Coffee still tasty even when reheated
“Deadly Premonition—the game so bad that it’s good.”
It’s a statement that’s been uttered countless times about the game that became something of a cult classic here in the States upon its 2010 release. Opinions can be divisive, and we’re all entitled to our own judgments—but those opinions were wrong. Deadly Premonition was, at times, unpolished, awkward, frustrating, misguided, and outdated. What it never was, however, was bad.
Bad games lack redemption, they’re broken beyond repair, or they completely fail at what they try to accomplish. That wasn’t Deadly Premonition. Sure, its gameplay could and should have been better, but its missteps there were made up for in spades in terms of storyline and character. The small American town of Greenvale is a place brimming with life and personality, and FBI special agent Francis York Morgan is so interesting and charming as Deadly Premonition’s main protagonist that he’s easily one of the best new characters of this console generation.
I’d actually forgotten how wonderful a character York was until I returned to Greenvale via Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut—and while he’s only one of the many things that makes Hidetaka “SWERY” Suehiro’s horror drama great, he alone is enough to make you want to play this game. York is intelligent yet innocent, sharp-tongued yet open-minded and accepting. No matter what horrible things happen, he’s always optimistic and easygoing. We don’t have to want to like York, because it’s impossible not to like him—he reassures us that videogame heroes don’t all have to be brooding, macho loners.
Of course, he’s not the only character who brings Greenvale to life. Emily Wyatt, Thomas MacLaine, George Woodman, Harry Stewart—those are just some of the list of residents that make the game special. It’s easy to just interact with them on a base level, seeing the specifics of what the game’s progression wants us to see.
The beauty of Deadly Premonition is that we can dig deeper, learning more not only about those characters, but through them, also about the town itself. Who is Emily when she’s not tagging along on investigations with York? What does Thomas do during his time off? There are tons of little details that are waiting to be found in the game, but they’re only there for people who put out the effort to uncover them. That, I believe, was part of the reason some couldn’t appreciate what Deadly Premonition had to offer: Putting the game through its paces and hitting each storyline note in order, you’re only seeing a slice of the effort and energy put in by the development team.
There’s no denying that the original game had technical issues, however. Control was the classic “tank” style made famous in games such as Resident Evil—games back in an era before we knew how terrible this control scheme really is. Weapon handling tended to be awkward at times, something that really, really sucked against certain enemies. Various other issues persisted throughout, issues that didn’t stop Deadly Premonition from being an enjoyable game, but which did stop it from being the game it could have been.
When the announcement came down of a director’s cut for Deadly Premonition, I was overjoyed. First, it would be nice to finally see an English-language release for the game on the PlayStation 3. In Japan, both HD consoles got the original; when Ignition Entertainment brought it over to North America, they decided to only give us the Xbox 360 version. More important than that, updates to gameplay could elevate Deadly Premonition to a level where people might finally give it the appreciation that it deserves.
Now for the harsh reality: Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut is both better and worse than the original experience. As opposed to the game’s sub-HD resolution on the Xbox 360, we now get to play Deadly Premonition in high definition. While the difference isn’t the complete graphical makeover some might have been expecting, better textures and improved polygon models do make for a finer visual experience. At the same time, these upgrades bring with them an unpleasant side effect: framerates that aren’t nearly as stable as we saw on the Xbox 360. The framerate almost never dips to a point where it negatively impacts gameplay, but it’s still a disappointing aspect of the Director’s Cut. Also a shame? The smattering of audio problems, from weird volume levels on the audio mixing to random glitches and vocal clips that sound like they’re lower quality than they should be.
Given the minimal impact the new included storyline segments offer to the overall narrative, and the removal of optional difficulty levels for a one-size-fits-all average difficulty—a decision I’m still mixed on—the balance between the improvements in visuals and the downsides to the Director’s Cut’s audio and video could have left this release feeling disappointing. Ah, but there’s a big footnote attached to that statement: the controls. Gone is York’s impersonation of a piece of heavy war machinery, as now he’ll simply run in whatever direction you press the left analog stick. And that right stick, the one that controls the camera? Moving it around locks the camera to wherever you position it, instead of snapping back to the default position the original Deadly Premonition camera seemed to love so much.
In theory, the changes made to control here are pretty minimal. In practice, on a gameplay level, they made a gigantic difference in my enjoyment of the experience. This is how the game should have always played—and I’m definitely on the bandwagon of “better late than never.”
Sadly, as a complete package, this isn’t what I wanted from Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut. There’s a chance that a future patch could come along, and the framerate and audio issues could be cleared up (or at least improved). If that were to happen, then this would be, without question, the definitive version of SWERY’s much-beloved masterpiece. Until that day happens, however, it’s hard to recommend that those who already own the original Xbox 360 version run out and double-dip. On the other hand, let me be clear: The downsides of Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut are unfortunate, but they never tarnish what elevated Deadly Premonition to the superb experience that it was in the first place. If you’re a PS3 owner who’s never played the game before, then you’ve finally been given a chance to find out why many of us fell in love with the story of Francis York Morgan—and you’ll be able to do so with enhanced graphics and drastically improved controls.
|Developer: Access Games • Publisher: Rising Star Games • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 04.30.2013|
Framerate and audio issues keep Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut from being the true special edition that I’m sure creator Hidetaka “SWERY” Suehiro wanted us to have, but its improved graphics and control will bring joy to those PS3 owners who have been waiting to experience this modern-era cult classic.
|The Good||Storylines and characters that never stop being a joy to experience.|
|The Bad||Technical issues still mar this attempt at polishing the game.|
|The Ugly||Greenvale’s turkey sandwiches.|
|Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut is available exclusively on PlayStation 3.|