Gavin Pugh - A Videogame Programming Blog

Deadly Premonition – A flawed gem?

24 March, 2010 at 12:33pm | New Games

Deadly Premonition

Back when I last had a little spurt of writing in this blog, I really wanted to talk about ‘Pathologic’.

An awesome, unique PC game certainly unlike any other game I’ve played before. Its survival horror pushed to extremes. The development house is based in Russia; Ice Pick Lodge.

I’ve much respect for the game, I tip my hat to a fantastic achievement. My sole disappointment was just that only few people got to experience this gem. Maybe when I play through a second time as a different character: ‘Haruspicus’, I’ll get the gumption to write about it to convince the small readership of this blog to give it a try. 🙂 Knowing that day will likely never come, please read this review:

It’s what led me to give it a try in the first place. It’s an old game, so go easy on the graphical criticism… Speaking of which!

Deadly Premonition – A ‘B Game’, as in ‘B Movie’?

Aye, not the prettiest game on the eyes given we’re talking an Xbox 360 game. But really, it’s another time to ignore that. How I link this to Pathologic isn’t too direct, the games share some similar elements in how they expand the survival aspect of gameplay. They’re both very unique games, very different to the usual AAA fare.

The fuss over its review scores is what led to me noticing the game. I suspect all the furor over it has led to it getting nice sales. Oh, by the way; did I mention that Deadly Premonition is a new release and priced at only $20? Unfortunately European guys, it’s not released out there yet and the US version is apparently region-locked. It’s quite a shame.

What I’m about to write about is free of spoilers. With a game like this I really wanted to avoid reading too far down into reviews. I’ll respect anyone reading this by attempting to just lure you into buying it and not ruin any of the nice surprises in the game. I haven’t got too far into the game, I’m only a little after the investigation of the crime scene. Probably only three to four hours in.

First Impressions

When I first fired up the game it was what I was expecting. Nice initial cutscene to set the mood. The devs have their names flash up during the opening sequence too, kind of like COD4 in a way. I was a little surprised to see that the devs are all Japanese; I didn’t remember reading that in the reviews that I skimmed. Things fall into place now; I can’t see a Western dev attempting a game like this. It’s ‘M-rated’ too. If this were a big budget game I’m sure the publishers would have them water it down to a ‘T-teen’ rating, and market it as a CSI-style game. Thank god that didn’t happen! I’m real curious as to how long the game was in development, does anyone know?

Deadly Premonition

My first warning when picking up the game is that you will be a little frustrated with how gameplay starts out. It’s not long before you’re dealing with combat. Yes, there is combat in this game but it doesn’t seem to be the main focus of the title at all. If you get the game and give up whilst you’re in that first part of combat; you’ll be missing out for sure. Persevere.

Also, one big tip I can give which didn’t seem to be mentioned in the manual, nor on-screen is that holding ‘B’ and another face button together will speed up the text scrolling. You can also press start to skip any scrolling text. The game has a number of rough edges which frustrate me as a coder. The sort of things that if I were set loose on the code for a week, I’d have fixed immediately. Here’s a few that come to mind:

Minor annoyances:

  • Animations such as opening doors begin to feel too long, and are unskippable.
  • Cutscenes can’t be paused, or at least I haven’t found a way how. The guide button doesn’t pause them unfortunately.
  • The pause menu is a little clunky and slow
  • The world map doesn’t zoom out far enough. It also doesn’t appear on the HUD during combat at all, which is frustrating.
  • Saving is a little arduous. If autosave is enabled, when I use a telephone to save the game, I shouldn’t get a bunch of confirmation UI screens.
  • Collision. A couple of times I’ve got caught on a ninety degree concave edge of a room. The player control should be a little more forgiving and push you around if you’re close to the edge.
  • They spell ‘Turkey Sandwich’ as ‘Turky Sandwich'[sic] at one point in the game! Unforgivable! 🙂

Wow! I’m doing the game lots of favours here eh? Who’d want to play this mess? Well, the game is a breath of fresh air in 360-land. It’s awesomeness I simply do not have the superlatives for. Here are some things I think rock about this game:

Premonition of greatness:

  • Voiceovers. These really shine. Compared to say the Bethesda games: Fallout 3 and Oblivion… There’s so much charm to it, and it really highlights how soulless the VO on those games sound sometimes (they’re great games of course, just one criticism I have of them). The game treads a fine line between comedy and horror, and the style fits it extremely well.
  • The music. It’s fantastic! It’s simple stuff and I haven’t heard many different tunes but the cues alongside the cutscenes, and the way it sometimes drowns out the dialog… It just feels right. The main protagonist is a little ‘special’, so I see it as him drifting off into la-la land when it happens.
  • The story. It’s a pretty gripping one. Despite the bat-shit insaneness where the game steps into comedy, the storyline is always intriguing. You actually care about what happens, and moreso you’re wanting to see what the slightly insane twists on what’s coming next could be.
  • Survival elements. I like that you need to make sure that your car has topped up petrol. I like that you need to sleep and stave off your hunger. Apparently too you have to change clothing as the days progress otherwise people start to think you smell. I liked the similar mechanics in Pathologic too. Where on something like GTA: San Andreas they can become annoying; here these mechanics suit a survival horror game perfectly.
  • Open-world gameplay. Near the beginning of the game you’ll meet up with some locals who want you to drive them somewhere. You can leave them at any time, and when you meet up with them again later they’ll be pissed at you for leaving them waiting. The cutscene transitions during open-world gameplay are pretty cool too, big thumbs up.
  • It’s GTA meets Resident Evil, meets Maniac Mansion, meets CSI, meets Criminal Minds (unsub!), meets Spaced, meets Twin Peaks. What’s not to love about that?
  • Laughter, fun, entertainment. It’s easy to forget sometimes that games can be fun! Take some serious gruff-voiced guy, who’s built like a brick-outhouse. Navigate him through a repetitive dull environment; it’s what the kids seem to like now. The vibe of this game is different, wholly unique; it’s something I’d recommend to anyone who thinks that games are an artform.

Deadly Premonition

One third and final list now. From what I remember of when I skimmed reviews, there were a number of things that were mentioned as negatives that I really think are no big deal at all. Granted I’m only a small portion through the game, but I have encountered and seen pretty much all the things that have been complained about. Whether the charm lasts is another matter, but I feel like I’ll get my money’s worth out of this game for sure.

Don’t you love journos?:

  • The graphics. C’mon, this is a budget title. The characters in my opinion are above the quality of most PS2 games. The outside environments probably on par with early PS2-era games, the interiors look much better. Go have a wank over the latest Final Fantasy if pretty scenery is what does it for you.
  • The combat, the camera, the controls. They take a little getting used to; by the second section of combat I was a dab hand with the FBI issue shooter. The complaints here are probably because the controls don’t match the ‘generic third-person game’ controls. Whatever; it’s not hard to get to grips with them.
  • The sparse environment. There are actually a lot of residents in Greenvale. The story though is of a town which had a boom a few decades back due to a buoyant lumber trade. The town now is relatively empty since those days. The hospital is too big for what the town needs; the hotel is almost empty. Sounds perfect for survival horror?
  • Terrible writing, terrible story, terrible voiceovers. You must have really missed the point.

So there, go play it. It’s only $20!  If you don’t like it, go trade it for a grey and brown shooter; there’s plenty sitting in Gamestop. 🙂


  • Fidel Gashtro says:

    “Go have a wank over the latest Final Fantasy if pretty scenery is what does it for you.”

    Here, Here!

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