A good game, sadly, a terrible port
For quite some time now, serial killers across the United States of America have been putting red tree seeds into the mouths of young women and displaying their dead bodies in the shape of the Algiz rune (ᛉ), sometimes referred to as the “life rune”. The most recent case in the (fictional) town of Greenvale, Washington is no different. Anna Graham, an 18-year-old teenager dreaming of making it big in the city, was brutally murdered, her tongue bitten out, her carcass disemboweled, and then hung up on a tree. This calls FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan to the scene. Though an expert in homicide cases, this eccentric investigator, who only confides in his imaginary partner Zach, proceeds to turn the entire town upside down with his outspoken nature and unconventional methods.
About the Game
Deadly Premonition is a game with an outright cult following, but also, sadly, a rather problematic PC port. Its initial development started in 2004, when it was introduced as Rainy Woods, but had to be halted in 2007. Eventually, production continued and it was released as Red Seeds Profile (レッドシーズプロファイル) in Japan and as Deadly Premonition in the West in 2010. By that time, several of its graphic assets already looked outdated, which surprisingly works in the title’s favor. The uncanny visuals, stellar framing, awkward animations, and at times strange voiceover all contribute to a slightly eerie atmosphere, whereas the funny dialogs and outright hilarious sound effects alleviate the mood just enough to not take the game too seriously.
The whole production was also so strongly influenced by David Lynch’s and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks (1990–1991) that it can feel like playing a video game adaptation. The series, like Deadly Premonition, takes place in a small, seemingly idyllic U.S. American town where an FBI agent investigates a homicide case of a young girl and, in doing so, unravels a deep and dark secret surrounding the inhabitants while also engaging with ominous entities. This game even goes so far as to include that agent’s passion for coffee, his other-worldly ideas, his weird mannerisms, the red room, and talking to a person who isn’t there (Diane in the series, Zach in the game). In its original design, when the game was still called Rainy Woods, “the Man from Another Place” (MIKE) also made an appearance, but was later on turned into the twins, Isaac and Isaiah. In so far, Deadly Premonition, directed by Hidetaka Suehiro (末弘秀孝, aka SWERY65), feels like an homage to Lynch’s series, albeit with some prominent Japanese characteristics and tropes.
The most intriguing bit about the setting and plot is that every one of the characters, apart from agent York, is a potential suspect. It’s now his job to talk to them, explore the town of Greenvale, and puzzle the pieces of evidence together to slowly but surely unmask the perpetrator. Suehiro is no Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie, though generally his direction and mixture of the classic detective story with horrific visions of a demonic dimension are a delight to follow and allow players to draw their own conclusions. Still, as mesmerizing as Deadly Premonition’s plot might be, as standard is its action gameplay. According to the director himself, the combat sequences came as an afterthought to assure that it would sell well in the West. This shows. Anyone familiar with gunplay in the first Resident Evil (1996 ongoing) titles will quickly recognize it reappearing here and will not be surprised when the game unlocks the inevitable rocket launcher.
Despite the Director’s Cut being perpetually stuck on easy difficulty and York never running out of bullets, thanks to his always ready SIG Sauer P226 pistol with infinite ammunition, the game manages to develop suspense-filled moments: I loved the sudden split screen portions in Deadly Premonition, where one side showed the killer chasing the protagonist while the other showed York trying to get away. These were ingenious. Sadly, they were then quickly brought down again whenever York had to take up arms. The final boss fight especially is very bland gameplaywise and feels like it does not belong storywise. Furthermore, just like combat, driving too seems to have not been a priority during production.
I’ve never been particularly good at steering cars in Grand Theft Auto (1997 ongoing) or Saints Row (2006 ongoing), but maneuvering any vehicle in Greenvale is right out frustrating. They all behave like empty matchboxes on an unsmooth icy surface. Especially the upgrades will make it harder to drive in a straight line; and even if one manages to do so, there are invisible obstacles that will cause the vehicle to get stuck or abruptly flip around by 180° either vertically or horizontally. Although that should have been reason enough to stop playing, I just could not do it.
The lame combat and frustrating driving could be off-putting, but Deadly Premonition right out shines through its framing and dialogs. Following York’s interactions with the Greenvalians quickly captivates players similar to how well written novels or great movies do it. Players can engage with other characters by either solving puzzles or doing some fetch quests for them. Through this, they not only learn more about the people of the small town, but also receive helpful items, like Emily’s weather doll that replenishes health, or George’s handheld transceiver that allows York to fast travel. What’s more, all characters have their daily routines with some side quests only being doable under certain weather conditions and during set hours. Thankfully, beds and cigarettes forward time, while The Tree of Anna changes the weather, which should help players get the conditions they need. Additionally, York can feel hungry and sleepy, needs to shave, can run out of breath, aside from his clothes starting to smell if he wears them for too long. At first, he may sound like a high maintenance Tamagotchi (1997 – 2014), but these mechanics won’t bother players at all. Food and shelter are everywhere to be found and so are bathrooms and wardrobes.
The PC Port
The Xbox 360 release of Deadly Premonition had some issues which the Director’s Cut tried to address and improve upon. The more notable changes are higher visual and audio fidelity, York no longer stopping mid-walk and turning around while using the stairs, a grandfather–granddaughter frame narrative, updated controls, as well as a polished user interface (UI). Sadly, the PC port of this cut suffers greatly under several issues, which buyers should know about beforehand.
First of all, getting the game to work can be quite a chore and it won’t run on many a machine. I played this on a 32-bit, Windows Vista Home Premium, Intel Core 2 CPU, Nvidia GeForce 9500 GT, 3070 MB RAM, DirectX 11 and I know that it runs on a Lenovo G50-80E5 laptop with Windows 10 on it. Despite that, if Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut (2013) starts, it will greet players with a lack of graphical options and a 1280×720 pixel resolution with washed out colors. During sunny days in Greenvale, everything looks almost as if it had been filmed in sepia. Apart from that, the game occasionally struggles to keep a steady 30 fps. The situation became worrisome when, after fishing out some documents in Episode 3, Chapter 17 and heading out to Harry’s mansion, Deadly Premonition started to suffer greatly with the frame rate dropping down and staying around 9 fps with my peer’s Lenovo laptop heating up from a temperature of 41°C (105,8°F) to 105°C (221°F). Neither verifying the integrity of the game cache through the Steam client, nor rebooting the game, nor turning the machine off and on again helped, and the situation stayed this way up until entering the Galaxy of Terror pub in Episode 3, Chapter 20. The only way the story could be continued at that time was to hurry to some objective, save, shut down the game, wait, start playing again, save, and so on.
As I highly doubt that these temperatures are healthy for any home computer, I will already state here that the PC port of Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut is not recommended.
Other bugs included one where the game had to be restarted, because a key item disappeared from the inventory, another where weapons could not be selected, York walking through a door heading towards Polly’s room in the Great Deer Yard Hotel and falling through the floor, the character of Quint driving be- instead of inside his car and glitching in and out of Richard’s trailer, the game crashing whenever trying to leave the A&G Diner in Episode 1, Chapter 9, Nick Cormack’s car not moving during Episode 2, Chapter 12, and frequent crashes throughout. One method to reduce the likability of the last one is, of course, to play the game in compatibility mode, but that increases loading times to almost a minute and it does not help against Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut’s memory leak, which will inadvertently cause a crash sooner or later anyway. The game also comes with previous DLC included, but despite selecting them in the menu, they will often not be activated in-game, which is a minor letdown. Lastly, the PC port is also supposed to have controller support, but has issues recognizing these.
Overall, apart from the driving, the crashes, the bugs, and the overheating, I enjoyed most of the gameplay and the plot of Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut. I believe that, provided readers have a platform where the game immediately works as intended, they will have a good time with this game. The characters are fun, the story overall intriguing (apart from the ending), and the premonitions truly work in the game’s favor. Nevertheless, I cannot, in good conscience, recommend a PC port that is this problematic and that might fry one’s computer. Even though I like its content per se, I advise readers to stay away from the PC port of Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut.
The PC port of Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut gets a 3 fried graphic cards out of 10 good ports; the game itself gets an 8 Mulholland Drives out of 10 Dreams
Where to Get
Retail copies of Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut came out for PlayStation 3 in 2013, but digital copies of the PC port are still available with DRM Steam for $24.99 USD or your regional equivalent, or without DRM on Good Old Games for the same price.
Your regular Whatchamacallit
As with all other posts, if you feel like it, please feel free to leave a comment. The comment section is completely open, no need anyone to register or log-in. All screenshots presented here were taken by me during my gameplay and you can also follow my curation on Steam by clicking on this link here: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/gaoscorner#curation