’t win everyone over but it really has a cult appeal. Even before it was released, this had cult classic written all over it. It’s definitely for fans of the survival horror genre, but is a less tense fare than the likes of Silent Hill et al. What piqued my interest in this game was it’s similarities to Twin Peaks and that it’s an oddity. I really enjoy it and if the similarities to this game appeal, then you may enjoy this curious little gem too.
Not only is the game value for money (£25 on initial release, less than a tenner these days) but there is plenty to do (collecting character cards, agent trophies) and you will put plenty of hours into the investigation. Don’t expect to whizz through it. This one will take time!
I give Deadly Premonition 7/10
What do you think Zach?