If you were to prance up to a young woman who fancies herself to be a hardcore gamer and videogame enthusiast, praise her for her pink kitten-heeled footwear and the stylish nature of her hair’s sun-kissed glow, then ask what she thinks about the current state of the gaming industry, she would probably reply, “It’s pretty cool, I guess, but I wish there was a bit more innovation and less men-with-guns-flexing-and-blasting-and-tea-bagging-other-men-with-guns. I mean, I wish developers would take more chances and create something totally different and weird! Like a virtual romantic comedy with kittens and stylish headphones and side quests with optional kissing in a garden maze and – screw it. Just give me more guns and explosions! ”
While a lot of hardcore gamers agree that the majority of games, or the games that benefit from prolific advertising and outrageous sales figures, are generic but fun facsimiles of multiplayer military shooters, there are games that sneak beneath the advertising radar and offer a balls-to-the-brick-wall experience so bizarre that you’ll question whether your shy roommate laced your pre-game Hot Pocket with hallucinogens. From the disturbing opening title sequence to the satisfying epilogue, Deadly Premonition is one of those games.
Deadly Premonition is an open-world, third-person psychological murder mystery/comedic-horror romp in which your synapses fire for and control the role of Francis York Morgan, an F.B.I. agent who is sent to the small town of Greenvale to investigate the brutal murder of the young Anna Graham. An enigma to an extraordinary extent, York (it’s what he prefers to be called, yo) shows an odd interest in the case due to the ritualistic manner in which the victim’s body is discovered: she’s propped naked in a tree with her arms extended in a manner akin to crucifixion. To make this scene even MORE interesting, red seeds are scattered about the corpse as a morbid trademark for the killer’s signature work.
Now, all of this sounds pretty intense up to this point, right? Yet this plot synopsis isn’t even the craziest or most interesting aspect of the adventure! We’ve got creepy dream sequences wherein twin children deliver vague hints and riddles about the case while head-bobbing on a sofa that’s located amidst a forest hued in red. We’ve got a protagonist, York, who voices every thought, even in the company of townsfolk, to an imaginary friend within his head named Zack, without so much as an “Ummm, who the hell are you talking to?” from anyone within punching distance. And we’ve got an antagonist, aptly glorified as The Raincoat Killer, who, with axe-blade dragging on the concrete as he lumbers, stalks the wits out of your dress suit as you profile a crime scene. These peculiarities mentioned are an enjoyable form of artistic chaos that’s brought to cohesion by their unified strangeness, oddities that aren’t delivered to us without a few technical flaws.
Last gen graphics, stilted character models, graphical pop-in, a frame rate that drops to its knees and slows whenever it rains or whenever there are too many enemies groaning on screen, atrocious vehicles that have the top speed of “take your time, honey” and the turning radius of a school bus caught in a snow drift, and an uninspired over-the-shoulder shooting mechanic — these technical defects, against all my rationale and experience as a gamer, did little to subtract from my enjoyment in solving this murder mystery. In some ways, these flaws add a decrepit, antiquated charm to the narrative, an unpredictable, captivating story with characters so likeable, peculiar, and multifaceted that you’ll put up with the biggest graphical glitch and gameplay hiccup just so you can laugh and deliberate by their side while wondering, secretly, who will be the next to die. That, in itself, is pretty bizarre.