Deadly Premonition, and by extension Deadly Premonition Origins, is absolutely insane and great. It’s a mess and a masterpiece – a messterpiece.
Since its release in 2010 to the Xbox 360 and PS3, Deadly Premonition has deservedly garnered a cult following. Its charm comes from its ridiculous story, voice acting, and the incompetence of its development. I was tempted to give up after a couple of hours due to my frustration with numerous aspects of the game’s design and playability, some of which I address below, but the story kept me pushing on. After a while I came to enjoy the game’s faults as they all came together to add to the experience of the game. Like the hiss of a vinyl record, these things all make Deadly Premonition a baffling and enjoyable experience to play. It’s impossible to anticipate what will happen next, just like a good horror movie.
Call Me York
You play as Special Agent Francis “York” Morgan, a quirky FBI agent called to a small American town to investigate the gruesome murder of a young woman. Morgan loves movie trivia, coffee, and communicating with someone named Zach, who only he can see. It’s up to York to get to know the locals and find out who the killer is, as well as fighting off shambling hordes of zombies and the Raincoat Killer, a character of local legend who keeps showing up and wagging his finger at you.
If you’re a fan of Twin Peaks, you might have already clocked some similarities, and it is an obvious influence. The story and its protagonist aren’t the only things Deadly Premonition has taken inspiration from. Like Twin Peaks, there is a tonal balance between deeply disturbing horror, small-town wholesomeness, and out-of-place humor. The key word here is balance. The tone of the game shifts so drastically from one extreme to the other it’s jarring. It’s difficult to tell whether it’s intentionally humorous or if you find it funny for the wrong reasons. Like when a seemingly sinister conversation in a diner turns into a pop-punk freak out about a turkey sandwich.
Deadly Premonition is often referred to as being The Room of video games and it’s the combination of tonal differences and shoddy development that draw these comparisons. Like Tommy Wiseau, Hidetaka Suehiro clearly had such a strong vision for the game, but somehow throughout its development it turned into something so bizarre and clumsy that it leaves you baffled at how it could have possibly been made. I don’t have enough space to write about every single strange piece of dialogue, instance of out-of-place background music, which is always way louder than the dialogue, or over-the-top character, you just need to experience it for yourself.
A Technical Marvel
Aside from the story and characters, Deadly Premonition Origins is also a technical marvel. For a game released in 2010 it looks more like something from at least a generation earlier, with its PS2 textures and horrifying facial animations. But, the inexperience of the developers becomes obvious when it comes down to actual gameplay.
I encountered several crashes, so make sure to save as often as you can. Deadly Premonition Origins’ incompetent UI and location designs can be frustrating. A simple fetch quest becomes more of an ordeal than it should be. Combat is clunky, but for a survival horror game that can be a positive. No Resident Evil game has been scarier than the first, with its fixed cameras and impossible aiming systems. But here it’s tedious; you have to hold three shoulder buttons in order to fire your weapon. The zombie animation as being genuinely frightening. It’s a tense moment trying to aim your weapon while they shamble towards you.
In 2020 Suehiro’s new studio White Owls Inc. released Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise as a Switch exclusive. I’d like to see whether the developers leaned into the aspects of the original that players found unintentionally charming, or whether they tried too hard to replicate its inadequacies. Hidetaka Suehiro accidentally caught lightning in a bottle with Deadly Premonition, and I hope he managed to do it again.
Deadly Premonition Origins is best enjoyed if you lean into its flaws and experience it as a whole. There’s never a dull moment.
What do you think? Have you played Deadly Premonition Origins? Tell us below!