The Wiseau Awards: Deadly Premonition
Swery65 is one of those game directors that is so absurd that you will either love his games or hate them, from the weird D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die to the bizarre yet touching The Missing. Perhaps his weirdest game of all time, as well as his most (in)famous, is Deadly Premonition, a game that received reviews ranging from 1/10 to 10/10, gaining a bit of a cult following in later years. In anticipation for the sequel coming out very soon, I decided to buy the Switch version of the game to revisit this enigma of a game.
The story follows a simple yet engaging premise. You play as Francis York Morgan (Everyone calls him York), a detective investigating a string of brutal murders across the USA. York will often talk to the player through an imaginary friend called Zach, breaking the 4th wall and putting some doubt on York’s sanity. As he enters Greenvale, the site of the latest murder, York crashes his car and is later attacked by possessed inhabitants, as well as the Raincoat Killer, a recurring enemy that is trying to stop York’s investigations.
I don’t want to go too much into the plot or the game’s characters because they really have to be seen to be believed. This is a weird game through and through, but one that has a compelling mystery to untangle, raising dozens of questions throughout. Who is this Raincoat Killer? What is causing these supernatural anomalies? How is York linked with them? Who is Zach? What the hell is even happening? All of this gets answered and it’s one hell of a ride.
Every single scene is just… well… let’s say that they give the game a really “uneasy feel”. From York randomly tapping his tie for no apparent reason to the hilarious Sinners Sandwich scene. From the joyful whistling soundtrack to the awkward camera work and dialogue between four characters, one of which talks only in rhymes, because reasons. Then we’ve got the appropriately named “Sinners Sandwich”, a delicacy made up of “turkey, strawberry jam and cereal”. A disgrace to sandwiches everywhere, yet still one of the most memorable dishes in gaming history. The whole game is full of these idiotic yet charming scenes where you are constantly asking yourself “what the f&%! is even happening” but can’t look away. It’s bad in the best of ways.
Whilst the story shines because of its “so bad it’s good” nature, the gameplay isn’t as forgivable, yet it is still oddly ambitious and equally as charming. There’s a bit of everything in this game: a lot of Resident Evil 4 mixed in with the themes of an otherworldly exploration title, and supernatural elements present in the Silent Hill franchise.
Set in a sort of open world, Deadly Premonition lets you explore the town of Greenvale and its surrounding areas. It’s an oddly ambitious open world that runs on in-game times and weather. The inhabitants will have their own schedule and shops will open at specific times, not unlike the classic Shenmue. However, navigating Greenvale became incredibly dull, with terrible driving physics and long stretches of nothing happening. I admire what they went for, but it doesn’t quite work: there’s just nothing worth doing in the town. What makes navigating even worse is the in-game map that is stupidly large and you can’t really zoom out.
Then we’ve got the combat and oh boy this hasn’t aged well, especially when you consider the fact that it was already clunky as all hell back in the day. Often throughout the game, you will be transported to the “otherworld”, where monsters roam about, and this is where it’s at it’s absolute worst. The shooting feels terrible, with slow and terrible feeling aiming, and guns with no impact whatsoever. It has this weird low quality charm but it can just end up being incredibly tedious, especially on the longer combat sequences. What’s worse is that the combat rarely ever evolves throughout the game.
There are also a few chase sections, with you trying to escape from the Raincoat Killer. This is where things really picked up, reminding me of another cult horror classic, Siren: Blood Curse. In that game, when an enemy spots you, it instantly shifts into a dual perspective: you and the chaser. Then there are the extended, Resident Evil 4-esque quick time events that drag on for waaaaaay too long. This game just about tries to do everything at once, and it falls short in just about everything, yet I still manage to love it.
Unfortunately, the Switch version in which I played in order to refresh my memory of this game is far from perfect. Well, as perfect as Deadly Premonition can be. In fact, it’s straight up not good, with the same disappointing frame rate impacting the experience even when nothing is going on. I’d still recommend checking it out, though, out of sheer novelty.
On paper, Deadly Premonition is an awful game that nobody should play, yet I’ve recommended to a lot of people instead. The gameplay is clunky, the voice acting is just bad, everything is awkward about it. This game has managed to be loved by myself and so many more and I still don’t fully understand why. Hopefully Deadly Premonition 2 can retain the original’s charm whilst making for a more satisfying gameplay experience.