Top 10 of '10: Number 2 - Deadly Premonition (XBox 360)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

Sorry, Zach. Much as I enjoyed spending time with you, in the end it wasn't quite enough to see your game take its place at number one in my Top 10 of '10.

Deadly Premonition is, without a shadow of a doubt, an absolute certainty to go down as a cult classic. But why is it a cult classic, rather than a flat-out, bona fide classic?

You wouldn't get that in an episode of Midsomer Murders.

Cult classic - often associated with underground culture, and considered too eccentric, bizarre, controversial or anti-establishment to be appreciated by the general public.

Yep. That's Deadly Premonition.

On the face of it, Deadly Premonition is rubbish. It couples previous-gen quality graphics with clunky controls, and usually that's pretty much a death knell for any game released in 2010. This game, however, rises above initial expectations through its incredible content.

Well, there's something you don't see every day.

The game begins in shocking fashion, with two children exploring a wood and finding a bloodied, naked woman bound to a very bizarre tree. If you've ever watched a cop show from Columbo onward, you'll know that a case like this is beyond the local smalltown cops, and that a specialist will need to be summoned to deal with it. And in Deadly Premonition, that specialist is Agent Francis York Morgan...

Well, everything in this picture looks wrong.

I'm pointing this out because, when you first start playing the game, you'll think the guy (and maybe even the game) is a joke. But in actual fact, you'll come to find out that Agent Francis York Morgan is one of the best, most complex and most interesting characters ever placed in a mere videogame.

Yeah, that's him!

There are so many great aspects to Agent Morgan... his refusal to drive above the speed limit in a police car, for example, would normally be frustrating, but in this case it's quite funny. His knowledge of obscure 80s films is phenomenal, and the conversations he has about them are well worth spending the time in the car with him. And he obviously has an incredible knowledge of bizarre homicides, as he takes great delight in telling the local cops...

Judging by the way it's raining, I'm guessing he won't be using that axe for chopping firewood...

Like the game I placed at number three, Red Dead Redemption, Deadly Premonition is heavily story-driven. And there is an element of the open-world to this game, if you care to look for it. The game does lead you down the path required to play through the story, and you are forced to do certain things at certain times. But you are given an element of freedom to explore between these times. You can go around the town and just sit in on other folks' business, you can follow them around and see what they get up to in the course of a normal day, or you can go and play Peeping Tom with smalltown cop Emily Wyatt. What?

Hey, how did he manage to get Naomi Watts in his car?

When approaching Deadly Premonition, there's a danger of falling into the trap that you're only liking it because it's so bad that it's good. I don't think that is the case... it really is good. Damn good. Even the clunky gameplay elements can be worked around, in a kind of RPG-lite fashion... if you're willing to explore the game enough, you can find weapons with unlimited ammunition or that can't be damaged (great), or can cut out the road travel. You don't want to do that second one, though... Agent York's conversations with "Zach" are among this game's many highlights.

Hey, he's your imaginary friend...

I've read that Deadly Premonition is very similar to Twin Peaks... it probably works to my advantage that I haven't seen Twin Peaks, if that's the case. And for all I've maligned the clunkiness of the gameplay, it's still effective. In fact, the survival horror aspects are incredibly effective. Because they only happen every so often, as extraordinary events in a mundane world, they work far better than if the game was all survival horror. When you turn up somewhere and it's all gone wrong, it's really chilling and unnerving, and when the Raincoat Killer appears and makes a beeline for you, it really gets the heart pounding. Especially when you're hiding in a cupboard, holding your breath...

I think we're in a bit of trouble, Zach...

I bought Deadly Premonition on the day it was released, for the princely sum of twenty pounds. I bought it on the strength of a few reviews I'd read, and I expected to get some laughs out of it. And I did. But I got a hell of a lot more than that besides... I got a truly memorable videogame, memorable for all the right reasons as well as a few wrong ones. I like a quirky game with its own personality, and Deadly Premonition is nothing if not its own game. Don't write this one off because it's bizarre... embrace it because of it, lose yourself in it and absorb it. My coffee says you won't regret it.