Monday, October 31, 2011

VGR Deadly Premonition

While most "modern gamers" like to call the likes of Modern Warfare, Call of Duty or Battlefield their favorite games, most of the time because they're the latest release or have the shiniest graphics around, I tend to dislike these sort of games.
I mean, it's all taking itself way too serious for me (also the military/war aspect is so tiring after a while, it's all the same to me).

I say, keep those silly games to yourself, they all are and look the same to me. Form over substance.
I'm a retro gamer at heart, and for me these "realistic" HD war-centric games are a bit too generic and boring. It's like fads, wait a decade, will you honestly go back to them or pick up the latest update?

Anyway, I'm always up for giving a chance to one of these lesser known games available on the market. Lately, because of what Capcom did with the recents Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, I have been trying other lesser known Survival Horror titles...
Then, I found out.. something unlike anything else...

What is Deadly Premonition?
Well, it's a budget game. It might be clunky on some parts, and looks outdated even for such a recent release..
I wouldn't call it "Game of the Year" material, far from it. But even so, the experience is unlike anything else I've played through..

So let me introduce you to what I'd like to call

"The Game Of The CENTURY-Y-Y-Y!"

VGR: Deadly Premonition aka Red Seeds Profile
From Access Games/Marvelous Entertainment/Rising Star Games
Played on Xbox 360
Also available on PS3

Type Survival Horror/FREE Adventure
Year 2010

Deadly Premonition is, to say it right from the start, unlike anything else on the market.

For your information, it is a budget title and not a full fledged blockbuster title.
The team who developed it wasn't compose of hundreds of programmers, designers, etc. like an Ubisoft production (for example). And the game's release has been quite delayed since its original production.

With that in mind, it is both a pretty poor, bad executed and simplistic game -
But also such an interesting, entertaining and exciting experience!

The game is mostly a survival horror, like the many Resident Evil 4 clones released since then.
It is played on 3rd person, you get stuck when you use your weapons, you can turn quickly in case you're surrounded by pressing running + backwards, you can't hold on too many items at once, have to stash them, heal yourself often, spare carefully your weapons and ammo...

But unlike most Survival Horrors, the story is told non-linearly.
You're able to explore freely this huge open world map, decided the order of your missions (sometimes), pick up several secondary missions or just explore this strange town with its many colorful (and eccentric) folks.

In that regards, more than just a Survival Horror, the game's also sort of an adventure game, where you have to talk to people around town, run back back-and-forth several times to check out on some people and places, collect some items or clues regarding the story's main mystery.

Because it's mostly a story, a mystery, rather than your usual arcade or simulation video game.

The gameplay is divided in two principal situations. Either story-based, going around the town, talking, investigating. And there's the action segments, when the game reverts to your basic Survival Horror, with the usual zombie-like enemies, etc.

Also, there's a great deal of interactivity to immerse the player in the game. In that sense, it's not that far from the Dreamcast classic Shenmue, or Heavy Rain more recently, were it's partially about playing with stuff, buying things, eating, sleeping, smoking, shaving, dressing the protagonist, fishing, etc.

What about the game itself?

Meet FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan.

The game follows an FBI Special Agent as he arrives in a little town called Greenvale in some unspecified part of the United States. (probably near Washington from what is implied during the story)
This agent, Francis York Morgan (but you can call him York, everybody does that - sic) is asked to investigate the very odd murder of Anna Graham.
Everything seems to point a mysterious killer York had been chasing for the past 10 years. His m.o. seems to tell the man abused his victims, women in the 20s, mid-30s, posting them in some grotesque fashion as to implies their goddess like features and leaving very strange red seeds on the victim and clues under their nails.

To help him on his quest York must collaborate with the local town, like sheriff George Woodman and his deputy Emily Wyatt.

York is a very strange fellow too, he has lots of strange quirks and habits. He will want to stop by everybody and talk open the population of Greenvale, finding out about their uses and customs. 
Believing what he sees in his dreams might have a meaning and there might be signs in his coffee each morning.
York also seem to be narrating the whole game on a tape to someone at first, but then after the car accident at the beginning it is made clear York is actually adressing to someone not present during this game.
The nature of this personality he calls Zack is not clear at first, but for the most part of the game it acts as a way to have York talking to the player directly.
(he will often say on playable segments things like "Zack, can you drive for me now" and then you'll have to drive the care yourself, outside of a cutscene)

For the most part of the game, you will be playing through these action segments where supernatural zombie creatures will attack you in numbers.

These segments can either be pretty repetitive or even boring due to their easy difficulty.
Your principal default gun has infinite ammo. So you can avoid using the other optional guns (shotguns, rifles, machine guns,..) and rely on it for almost the whole game. (though bosses will take a lot of time and patience then).
Monsters either ambush you (in closed areas) or even respawn infinitively.
The main enemy fodder is composed of spirits, deceased people that for some reason are brought back to life at night/when it rains.

People have their own theories regarding if there moments actually happen in-story or are part of York's subconsciousness. (and there's a lot of the story built around York's mind and perception of the world plot-wise)

There's lots of driving since the game takes place in this open world HUB.
The driving, like the action segments is kinda clunky. Far from what you usually have in today's mainstream games. It plays kinda awkward, the gameplay's clumsy and the graphics/gameplay don't look really polished. Like if the game had been rushed.

The game also uses a day-cycle. Time will pass by at 1/3 of real life's time. 
It is important to keep track of time since you won't be able to either talk to people or enter certain places depending on what hour it is.

Finally you have a very complicated Pause menu to check out your map (which is quite tedious to use), keep track of your current missions  (also annoying to check out) and profilings, manage your items and weapons... and keep track of York's status.

Yes, this deserves a whole paragraph.
You have to keep track of York's health. Eating while replenish it. You can buy food with your in-game money (after each mission and chapter, some will be awarded to you).
There's also York's stamina. Useful to run around, etc. If you don't take care of that it will start draining health. You can either pose for a bit to calm down or shot York with some adrenalin.
Then there's York's hunger. During the day, with time going by, York will need to eat something or it will start draining health. And at the start of each day, after sleeping he will be kinda hungry too. You can buy food, find food or even stop by the hotel and restaurant for that.
Finally there's York's wariness. York needs to sleep every now and then. Or it will also start draining health. You can drink coffee or smoke one to keep York awake.
The last two only show on the pause menu, so don't hesitate to check them out often.

You can also keep York clean by shaving his beard (which will grow as time flies) and change his clothes/clean them up whenever.

Sounds like too much trouble for no real reason?
Yeah, that's what I thought at first too. Plus the clumsy gameplay elements and ugly graphics didn't help much.

But it made the game such a fun and immersive experience!!

The graphics aren't THAT bad I'd say.
They aren't on par with current games, but it simply looks like this could have been released on the Dreamcast...
The character models are nice though, each individual does look quite unique, but the animations kinda kills it. Robotic, repetitive..

York's nothing like your usual videogame protagonist, or even movie main character for that matter. The Zack split-personality is a great way to have York talk to the player directly. (often with B-Movie trivia "Remember, Tremors? Yeah, me too Zack..")

Now, why this game looks so dated?
Even if it's a budget game there's no excuse for somethings you'll see in this game.
Well it ties directly on the reason why all these premises and everything in this game sounds and looks so familiar.
The game is based after Twin Peaks directly. And quite a lot.
It went under production right after the 1992 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me spinoff/prequel/sequel movie was released on DVD in Japan finally.
There's quite a lot of David Lynch fans there and the movie developed a big fan following quickly.
"Rainy Woods" was then announced in 2007.. but delayed for a while.
The producers found it was looking a tad too much like Twin Peaks so the game was moved for a late 2009 released. They edited the game quite a lot, removed many references, turned Agent York and sheriff Woodman into different looking characters - their original design was a bit too close to Twin Peaks main characters Agent Cooper and sheriff Truman.
Finally the game arrived in 2010 for Japan, Europe and America.

The graphics and gameplay might not be tight and super precise, but still is offers a deep, interesting and funny solid experience in the end.

Japanese director Hidetaka Suehiro (designer on Tomba!/Tombi! 2), aka SWERY65, took special care while crafting this game, his first big project.
The story is full of humor and doesn't take itself too seriously.
Some voice actors are a bit off, but you will be mostly listening to York throughout the adventure, voiced Jeff Kramer (Seaman) who provides a fun and top notch voice for our hero.

Overall, the game is better than the sums of all its parts.

With its dimension shifting whenever it rains/creatures pops up, the way you are left alone freely to explore in this mysterious little American town and the way the game puts a lot of emphasis on the psychological aspect, the game almost feels like a parody of Silent Hill. More precisely Silent Hill Shattered in my eyes.

No, really. It is a must try. Give it a chance, the first hour might be hard on you if you've only playing videogames for this current generation of consoles.
Deadly Premonition (Red Seeds Profile in Japan - spoiler!) is very odd and different Survival Horror. 

Bad controls in most places, sub-par graphics.. Great characters and unique feel. Something you must check out at least once!

The game is the unofficial Twin Peaks adaptation some David Lynch fans had been asking for all these years! The game features lots of very similar landmarks and type of characters, from the sheriff department to the woodmill, Greenvale is a sort of Twin Peaks in diguise.
It isn't a ripoff, don't dare say that! Rather it is a similar experience, influenced a lot by the cult TV series. The eccentric FBI agent who goes to this small town to investigate the murder of a young woman, his strange methods of profiling the scenes, lots of drama amongst the citizens and then the supernatural elements. (using even some similar motifs such as the dreams, the red room, etc.)
It is pretty close to Lynch's tone and atmospheres.

It quickly became a cult upon its release in 2010, despite some harsh and hateful early reviews.
Don't listen to those haters, they take things way too seriously, it's only a game! It's meant to be fun and entertaining!
The game is a nice mix of horror game and mystery story.
It is for me the messiah of the videogames today, the industry has sort of become way too constricted and hasn't offered this kind of titles in a while (that is if you don't check out for such in the indie market).

It's is pretty weird, hard to describe completely.
Bad, terrible, game from afar, but it hides quite a gem underneath.
You will love this game if you give it a chance.
The only other comparable titles are Suda 51's  No More Heroes or Flower Sun and Rain for the feel and tone or Shenmue as the creator of the term "FREE Adventure" for the type of game.

The music composed by Riyou Kinugasa, Takuya Kobayashi & Hiromi Mizutani (three persons nonetheless) is really original and gives this game a score like any other. Sometimes folk tunes, something a brilliant epic score. Also pretty close to Twin Peaks' own soundtrack.
Sometimes the music will play a bit louder than voices for no reason..
I loved the game's awesome music through and through personally.

Don't forget, it is a budget title in the end. Better, richer and deeper than most usual FPS or generic games. (and I'm saying this as someone who loves FPS)
And it is a veeeeery long game. Even if you skip most exploration and side-stories.

The real complaint I have? The game has quite a bad in-game map system, and confusing.
Follow this link, print a fan-made map poster-size to help you out at first.

I give it:
 3 / 3 Quacks!


  1. Tip of the cap to you sir (your artwork is amazing btw)

    I've been playing games since the 90's and Deadly Premonition really hit home for me. I loved Twin Peaks and that's the main reason I bought this, but after playing an hour or two I no longer was interested as playing Dale Cooper but instead was fascinated with Francis Morgan and really got emotionally invested in him (something that doesn't really happen in videogames)

    After I completed this, I turned off my xbox and didn't play another game for a week. I was amazed by the ending, well well worth a playthrough despite the awful gameplay.

    1. Yeah, it was quite a unique and fascinating experience! Since then, I've felt myself like replaying some chapters, just for fun, to explore or see some of my favorite scenes again.

      Thanks for the visit, glad you liked my review format^^