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Making friends with Deadly Premonition: A practical niggle-squashing guide for new players

First of all, wow. When I posted my beard-stroking feature praising misunderstood open-world survival-horror mystery Deadly Premonition yesterday, I really didn’t know how it was going to go down. But 80 (mostly) very positive comments later – with a load more on our Facebook page and to my own Twitter account – and it seems this relatively obscure, wonderful little gem of a game has really struck a chord with a lot of you.

And because so many of you have told me that you’re going to buy it or already have it on order (along with the game's scheduled appearance on the Xbox 360’s Games on Demand download service next week), I’ve decided that it’s time to give you a crash-course in getting the best out of it. All of Deadly Premonition’s famous niggles and gameplay quirks can be easily dealt with, and once the game’s world and characters take hold, you'll have a fantastic "through the looking glass" moment, whereupon you’ll forget those niggles ever existed. It’s the purpose of this quick guide to get you through that metaphorical mirror as fast as possible, so that you can enjoy Deadly Premonition’s many wonders with the minimal of fuss. So click on, and I shall provide the wise hints given to me when I first started playing it, along with a few I’ve picked up along the way.

Always run through doors. Always

Seriously. The slow door-opening animation will drive you mad if you make yourself watch it over the course of the whole game. It’s not masking any loading a la Resident Evil, so just sprint towards every door and open them while still in motion in order to barrel straight through.

The start button is your friend

Every time you pick up an object, the game will cut to a black screen showing it off in close-up. All well and good the first couple of times, but again, prolonged exposure will cause degenerative mental illness. There’s a simple solution though. Just hit start the instant you collect anything. It’ll cancel the close-up as soon as it starts, saving both your time and your will to live.

No seriously, the start button really is your friend

There are a few little transitional cut-scenes that are used throughout the game (most notably the getting into/getting out of car animation), and again, the cumulative effect of sitting through them every single time is roughly akin to Chinese water torture. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Again, they might look like they’re masking a short load time, but they’re actually not. Just hit start, as above, and you’ll teleport into or out of your vehicle of choice, maintaining your mental health throughout the entire process.

Driving lessons

Getting to grips with Deadly Premonition’s driving mechanics is one of the most ‘interesting’ experiences you’ll have in your life. Initially, the cars you’ll drive will be slow, prone to a fair amount of damage, and will seem to have a turning circle roughly akin to an oil tanker. Via improvements and upgrades later on, well, they’ll become faster at least. But there are ways to drastically improve things if you know what you're doing.

First of all, you should complete the General’s side-missions in the junkyard as soon as they become available. There are three of them, so it’ll take a little while, but once all are done you’ll get upgrades that definitely improve the basic handling of vehicles. Make these missions an absolute priority.

But there’s much more you can do, simply by mastering the controls. The standard video game driving rules of “slow down on corners, apply brake to power-slide” do not apply in Deadly Premonition, so instead you’ll have to use the hand-brake. It’s a powerful bugger, so using it as you usually would in a game will generally see you pulling a straight 180 spin. Instead, you want to used the lightest, briefest of taps. It’ll take a few goes to master the right timing and positioning on corners, but once you do you’ll be slingshotting around bends like the grappling-hook-equipped Batmobile in Batman Returns. Also, if you find yourself making a standing start in a cramped area, a little feathering of the hand-brake while accelerating will let you make tight, almost-doughnut level turns even at low speeds.

Navigating the map

When you first start exploring Deadly Premonition in a free-roaming capacity, you’re probably going to get lost quite a bit. The town of Greenvale and its surrounding environs consist of several built-up areas, several lakes, a whole bunch of forests, and stacks of remote locations way out in the sticks. And there’s no waypoint system. And the mini-map only shows a small part of the surrounding area. And the main map uses a just-too-zoomed-in perspective. At first it’s all a little bamboozling.

But it’s all very manageable as long as you treat the full-sized start-menu like a real-life map. You’ll always have a marker for the next main story mission (which is visible in the game world as well, as a set of arrows on the horizon), and you’ll always have a marker for your current location. Scrolling around the map is quite slow, but it’s possible to jump straight to stacks of relevant locations with quick stabs of the triggers.

What you need to do is use the mission locator and your current position marker as landmarks, and cross-reference their relative positions with the location you want to head to. It takes a little work, but with a bit of practice you’ll be pin-pointing your required direction in no time. It’s basically just like real-life orienteering, which may well have been director Swery’s intention all along. I wouldn’t put it past him.

Navigating the menu screen

Deadly Premonition has the coolest pause menu in all of games, but it is slightly disorienting at first. Laid out like an abstract, dream-logic office space, you navigate to different functions by moving a cursor to zoom into the various objects and equipment scattered around the room. But if that becomes confusing, don’t worry. There’s a little icon bar in the bottom-right corner which allows easy left-and-right navigation of all the functionality, so if in doubt, just use that.

Time is on your side

Deadly Premonition's day/night cycle gives you an insane amount of time to work with. Story missions require you to be at a certain place at a certain time, but with eight real-world hours to play with between each nightfall, you have absolutely no need to panic. Use that time to kick back, explore. and really get to know Greenvale and its inhabitants. Every part of Deadly Premonition, whether main story mission, side-mission, or just random exploration, makes all the others far more rewarding, so never feel like you need to be in a rush. York will reassure you of this himself.

If though, you find yourself wanting to start a story mission with four hours left to kill, just remember the importance of smoking. Using a cigarette will make time move forward, so always keep a good supply on you. There's no overt time-selection control, but just keep an eye on the accelerated clock when York starts smoking, and get ready to back out to the main game screen when it hits the time you want.

Don't be put off by any of the above when you start

The most important tip of all. Yes, Deadly Premonition has rough edges. Some of them have famously caused the less tolerant reviewer to run screaming from the game, decrying it as a mess. But I promise you, none of them really matter. There’s so much good in Deadly Premonition, so much subtle cleverness, so much invention and so much warmth, that once the things that really do matter click, you'll not notice any of the things that initially bothered you ever again. Think of it like eating a stunning, Michelin-starred five-course meal in a restaurant with slightly dodgy curtains and wallpaper you don’t like. You’ll be unsure when you first walk in, but once you start eating, all you’ll think about is the food.

And there it is. My foolproof guide to getting the best from Deadly Premonition right from the start. Fellow fans, if you think that there's anything important I've missed, please feel free to add it in the comments.

Everyone else, just have fun.

June 30, 2011

34 comments

  • kassmageant - July 29, 2011 2:24 p.m.

    bought, beaten, fallen in love with. Am i the only one who think this is a lot like alpha protocol? extremely unpolished, but with a lot of great ideas. but i don't agree that if anything would be changed, the game would lost it's appeal - the outdoors graphics, OMG... it's not like i'm graphics-whore, but my eyes were literally in Pain when i saw big brown ground texture next to lumbermill, shit u not - it caused physical pain on my eyes, that's how horrible it looked. if this sucker would had production values of final fantasy XIII for example - WOW, would be one of the games that defined this generation
  • mothbanquet - July 4, 2011 3:23 p.m.

    I do feel sad for double posting - with 2 days between them at that - but I went and got this game and I have not been disappointed. Yes, the graphics are, for the most part, last-gen. Yes, the controls are a little clunky and unintuitive at first but it didn't take long to see the good stuff shine through. After a couple of hours I was engrossed and found myself thoroughly enjoying the experience. Interesting, likeable characters, clever writing, a depth of freedom that you just don't see these days, they're all there for anyone able to adapt to things they simply aren't accustomed to these days. For anyone declaring this game as broken, I'd agree with you if the characters and plot were not so well drawn but these are things that polished blockbusters such as Dead Space 2 lack for all their amazing graphics and smooth control schemes. I echo Dave's sentiments and heartily endorse this divisive little gem.
  • mothbanquet - July 2, 2011 8:53 a.m.

    Well, I bought it, now to see if this new idea of listening to other people will pay off...
  • kor2disturbed - July 2, 2011 4:18 a.m.

    I've decided to rent this first (just being careful). Unfortunately, I'm the kind of guy who judges games too quickly, so I'm afraid I might not like this game, but because of this article I'm going to try to power through it. And if I happen to like it or even love it it's only 15 bucks on amazon, so I'll buy it.
  • philipshaw - July 1, 2011 11:21 a.m.

    Love how you are admitted how broken this game is and then telling people to still play it
  • Butters130 - July 1, 2011 9 a.m.

    I dunno, I played about 3 hours in with my friend and the controls WERE as bad as I thought but maybe I should give it another go, especially after checking out the comments. +1, community.
  • RadicalVoodoo - July 1, 2011 5:33 a.m.

    I ordered this game on Amazon after reading both the features you posted about it. I'd definently consider myself in the crowd that overlooks small, annoying things to see the game for all the good it has. I support this claim with the fact that Killer7 is my #1 on my list of favorite games.
  • gmknoble - July 1, 2011 4:31 a.m.

    Just ordered it. I read your previous article and it convinced me.
  • waitingforCharlietosnap - July 1, 2011 3:17 a.m.

    Read the feature that preceded this, bookmarked this page, aaaaaaaand game purchased!
  • spektreumek - July 1, 2011 2:20 a.m.

    I honestly cannot wait to play this now. I'm on my way Zach!
  • DeifiedData - June 30, 2011 9:52 p.m.

    Hah, does this article remind you of anything? Of a particular PS3 game, title rhymes with "Hair", utilized clumsy Sixaxis controls, critically panned? Further review copies had to be sent out with a patronizing "How to appreciate our game" booklet? Look, I've never played DP, and I have nothing against it, but here are some facts: Sure, some games are ultra-niche, and appeal to a small but devoted audience. That being said, telling people they'll enjoy a game once they...ignore its gameplay...means they probably won't like it, period. There's something to be said for ignoring critic reviews and simply playing a game to find out if you like it, but if you need another person to "tell you how to play", it's not a natural fit. There are lots of niche games out there that are instantly appealing to their target audience. SMT: Nocturne for grinders, Demon's Souls for masochists, etc. Deadly Premonition seems to have it's niche, certainly, but telling people they'll enjoy a game if only they'll set its difficulty to "easy" and ignore its horrible gameplay is a dead-end. So, for DP fans, good for you for finding something you enjoy. That being said, don't push it too much. It was panned for a reason.
  • jackthemenace - June 30, 2011 8:14 p.m.

    It's weird. I want to TRULY love this game, and I can't bring myself to do so. I've only borrowed it, admittedly, so i've lost nothing. But, totally unlike me, I doubt I'm going to try and stay and explore and find everything. I'm very impatient, and the game is so infuriating! I've come to terms with all those things up there, but I have about 2 and a half hours of play time, and I'm still on the first chapter. So, Rather than explore everywhere and discover everything, as I usually do in games, I think i'm literally going to blitz through it and be done with it. I hate to say it, but it really is like a bad movie. While I love bad movies, sometimes there are just those ones that, while hilariously fun to watch, you just can't wait till they're over, so they can just be another 'bad movie' anecdote.
  • VercettisShirt - June 30, 2011 7:25 p.m.

    Brilliant use of Shenmue to emphasize the game world. I love that Dreamcast classic.
  • metroid2099400 - June 30, 2011 6:07 p.m.

    I want this game so badly after reading all of these features! Unfortunately, I have a PS3, and I can't find any copies online for less than $80... -_- If anyone knows where I could find a copy for a reasonable price, please message me!
  • Armannen - June 30, 2011 5:41 p.m.

    Oh I'm so buying this now.
  • Crofto - June 30, 2011 4:04 p.m.

    Great idea putting this up too; hopefully those guys planning on getting the game will give this a look. The main thing is, as you say David, to not let initial impressions get the better of you. Stick with it, and you shall be rewarded. As for additional tips/hints, the radio has already been mentioned, but if you intend to get all the achievements be aware that at least three completions are needed due difficulty achievements not stacking. Therefore I recommend using the Flamethrower on crawling shadows when playing the game on Hard, or else you'll literally be spending 10 minutes on each encounter, which is kinda not cool. Also, if you need to pass lots of time to wait for rain or NPCs to be in the right location, then use the graveyard. There's a bed, save point, and an infinite supply of tomatoes available to keep York's hunger topped up. Finally, the game allows you to replay chapters once they're completed, however, be aware that there can be issues associated with quest items if you replay a chapter whilst your main-game progress is at a certain point. Be sure to check GameFAQs and other places to make sure you don't mess your game up!
  • Jedipimp0712 - June 30, 2011 3:42 p.m.

    @ibeberger your right... nothing is better than sex. besides maybe BF3! ha ha.
  • Shanetexas - June 30, 2011 3:38 p.m.

    I made it to the forest level to investigate a crime scene. I kid you not, the level look the absolute shits. I had to shoot a thing in a tree to pick it up. That's when I quit the game.
  • p0wnd - June 30, 2011 3:09 p.m.

    This game lasts nearly 20-40 hours to get everything, it really does begin to get stale after 10 hours and eventually everything about it will begin to piss you off.
  • QLev - June 30, 2011 3:05 p.m.

    Alright, I'll bite. I've been intrigued ever since reading the Destructoid review, but I thought there's no way it's actually good. The others followed, and interest grew. Now that you guys have written not on, but two articles on it, I just might have to see what this little game is all about.

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