I’ve played Deadly Premonition more times than I can care to remember.
I still own at least a few of copies of it, too, including the original Japanese PS3 release when it was known as Red Seeds Profile. And yet with the announcement that it was making its way to Switch as Deadly Premonition Origins, I knew it was time to play it again, and this time with new purpose: to prepare me for the upcoming sequel.
An open world survival horror game, Deadly Premonition holds the Guinness World Record for the most critically polarising survival horror game. Head on over to the reviews for the Xbox 360 version on Metacritic and you’ll see that scores range from 2/10 (IGN) to 10/10 (Destructoid). And you know what? They’re all right. Deadly Premonition is both utterly awful and splendidly amazing. It makes it a hard game to review, really. If you want to stop dead the argument that reviews should be wholly objective, just present Deadly Premonition. Objectively it’s terrible. Perhaps even broken. But many gamers hold it close to their hearts. It has a cult following because there’s just nothing else quite like it.
If you’ve never played it, Deadly Premonition places you in control of FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan. He’s headed into the sleepy town of Greenvale to investigate the murder of Anna Graham, an 18-year-old woman whose death has hit members of the town hard. And it’s not just a normal murder; it’s ritualistic, and ties in with other murders across the United States in which red seeds have been found on or near the body.
Straight off the bat, anyone who has watched cult TV series Twin Peaks will resonate with Deadly Premonition. It has that same kooky atmosphere and presentation; Francis York Morgan, like Dale Cooper, happens to love coffee; and of course you have the murder of a young girl at the centre of it all. Deadly Premonition is essentially Twin Peaks: The Game, and that’s fine by me. In terms of setting and story there’s nothing to complain about in Deadly Premonition. It’s in the gameplay department where some might be turned off.
A game of two halves, Deadly Premonition is at its best when it’s your standard survival horror fare. Exploring environments and solving puzzles while dealing with ghastly enemies is reminiscent of classic survival horror games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, only with an enjoyable smothering of campiness. Discovering items is accompanied with over-the-top audio cues, and enemies cry out in ways that are laughable. Everything is serviceable enough, even the combat, but nothing is stellar. The worst aspects of these sequences are the quick time events events that break out when you meet a certain assailant wearing a raincoat, because are quick time events ever really fun?
In between all these traditional survival horror segments, however, you’re free to explore the town of Greenvale, and that’s where the cracks really show. As you can tell from screenshots, Deadly Premonition isn’t a good-looking game at the best of times, and its small open world can be a bit of an eyesore. More troubling, though, is the handling of the game’s vehicles – it is truly atrocious. You’ll need to drive, too, as getting from A to B on foot just isn’t feasible for the most part. At least the conversations Francis York Morgan has with himself while driving are brilliant though, especially if you’re a fan of films.
Other gameplay aspects come into play during open world sections as well. You need to eat and sleep to remain fully functional, for example, and the vehicles you drive around in need fuel to operate, and repair if you beat them up a little too much. As you go about your investigation, you also need to consider the opening hours of shops and locations you need to visit. Though don’t worry, you can’t mess up Deadly Premonition‘s story by failing to turn up to an important location in time; you’ll just have to go there the next day. For its time, Deadly Premonition was quite an ambitious game – the polish just wasn’t there to pull in the mainstream punters.
Deadly Premonition Origins is a strange mixture of previous releases of the game. It doesn’t feature the additional content found in the likes of the PS3 and PC Director’s Cuts, for example, but it does have their improved controls. You can also rebind the controls if you like. I’d say the graphics have been improved in some areas, too, and while the framerate does drop at times, it’s perfectly consistent for the most part. My biggest issue with the Switch version of Deadly Premonition has been audio balance; the rain effect is way too loud, though you can tinker with various audio levels in the options to try and correct it.
If you’ve never played Deadly Premonition before and have a fairly high tolerance to jank, I have no trouble recommending Deadly Premonition Origins if you fancy giving it a go. It may not have all the content found in the Driector’s Cut versions of the game, but it’s debatable whether all that extra fluff actually added anything good to the experience anyway. What matters is that it has the improved controls and performs well, allowing you to dive into Deadly Premonition Origins without as many of the issues that originally made it so divisive.
Deadly Premonition Origins, like previous versions of the game, is far from being perfect; like a million miles away. But it’s quirky, unique and memorable, and that goes a long way. Whether you follow the game through to its ending or not, it’ll stay on your mind for years to come. Francis York Morgan might just become one of your favourite video game protagonists. There’s a reason why Deadly Premonition has become a cult favourite, and that’s because it just has a certain magic. Discover it for yourself, warts and all, with Deadly Premonition Origins.
Deadly Premonition Origins is available on Switch.
Deadly Premonition Origins is published by Aksys Games in North America and Numskull Games in Europe and Australia. It’s available digitally right now, and will released physically in November. Both a standard and Collector’s Edition will be available. Preorder yours right now, via Amazon or Game.