If you believe in "Story over graphics" this game is the epitome of that. It always saddens me how indie games can't get the AAA budgets because there are some out there that have better elements than AAA titles. Deadly Premonition is one of them when it comes to story, characters, and atmosphere. The game looks, plays, and feels like a pre-2003 PS2 game and is just down right ugly. I'll get to that later but right now you have to know how excellent this riveting story is. You play as FBI agent Francis York Morgan who is investigating a murder in a small countryside town Greenvale. You meet the Sheriff's and other citizens throughout the game, and the story is always unwinding plot twists and revealing dark secrets about every single character.
The premise is a legend of the Raincoat Killer that rampaged through the town in the 50's. It appears that there is a "New Raincoat Killer" mimicking the old one, and Morgan must stop this guy before he kills everyone Morgan grows close to. There are two parts to the game and this consists of driving around the regular world then entering the "Other World" to investigate crime scenes and find clues. This "Other World" is a lot like Silent Hill's, but the game never explains what this world is and why it appears in the town. I hate how that was never answered so it feels like it may just be tacked on. When you are in this "Other World" you get to use your guns and shoot creepy zombies. These zombies are really brain dead and can only really hurt you if you are overwhelmed or backed into a corner. The AI is cheap, but that's fine because you just want to know more of the story.
When you enter this world Morgan will start profiling fuzzy clues together and it's up to you to find them, but thankfully the game scraps Silent Hill's labyrinthine maze like levels for straight forward linear ones and I never got lost. There are red areas that show where to go so you never get lost. The puzzles are very simple and don't even require exercising your cerebral cortex, but it's OK because you just want the game to move on to uncover more of the juicy story. The controls are very unintuitive, but the game works around them so it's never really frustrating. You hold X down to run but you hold down RT to aim and A to attack, but LT is to lock-on. The controls are strange and archaic but they work for the most part. The weapons are your typical survival horror stuff like shotguns, pistols, and melee weapons so don't expect much in that regard.
The rest of the game is completely boring and down right yawn inducing. Driving around Greenvale from place to place will make you fall asleep because the cars feel, sound, and drive like something from pre-2000 games. The game doesn't even use real time or dynamic lighting but static lighting! Cones for headlights? I felt like I was playing a PS1 game some times. The cars sound like dying lawn mowers and drive like one too. There aren't any people walking around and the cars appear out of nowhere like they just came out of hyper drive. The developers even put in side quests and some sort of collectible card hunt but why would you bore yourself so much? It's dry, dull, and just not fun at all.
There are some RPG elements like having to watch Morgan's hunger, tiredness, and even how dirty his suit gets, plus you can shave. Yeah it's WTF moments that are thrown in like that that really make no sense. They are unnecessary but hey they're there. What really saves Deadly Premonition is that the developers knew the game's flaws and built everything to accommodate for it like quick time events during boss fights instead of a dodge button. It makes the game very playable and I applaud them for doing this.
The only reason to trudge through the is for the amazing story. You really care about the characters, and there is some freaky crap in this game that would even put some stuff in Silent Hill
to shame. The game does drag a little bit with about 15 hours of game play, but they could have cut the fat out and made it about 8-10 if there wasn't the terrible "open world" part thrown in. If you can forgive horrible graphics, terrible animations, abysmal sounds, and archaic controls you will be rewarded with a thrilling and deep story that is unforgettable.