I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you're familiar with the game Bionic Commando for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Not the excellent remake for modern systems, or the 3D sequel, both developed by GRIN. No, I'm talking about the original version, because it's extremely similar to Deadly Premonition in one key way. Both feature crippling design flaws that result from poor documentation.
It's time to take a look at Deadly Premonition's claim of being the first true "open world" horror videogame. A claim that, while technically true, may mislead people about what kind of game they're going to be playing.
The amazing thing—and I'm almost sad that I'm trying to keep this spoiler-light for the time being, because I'd love to expound on the psychological element right now—is that there are clear reasons offered by the game's story for both York's psychoses and the clear delineation of roles between the two personalities.
With the first interminable combat sequence left in the dust, it's time to a actually start meeting other characters in Deadly Premontion. But before that, let's take a look at a detail that captivated me the first time I played the game, and interests me still—a sequence of no seeming value or consequence.
Is that Deadly Premonition features combat. Any combat at all. Everything bad that has been said about this game’s combat is most likely true—even the farthest-flung flights of exaggerated embellishment. Yes, killing enemies in this game is as unbelievably frustrating and painful as trying to extract your genitals from a saw-toothed vise made out of acid.
This is York Morgan—he'll be our Agent Dale Cooper for the remainder of the running time. That's not to say he's entirely derivative of Twin Peaks' hero—while it's true that the basic idea of the character (lone FBI Agent sent to solve a brutal crime who's unafraid of using metaphysical reasoning when faced with mysteries) owes its existence to Twin Peaks, his specifics, and the degree to which he embraces the bizarre demonstrate clearly that the game's writer was also a fan of the X-Files. Over the course of the game we'll definitely bear witness to some of Fox Mulder's characteristic glibness in the face of the bizarre and obscene, as well as Albert Rosenfeld's famous lack of social niceties.
My first encounter with Deadly Premonition came when I spotted it on the shelves of a local video store. Suffice to say, the cover art stood out from the crowd. In a field of sports games, militaristic shooters, space marines, and the occasional swordsman v. dragon, a hooded person screaming as blood runs down their face counts as something of an anomaly. The axeman, naturally, sealed the deal. I rented the game immediately, and started playing it later that night. Just two hours in I'd already decided that I had to purchase my own copy, which I proceeded to do the next day.
Jim Sterling gave Deadly Premonition a score of 10 points out of a possible 10, easily the highest score the game received among major gaming review sites. In his review, he makes it plain that this game does not deserve that score in any "objective" sense. The graphics are dated, the gameplay is limited, and its systems pay too much attention to irrelevant details. This is to say nothing of its absurd plot and characters. In comparison to almost any other game, Deadly Premonition is awful, but within the bounds of a certain kind of sensibility, that does not preclude it from also being good. Sontag identifies that sensibility as Camp, and it's an idea worth thinking about in connection to games.
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