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Love GTA, Heavy Rain and Resident Evil? Well Deadly Premonition is better than all of them. Here's why

It has some the best writing this-gen. Fact

I have to reference Heavy Rain here. I’m sorry, but I really have to. David Cage’s pretentious 2010 gloom-fest was heralded by many (and by none moreso than Cage himself) as a new bar for character and story writing in a mature video game. But it wasn’t as good as Deadly Premonition. In fact it was schlocky and a bit crap in those respects.


Above: The murder that starts it all. And you will not believe where it's going from here

It’s long been one of my conceits that you only really show genuine maturity when you don’t feel the need to prove your maturity any more. There’s just an assuredness and worldly understanding that means you don’t try to prove how deep and well-rounded you are, because you’re too busy getting on with it. That’s true of people, and it’s true of media as well.

And while Heavy Rain heaped upon the player so much misery, heightened soap-opera emotion and overblown caricature of cinematic grit, Deadly Premonition just does what it always does. It concentrates on the real and the human, creating much more loveable characters and a much more affecting story.

No-one in Deadly Premonition is a stereotype. There are archetypes, of course. It’s impossible to write characters without using them. But while the brilliant-but-odd FBI agent, bull-headed-but-noble sheriff and young, sharp, undervalued female deputy are all present and correct, no-one begins and ends with their character summation. Everyone has strengths. Everyone has flaws. But most importantly, all are written without succumbing to that other literary cliché, the over-flawed stereotype deconstruction.


Above: You'll love these three like your very own family before long

Writing characters to deliberately defy type is such a hoary old cliche that it’s become a type all of its own. And you see it all the way through Heavy Rain. Everyone in Deadly Premonition though, is just well-rounded and real. There are no fatalistic, self-destructive obsessions here. No personal hang-ups that haunt characters beyond the ability to function. People have individual virtues and failings, but they’re all basically just getting on with things and trying to make the best of life they can. You know, like real people do.

Yes, the extreme quirks of Deadly Premonition’s cast are what have gained it so much attention over the last year, and many people have interpreted their odd dialogue and off-kilter behaviour as a symptom of badly-written, badly-translated dialogue. And that’s understandable, to a degree. If you’ve only seen the odd clip on YouTube, the age-old video game trope of bad Engrish is an easy assumption to fall back on. But in Deadly Premonition it just doesn’t apply. Because the thing is, Deadly Premonition’s characters aren’t weird or cartoonish.

The thing is, most video game characters are stoic clichés, speaking and behaving functionally, as their stereotypes demand. And we’re used to that. So when we see characters who act like real people, with all their quirks, oddness and idiosynchracies, and compare them to most video game characters, they do seem odd. But in actual fact, they’re just acting like real people. Because real people are quirky and odd and idiosynchratic.


Above: What's going on here? I'm telling you nothing. Find out for yourself

Particular note also, must be made of Deadly Premonition’s central mystery, which is masterfully told. With its initial jumping-off point of David Lynch's Twin Peaks, the blend of real-world investigation, horror, and existential strangeness is what will immediately grab you, but the reality of its character psychology and the layering of its exposition is the really rather stunning bit.

Perhaps drawn into even greater relief by the unbridled strangeness occurring elsewhere in the game, the thoughts and drives of the main cast have an accuracy and plausibility that isn’t often seen in a game. It’s impressive enough on a day-to-day level, but once you get to trying to guess the killer (or even the nature of the mystery) yourself, you’ll notice some bloody well-researched forensic psychology at play, and find yourself showered with new suspicions. clues and red herrings.

You might only notice this if you’re interested in the workings of the serial killer mind-set in real-life. And you might miss some of those scenes and conversations completely, depending on how you navigate Deadly Premonition’s deceptively organic world. But one thing’s for certain. There’s important, stimulating content from start to finish, much of which you’ll only spot (and kick yourself for missing) in hindsight of the game’s mental-overload climax. And even with the game’s fantastical overtones, all of it is a great deal more satisfying and plausible than the Origami Killer’s cartoonish, cod-psychological motivational hokum.

Next: The horror, the horror...

94 comments

  • godisanarc - July 8, 2011 5:38 p.m.

    I just went out and bought it because of this article. $17 seemed well worth it. Thanks as always GR.
  • leejohnson222 - July 7, 2011 8:29 a.m.

    when you have to use s sensationalised title that would sit right at home with the BS opinion peices passed off as fact on n4g i think your heading for trouble. I feel that dave is simply trying to show how everyone else is wrong and he is right.Its almost like this game is so bad its good, but the problem is it really isnt, dave is trying to show everyone missed a gem and you need to look deeper into this title.This article is just an exercise in self importance. comparing games and stating that one game is better than 3 others is just a pointless excercise unless you nejoy n4g.com.
  • Bamford38 - July 6, 2011 12:06 a.m.

    I ended up buying it after hearing Dave go on about it on talkrader a couple of weeks ago, and just finished it last night. I almost gave up on it at the start like so many other people. The terrible lip sync and graphics were severely getting me down. But its absolutely true what he said in the article, once you get sucked into greenvale you never even notice the things that annoyed you at the beginning. The only bad thing is that with the general bad impression people have of this game, i cant see it getting a sequel. Also, is it wrong that by the end of the game i was really starting to fancy Emily? My missus didnt think it was ok!
  • TheExperiance420 - July 5, 2011 3:41 p.m.

    Was looking for a new game to buy and this article made my decision for me. Deadly premonition is only 10 quid on amazon for those considering buying this :)
  • HitmanSB07 - July 5, 2011 11:19 a.m.

    DAMN IT!!! It's €29.99 in Ireland!!! I thought it was going to be €19.99? Damn it, I don't have enough points.
  • jonathancaddock - July 5, 2011 12:17 a.m.

    I bought this game a while ago, and after 5 minutes i hated it. Still i didn't put it down, after 10 minutes I still hadn't put it down. Thus I couldn't let go of it for hours at a time until I completed it. Begrudgingly I decided it was quite good despite my early reservations. That was until I saw article after article posted here about how this game is Jesus in a 3d rendered sandbox disguise. Articles like this actually remind me of everything which is wrong with this game. If we set aside the dated graphics and awful control system, then we can consider the story itself (We could also go and read a book seeing as we've removed a large chunk of the usual pleasure derived from gaming). The story is rather unusual for a game and kudos for trying, but it is also a blatant homage/Rip off of Twin Peaks. Combine that with some plot points which make no sense, some horror sequences which are actually less terrifying than the awful voice acting in the more relaxed dialogues and a script which might as well have been written by a cat walking over a keyboard hooked up to Google translate and you may find yourself disappointing. The thing is, as i said, I really did enjoy this game. But its surprisingly good considering everything that's wrong with it, to list three huge titles and suggest that this half baked (if rather unusual) cookie outstrips them all is ludicrous.
  • MancisFrorkYorgan - July 3, 2011 8:01 p.m.

    I hate to sound like an elitist; I hate to imply that one has to 'get it' to truly enjoy Deadly Premonition. But one does.
  • VaneTrago - July 2, 2011 11:04 p.m.

    After reading this article, I went out and bought the only new copy of Deadly Premonition in all of the GameStops in Alaska. The tank controls don't bother me in the slightest, because I'm the gamer who still goes back to play Contra and Twisted Metal on a semi-regular basis. I have got to say, that I am really starting to love this game. I never would have even looked twice at it if it weren't for reading this. Thanks for the recommendation, and any other obscure gems like this that you guys find, you should really give us a heads up.
  • YoungZer0 - July 2, 2011 4:53 p.m.

    "Valve, in particular, excels in this area. Its silent protagonists never alienate you with words or actions that you yourself wouldn’t say or carry out. Valve's lack of third-person cut-scenes ensures that you’re never pulled out of the main gameplay perspective, and its refusal to pre-render anything means that you're never divorced from the world. Its ambient storytelling through little details hidden within the environment makes sure that the player’s understanding of the game world is always at the same stage as the character’s at any given point in a story, and most cleverly, the way that the House o’ Gabe manipulates emotional and dramatic peaks and troughs to incite reactions and create empathy with a character’s situation ensures that in a Valve game, to put it plainly, you are not actually playing a character at all. That character is an extension of you." God, this is getting ridiculous. He doesn't say anything! No, he's not an extension of me, because i'd talk when Gordon doesn't. I do things different when he doesn't. This bullshit needs to stop, seriously. Silent Protagonist are all but unique, or good, it's in no way, shape or form an extension of you. They are dull, shallow hulls. Nothing more. If you give Valve so much credit for that, why not go ahead and give Infinite Wards the same amount of credit. "You know, like real people do." I never played this game, just saw the beginning with the Woman hanging on the tree. And a grandfather and two kids finding her. You know what real people wouldn't do? Let the kids stay and let them watch the corpse of a woman.
  • gilgamesh310 - December 19, 2013 3:02 p.m.

    I'm not going to defend the points he made about Valve but you'd really have to actually play some of Deadly Premonition to see that he is right about the characters. Sure they tend to be over the top in their quirkiness at times but they do stand out as real people more so than 95% of game characters overall.
  • MrBlond - July 2, 2011 10:08 a.m.

    Having played it through to it's completion I can't say I agree with all the obsessive praise it gets. Sure, it is a breath of fresh air in that it has a genuinely interesting story and character development but these things alone in my opinion do not make a great game. Starting with the controls, they really are some of the most cumbersome I have encountered in both the third-person perspective and the driving. At the time I was also playing Stranglehold and Saints Row and to compare it in terms of its controls with those two stinkers is to me, justified. Next up, the repetition of enemies that you have to lay waste to is staggering, at first I really enjoyed them especially the moans they make (I dooooon't want to diieee!) but it becomes tiresome fast and there are literally around 3 or 4 different types. Along the journey, around the mid-section of the game you come up against what can be termed as 'the boss battles'; a blatant rip-off of the 'Ring' girl who scurries along the walls and ceiling trying her best to attack you. This happens around four times through the game, with no explanation of what she is and why she is any different to the other enemies. Despite this the same cannot be said about the last boss which is actually decent. Now I don't want to rip into the game too much as there were genuinely moments in the game that I honestly enjoyed and I would be interested to see a sequel if only to see if they can fix the problems. But it seems to me that if any higher profile games had even one of the many flaws this game has - it would be ripped to shreds by the gaming press. And that is what I can't understand. Yes it has a compelling story and quirky characters, so does GTA IV and many other games but if they had serious flaws in their gameplay mechanics like one this does they would not gain such high praise. The 8 and 9 scores being thrown around are just far too high, at best it's a 6 or a 7 and to compare it to the games in the upper echelon shows a disrespect to the people who have worked their arses off on games like Fallout 3, Dead Space and Mafia II because I cannot state that the same level of hard work has been put into this game.
  • spektreumek - July 1, 2011 1:27 a.m.

    I am going on Amazon now and getting it thanks to this review. Excellent review mate, I honestly cannot wait to play it. After reading this i searched for DP and found something awful.com's review, which had me laughing my tits off. Anyone who wants a proper belly laugh, i suggest you go and read that review too. Thanks for bringing this to my atttention, i know i am going to love it.
  • skankmustard - June 30, 2011 3:13 p.m.

    I was intrigued by this game when it came out, but this article made me buy it yesterday. What a strange, wonderful and creepy game. Thanks for persuading me to take the plunge! There were loads of copies in HMV in Oxford Street for £15 if anyone's in London and can't locate a copy...
  • yagirlfriendsfavoriterapper - June 30, 2011 12:24 p.m.

    DP is a bad game, I played it and was not impressed.
  • philipshaw - June 30, 2011 11:23 a.m.

    I get that it's a strange game but I watched GB play the whole of this game and that was enough to know that I never want to play it
  • nathstyles - June 30, 2011 9:15 a.m.

    Okay its on the lovefilm list now - but if the above comment is to be believed I'll be waiting a while - dont think with my limited funds I can risk a purchase of such a divisive game (the user reviews on lovefilm are certainly that). Why am I such a sucker for story? Well whether they ever send it or not I hope at least he gets a good publisher for his next game as it sounds as though with a bigger budget he might be able to put the polish on that us pampered modern gamers crave - imagine that game.
  • papergoon - June 30, 2011 9 a.m.

    i'm still with eternal darkness being my favourite survival horror game. aside from the overhyped (but still fantastic) sanity meter, i felt that it was able to nail the essence of horror and fear.
  • TheShape108 - June 30, 2011 6:09 a.m.

    I bought a xbox360 specifically to play Deadly Premonition. To this day I consider that to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. Fantastic game, I pledge my 60 dollars to whatever Swery does next.
  • Shanetexas - June 30, 2011 3:24 a.m.

    Dude, let it go. This game sucks and will forever suck. It's a niche game. Just because a niche game is fun for you doesn't make it fun for everyone else. Better than GTA? Come on now.
  • TriforcePlayer - June 30, 2011 2:33 a.m.

    Its good game but better than GTA? I don't think so.

Showing 1-20 of 94 comments

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