Access Games’ open-world psychological mystery has garnered favour from a certain crowd since its 360 release in 2010 for its Twin Peaks parity, (probably) intentional comedic touches and free roaming. You play special agent Francis York Morgan, a zany fed with an imaginary friend, sent to sleepy old Greenvale to investigate the murder of prom queen-type Anna Graham. You grill the town’s eccentric inhabitants for leads, driving from hotel to diner to lumber mill to complete time-sensitive missions à la Dead Rising 2.
Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut PS3 review
The larger plot arc is shamelessly Lynchian, but the minutiae less so: one mission might involve traipsing around to find a key or a painting; another might throw hordes of supernatural ghouls at you. You’re also in charge of keeping Agent York fed, shaved and laundered, earning bonus cash for doing so. And lucky you: this definitive PS3 version boasts (allegedly) updated graphics, controls and even PS Move support for the true sadists among you.
For the first six(!) hours, you will hate it unequivocally. Here’s why. Graphics fall far below the acceptable benchmark for even a decent PS2 game. Characters flop about in spasmodic animations that have little to do with what they’re saying, which in turn bears no relation to how their lips move. Greenvale, a love letter to Twin Peaks scribbled drunkenly in MS Paint, is a punishingly dull sprawl. Frequently, locations are so far apart that it takes five minutes to drive between them in a car with a glacier’s turning circle. Often you run out of fuel because there’s only one gas station in town, and the map was designed by Satan to annoy you to death.
Combat takes Resi 4’s stand-and-shoot system and feeds it ketamine, so it’s hard to get a dot on enemies’ heads even though they move at a snail’s pace, repeating “I don’t want to die” like Alan Partridge. Initially their contorted figures and shuddering movement are affecting, but Deadly Premonition develops so little from your first fight that all impact soon wears off.
There are Clock Tower moments when you just have to run and hide – which are obviously very welcome – but they don’t fix the otherwise incurable malady of fighting. And I’m not being the least bit hyperbolic when I say the game’s overall audio design is worse than the threat of nuclear war – it sounds like a good portion of it has been plundered from the Windows 95 audio library.
Graphics fall far below the acceptable
benchmark for even a decent PS2 game
A technical marvel this is not, but beneath the detritus lie some good ideas, at least. Open-world survival horror is a scintillating concept, conjuring images of casing out suspects at will, perhaps stumbling upon situations that blow the mystery wide open by chance. The reality’s much grimmer, of course – with so little to do between missions except tedious driving challenges, you often find yourself sleeping through the day to hurry it along.
Whether intentionally shambolic or not, you couldn’t praise the dialogue or story. But there is something about it. It has a unique voice, I get that. It’s not an EA co-op shooter designed in a boardroom, bursting with micro-transactions. And after you clear Episode One, you find its staggering technical incompetence fades away, making it that bit easier to pretend it’s the game you want it to be; that its ideas are realised to a playable level.
There’s a strange fondness you develop for anything you spend a lot of time with: it’s why people always prefer the book to the film. Maybe it’s gaming Stockholm Syndrome that means I don’t utterly despise this. But ‘don’t utterly despise’ isn’t enough. We’re not starved for creativity or eccentricity on PS3 – and this re-release isn’t cheap enough to just muck around with. Your £30 is worth so much more.
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