At what point does a game become so bad that it’s good? You know, that level of campiness that brings people to B-movies over and over? There are plenty of games released these days that are just plain bad (Mercenaries 2 comes to mind), but can games achieve that same “so bad it’s good” status that films often do? Yes, of course they can! Deadly Premonition happens to be a textbook case of that.
I might as well just get this stuff out of the way: let’s talk about why this is not a good game. For the most part, Deadly Premonition’s shortcomings lie in its mechanics. First of all, the visuals. This game doesn’t even look like it belongs in this console generation. Lackluster graphics by no means make or break a game (Saints Row 2 looked pretty poor and was one of the best games of 2008), but it’s important to keep in mind that Deadly Premonition came out early this year. That’s right, 2010. Visuals alone, this would have been a decent title for the previous console generation. The second the game starts, you’ll notice the opening cutscene filled with gross, blurry textures.
How else does Deadly Premonition reveal that it’s not quite up to par? The controls are a big part of the problem. Considering the great progress third person shooters have made in the past couple years (Resident Evil 4, Dead Space, Uncharted 2), Deadly Premonition is largely a step backward. Off a ledge. Into a several hundred foot crevice. The game is essentially a third person shooter following the “run, then stand still and shoot” gameplay system. However, the controls are mapped all weird to the controller. It simply doesn’t feel right to press the A button to fire your raised gun, especially since using shoulder buttons has become such a mainstay. There’s also a lock-on system that automatically targets enemies’ chests, but it just feels wonky and you’re generally always better off aiming yourself anyway.
The strange (and severely outdated) movement and turning mechanics feel like they don’t belong in an era where the genre of survival horror has been absorbed by the genre of action. The random quick time events can be frustrating until you get used to the patterns they establish, and when to expect them. The camera is (for the most part) player-controlled, yet it auto centers back on the character once you let off the stick. I don’t know if some people like that, but it’s something that bothers me.
Strangest of all, the camera will randomly switch to overhead in three or four specific spots in the game. There’s no reason for this as it’s not really showing you anything or creating tension. Even worse is that when the camera suddenly changes to overhead, the controls switch to full-on classic Resident Evil tank controls. It comes out of nowhere and is absolutely unnecessary. Why they decided to do this completely baffles me.
So then why play Deadly Premonition? Because it’s freaking awesome! It’s charming, it’s unique, it’s quirky, and it’s weird. In being a truly bad game, it finds its strength elsewhere and provides you with an experience that you’re unlikely to get in any other game. If you’re still wondering what, exactly, Deadly Premonition is (and have managed to avoid the Internet hype it’s achieved), just ask yourself what else is freaking awesome, charming, unique, quirky, and weird. If you answered Twin Peaks, you’ve got it. Deadly Premonition is pretty much just Twin Peaks. It’s low budget, bastardized Twin Peaks, but nevertheless it’s the same thing. It stars an eccentric FBI agent coming to a small rural town to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. Coffee? Check. Cowboy-hat-wearing rural sheriff? Check. Cast of incredibly odd characters? Check. There are many more ways to compare the two but you get the idea.
In its (somewhat poor) mimic of Twin Peaks is where Deadly Premonition really finds itself and provides an absolutely crazy and enjoyable experience. You don’t need to be familiar with the Twin Peaks show to realize why Deadly Premonition is fun but it does certainly help.
The game takes place in real time, offering you the time you need to explore the town and surrounding wilderness, meet characters, embark on side quests, and find collectables. Simply driving around and listening to the main character talk to himself about movies is entertaining on its own. Every character in the game is unique and, at the very least, amusing. Being so heavily inspired from Twin Peaks, the story is pretty decent as well. I found myself wanting to play more so that I could see how much more ridiculous things would get, and how the main character would react.
There are also shooting segments. That about sums them up: “They exist.” They are unremarkable, repetitive, sometimes long, and often boring. The enemies are stupid and numerous, but you’ll at least get some laughs out of how they move and talk. Don’t get discouraged by the shooting segment at the start of the game. Deadly Premonition’s sweet center is found with the exploration, story, and characters you encounter during your investigation.
It’s very difficult to describe Deadly Premonition and make it not sound completely awful. The game is good in how bad it is, and beyond that it has a lot of charm. For example, the Amazon description for the game states: “More than 30 unique NPCs.” At first I laughed at this as a selling point for a game. Having played the game, I now realize that this really is a good reason to look into Deadly Premonition. The game is just plain weird and in the weirdness it finds a very unique style and charm that you won’t find anywhere else. Besides, at a $15 retail price, it’s well worth the price of admission.