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You Should Play This: Deadly Premonition

by Preston Dozsa Jun 6
Thumbnail image courtesy of Steam

You Should Play This highlights a game each week that you might not have played when it was first released that is worth adding to your ever-increasing library.

At first glance, Deadly Premonition is an abomination of a game that should not be played.

Graphically, the game looks like it came out in 2002, and that's only when it's at its best. Combat is bland, with your standard pistol feeling like it has as much power as a water gun and melee weapons break after a handful of hits. Often, the acting is shockingly bad and the same sound effects and music will loop on repeat in the roughly 20 hours it takes to see this game through.

So why should you play Deadly Premonition?

Because at the end of the day, Deadly Premonition is one of the most original and out there games since the turn of the millennium and can easily be mistaken for a Twin Peaks video game. When people use the phrase 'so bad it's good,' they're referring to something like Deadly Premonition because despite its numerous faults, it is an eminently entertaining game that succeeds on the strength of its story, characters, and the sheer weirdness of it all.

Deadly Premonition's protagonist is FBI Agent Francis York Morgan, commonly referred to as York, who is investigating the murder of a young woman in the small Washington town of Greenvale. Far from being a normal FBI Agent, York talks to an imaginary alter-ego known as Zach, who routinely dictates his inner thoughts and asks him questions on a regular basis. He even talks to Zach in full view of other people, leading to many moments where people stare at him confused while in the midst of a monologue.

To put it simply, York is insane. He will talk about: the sadism apparent in "The Tom and Jerry Show," share details of horrific murder cases over dinner at the local diner, and make jokes seconds after coming across a new murder scene. Like I said, York is insane, but without him the game would be so much less enjoyable.

Deadly Premonition can be divided into two halves. One half is a survival horror game, where York fights back against zombie like creatures in a way that's akin to Resident Evil 4. There are simple puzzles to solve, and some variety to the weapons that you can use, but much of the difficulty comes from the amount of enemies you will face in a limited area. Plus, the ever-present threat of 'The Raincoat Killer', a supernatural opponent who will show up without warning and will not stop until you are dead, more than effectively maintains the game's sense of horror.

With that said, the survival horror aspects are the weakest part of Deadly Premonition. The strongest part, the game's second half, involves exploring the town of Greenvale. It's an open world where each of the town's residents follows their own schedule, with some businesses and people only accessible during certain times of the day. They follow their own lives, and you just so happen to be an intrusion that disrupts their day to day lives.

During this stage, York can gather clues, talk to the town's residents, and occasionally hep them with their problems. But unlike other open world games, York needs to eat, shave and sleep in order to be a functioning human being, and neglecting those needs means that he will lose health, among other penalties. There are cash rewards for things like shaving and filling your car up with gas, and the game encourages you to explore and get to know the town like the back of your hand.

Some of the situations you find yourself in are downright surreal, having no place except in the strange reality this game depicts. You can play darts at the local bar not by throwing the darts, but by firing them out of a gun. You can drink coffee and pickle juice to stalk characters for days on end, each of whom live their own day to day lives. And there is a 30 foot long dining table at the local hotel where you eat breakfast with the hotel's manager, wherein you converse by shouting at her from the opposite end.

Despite the Steam release being a Director's Cut that touts improved graphics and numerous bug fixes, Deadly Premonition still looks bad and is still filled with bugs. The frame rate struggles to maintain a steady pace, and textures pop in and out almost on a whim. The map is still extremely difficult to navigate, as you cannot stop the map from moving and driving is often an exercise in frustration.

But at a certain point, you begin to overlook the flaws. The soundtrack, which features only a handful of pieces of music that are often completely inappropriate to the situation on screen, begins to grow on you through its surprisingly catchy use of whistling. The weird narrative and eccentric characters combine to create what might just be the funniest game in recent memory, and the gameplay is functional enough that its technical shortcomings can be overlooked. And the final hours of the game are a sight to behold, delivering numerous revelations and gameplay shakeups that are engrossing in design.

There is no other game that comes close to Deadly Premonition's style, and if you're looking for a game that's unlike any other you've played, you should play it.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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