Tuesday, November 26, 2013

'Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut' Review: Bad Coffee


It's been over 3 years since DEADLY PREMONITION came out and polarised the critics like no other game has before. Enough people liked the game enough to warrant a director's cut, complete with extended scenes and added narrator, as well as earning Hidetaka Suehiro, aka SWERY, a cult following. Just what is the deal with this game and why is it so divisive?

A young woman has been the victim of a grizzly murder in the small town of Greenvale. The murder has rocked the town's inhabitants to their very core, with some quite frankly having a break down. An FBI agent named Francis York Morgan is called in to assume control of the case and find the killer. However, our hero finds more than he bargained for as the town hold many secrets of it's own beyond this killing. Though with the help of some psychic abilities of his own and the local police, our hero sets out to find the truth.

Does this plot sound familiar? Well it should if you have even heard of the David Lynch series "Twin Peaks". It's uncanny. From a mysterious Red room that doesn't exist in the real world, a gruff no nonsense local cop who helps the FBI to a crazy old lady who constantly carries around something. I could go on! It's not just similar it's nearly identical and quite frankly a rip-off.

Having said that, the story has it's merits. It's definitely very weird, there are a few scenes which can be downright unsettling and very memorable. The only problem is that it takes a long time for anything of interest to happen whatsoever. The end of episodes usually have the most entertaining scenes in them, though 90% of the time it is a tireless slog.

Another issue is that the gameplay feels totally separate to the story. Every so often you'll fight strange zombie like creatures that seem to exist only in Morgan's head. An explanation is never particularly given for these segments, while a flashback explains some elements there's no reason as to why they keep showing up. It's as if the game just wants to throw obstacles at you but can't be bothered backing them up with context.

Furthermore, for a game that insists in a fairly epic 30+ hour running time, there seems to be little to no polish when it comes to dialogue. If you take a drink every time Morgan introduces himself with the same animation, you'll be very merry by the end of the first episode.. Also, an interesting aspect of Morgan, the fact that he has an imaginary friend, is never brought up, despite the fact that he talks to him in-front of people. He does bring it up eventually, and it's even quite a sweet scene, but that's almost 12 hours into the game. Taking your time with a couple episodes of a TV show? Fine. But over 10 hours of game time? That's a bit much.

In the interest of not passing my word limit, I should probably stop myself there, though again trust me I could go on. Suffice to say that this is a boring game. The occasional moments of interest are amidst a bog of tedious boredom. Playing with a friend will bring enough laughs as you can simply pass the controller back and forth, but playing alone is an endurance test.

Many like to argue that to make an effective horror game has to limit or disable the player somehow, to bring about more tension. While I don't disagree, I do think there is a difference between "limited controls" and "bad controls". Morgan handles like a battle tank and his cars like a three wheeled trolly.

Things get worse when you take your gun out. Aiming is stiff and bizarrely limited, with the auto aim being incredibly unreliable. Often times you'll have to run to or from the enemy to actually hit them or walk up a ramp just so you can be at the same level as something you want to shoot. It's dreadful. After a while, and in an attempt to shorten my run time, I simply decided to say "bother this nonsense" and charge through the enemies to the finish line. It's easy enough as the zombies are too slow to stop you and lose interest quickly.

There is a nugget of a good idea in this mess. Hold down a button and Morgan will hold his breath, making him invisible to the enemies. No idea why this works but it's still neat as you have a stamina bar that runs down when you use it. In another game it could be a cooler concept.

Speaking of good ideas, here's one that nobody likes; Quick time events! While I don't mind them myself, this game takes things to new levels of terrible. Is it because the buttons rarely work? Is it because you have to do the same chase and hide sequences over and over? Yes to both. I checked the Xbox version and it seems to work fine there so it seems to be a PC only issue.

As mentioned before, I was unable to finish this game. This is due to a QTE near the very end of the game, which has you running down a circular staircase from some fat monster thing. I could dodge his attacks, I could even walk a few steps after leaving the pause menu but by god he wouldn't run. Not even a little. He just stop there waiting for death. I tried to fix it but to no avail, plus it seems that the visionary SWERY has no plans to release a patch anytime soon. So yeah, avoid this game.

One thing I really don't understand is why this had to be an open-word game. What benefit does driving around this barren, boring world bring? Despite there being little in the world, why are the maps so awkward to read resulting in taking a wrong turn a few too many times? As well as traversing the world, you must also keep your hero well rested and fed, or else he'll start losing health. Also be sure to wash your clothes unless you want flies to start swarming around you.

There is a whole lot of WHY in the design of this game. To the extent that I had trouble playing due to laughing too much. I honestly feel that I'm not doing the game any justice with this review; it is truly a train-wreck, from top to bottom. The only enjoyment you can get from it is at it's expense.

The music has it's moments of bizarre faciniation but apart from that the presentation is horrid. There is no art style here, just bog standard character models with awkward stiff animations. While some of the characters can actually be quite charming the acting is very awkward and possibly lost in translation. Everything just feels second rate, looking more like a late PS2 game than anything else. Music cues and sound effects cut out at a moments notice and awkwardly overlap, though I did enjoy the squirrels at the beginning that had Monkey sound effects.

This is just such a horrible PC port or a dreadful game. I'm not even talking about the 720 resolution that the PC master-race demands or the surprising lack of controller support (wasn't this an Xbox game?). Expect the game to bug out often or just downright not work. Even if it were to work, the occasional moments of interest aren't enough here with such horrid game-play and presentation. The only enjoyment to get here is to get some friends around the Xbox 360 version and have a good laugh. If that was Swery's goal then mission accomplished.

Were it on the Xbox, the score might be slightly higher, but taking the PC version on it's own terms, it's not playable.

THE FINAL WORD: Awful, just awful.

Editor's note: due to an unfortunate, game-breaking bug, the reviewer was unable to finish the game.
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