Top 100 Games – 95 – Deadly Premonition

26 Feb

Deadly Premonition
Year: 2010
Genre: Horror/Adventure

Driving along a road outside a remote town in what appears to be north-west America, everything is almost painfully normal. The windscreen wipers gently push water to and fro, headlights illuminate the dull grey evening and an indicator softly ticks. Shattering this serenity is the quietly confident voice of protagonist Francis York Morgan. (Call him York, it’s what everybody calls him) He addresses ‘Zach’ yet his police cruiser is empty bar him, an odd beginning to what becomes ever stranger. York speaks of his love for B-movies, and reveals his interest in grisly murders in small town America to Zach. He enjoyed ‘Tremors’ and finds it quite funny that someone claimed aliens were the perpetrators of a vicious murder. He is impossibly compelling, weaving a bizarre narrative which holds a certain love for the mundane and average. Much like York, the game’s creator, Swery, appears to adore the minutiae of everyday life, and it is this attention to detail which makes Deadly Premonition so unfathomably brilliant.

The indicators and windscreen wipers are but a fragment of the detail on offer. The monologues are so interesting that arriving at the desired location is often a disappointment. This is a creator who wishes to know everything about his world. Each character is, while wholly unusual, very well-realised. There are so many minor characters and talking to each leads to new oddness with every moment. There may not be the complex dialogue trees of the likes of Mass Effect, but the script is delightful in its strangeness. York is the key. His presence elevates everything about Deadly Premonition, from the myriad conversations, to the cut-scenes telling us the games slow burning story, to the occasional outburst of hilarity. The atmosphere too, is bizarrely well put together. It’s in the astonishingly good music, which occasionally enters a scene where it has no place, to great effect. It’s also in the general design of the town. The graphics aren’t amazing, but each location, building and person is intriguing and memorable. The art design is far better than the technology here, and that should always be the case.

There are of course, flaws, the combat is repetitive and the game clock moves a little slowly, but to focus on them would be to miss the entire point of Deadly Premonition. It’s the ‘Lovely useless elements’ as Swery puts it, that make it so special. It’s clear that this is a real labour of love. With a fraction of the budget a high profile release gets, Deadly Premonition has managed to gain a large and loyal fan base. Some excellent fan sites already exist, such as Planet Redwood a great source for any and all information on the game. Swery seems a huge fan of B-movies, and in a sense, this is the first real B-game. A love letter to some other classics like Shenmue, GTA and Resident Evil, yet with a style and personality so much its own that there has never been anything quite matching what Deadly Premonition offers. A cult classic in the movie sense then, and a game likely to become more popular with time, as graphical constraints and occasionally questionable mechanics are ignored in favour of one of the most interesting, compelling and unique pieces of entertainment to grace game consoles.

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