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Friday, 6 March 2015

Deadly Premonition.

Deadly Premonition.

This is another one that I'm surprised I haven't already written about. Perhaps my reason for not writing about it is that technically, I didn't play this one. My willpower being weak when it comes to awful control situations, I swiftly handed it over to a colleague who had played it for me while I watched. 

Deadly Premonition is a survival horror game produced by game developer SWERY and his game development company Access Games, about a young FBI agent, Francis York Morgan (please, call him York. That's what everyone calls him) who has travelled to the rural town of Greenvale to investigate the murder of a young woman, only to find that her death is just one part of the sinister forces at play in the town. The game is massively polarising, with some people viewing it as absolutely terrible while some people adore it.

I actually rented it intending to be one of the people who hates it, but gosh, did it drag me kicking and screaming to the side of people who love it. 

What a stylish raincoat.

I mentioned a little ways up that the controls are awful, and I stand by that: They are so bad that I found them unplayable, and even though my colleague took to them like a duck to water, she also found them quite difficult to deal with at times. Not helping matters is that the game also throws in quicktime events and the most bizarrely hyper-realistic driving gameplay I've ever seen. None of these things are good, and I think it's probably safe to say that nobody is going around claiming that Deadly Premonition's gameplay is its core strength.

But actually, the story did start dragging me in pretty quickly, largely because of my investment in the cast. Greenvale is populated by a host of interesting characters, and it's always fun to interact with them and try to figure out whodunnit. There's a time system, where characters will be situated in different places at different times of the day or night, which is a little inconvenient but does help to give the impression that this is a living, breathing place. 

Not only that, but our leads, York and Emily, are both pretty fun and interesting. York's general oddness and strange behaviour contrasts well with Emily's tougher, more straightforward nature, and the game devotes a decent amount of time to them interacting, without ever letting it intrude for long enough to drag the game down (looking at you, Final Fantasy and your ten-plus minute cutscenes).

Not your best photo, York.

The murder plotline is very well-placed, developing quickly and handily providing the player with several early revelations with which to start theorising on the identity of the killer, and the game takes pains to quickly tie it in with the supernatural-goings-on plot. Possibly the credit for that can't entirely be placed at the foot of Access Games: The plot does, apparently, draw heavily from US television show Twin Peaks, which I've personally never watched. There are a lot of pretty unexpected plot twists, too.

It veers off into silliness often and with wild abandon, but very charmingly so - and the game never makes any pretence of being a serious, gritty or dark game (and thank god it doesn't, I'm sick of serious, gritty, dark games). If anything, the over-dramatic sound effects and the ridiculous voices of the monsters in the game's prologue should tip everyone off that this game is more humour than horror.

The humour is actually pretty funny too - and the horror actually pretty scary. A lot of that is the standard survival horror guff, and scaring people with a video game is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel: As a player, you identify with the character you're playing (after all, when we get a game over, we always say 'I died' not 'Doctor Gordon Freeman died due to my inadequate puppetmastery'), so it's a lot easier to produce a fear reaction than with, say, a film or a book. Nevertheless, the game deserves credit for that, especially as it will often juxtapose comedy and horror together without either being diminished.

Oh, look. An upside down peace symbol.

(I've seen suggestions that this game is a satire. I'd believe it, but I'd also absolutely believe that it's intended as a serious survival horror.)

It's easy to see why it's so polarising. After all, for a video game to have such deeply clunky, flawed gameplay is a fatal flaw - but on the other hand, it excels at story, and its wackiness is very engaging and enjoyable. It's not a game I'd be happy to play, but I'll always be happy to watch other people play it. 

There are apparently plans for a sequel, but nothing solid has been announced yet. Nevertheless, if one were to be announced, that would definitely be motivation enough for me to buy a Playstation 4. Also, a train ticket for my colleague.

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