Today, Destructoid posted a video chat/interview with Swery 65, the mastermind behind Deadly Premonition, last year’s weirdest (and possibly most divisive) boxed game. A survival horror/mystery game that takes inspiration directly from Twin Peaks, it notoriously scored a 10 at Destructoid and a 2 at IGN, it’s something of an anomaly.
Hailed for its amazing, off the wall story, with a fascinating, memorable main character – agent Francis York, who spends half of the game speaking to his split personality, Zach – and awful, broken combat mechanics, it’s possibly the least commercially viable project to get full distribution in years. Possibly ever.
The interview is fantastic – delving into everything from the project’s inspiration, it’s cultural influences (80s movies and music figure highly), the fact that combat was shoehorned in at the last minute (this was a pure 3D adventure game all the way until it was in alpha testing), even the reasons why the graphics are so simple, by 360 standards. If you are a fan of the game, or simply curious, it’s required viewing.
I have never been so fascinated by a game that I have no desire to play. In Game Critics’ epic, so-far 11 part series entitled Deadly Premonition is the Game of the Year, writer Daniel Weissenberger alternately criticizes and fawns over this unique, incredibly detailed, horribly flawed experience. He writes about the mechanics, the characters, and the lovingly crafted world. He cringes over the atrocious fighting sequence, points out puzzles and sections that are obvious parodies and homage’s of other horror franchises. Videos allow the reader to experience the off-the wall story first hand, while our tour guide goes on about little touches that make the game so unique.
This is a game where you want to drive around aimlessly, simply because the dialogue is so hilariously off-kilter:
More than anything, this passage had me close to running out and picking up a copy:
“Everyone in town has patterns of behavior, places they like to spend time, people they like to hang out with… there’s so much activity that you could spend hours just following people around and watching their routines. There aren’t a lot of characters in Deadly Premonition, but each one has a distinct personality and depth that few games attempt, let alone achieve.
The most important thing to note here is that this is yet another way that Deadly Premonition accomplishes things that couldn’t work in any other medium: letting the player become a co-author in the story. It manages this by having far more content than the story requires. Films have a proscribed length that they can’t violate, limiting the amount of story they can feature. Even in the most digressive novel the author must decides the order in which the characters are introduced, and how much coverage they receive—editorial decisions that determine how the audience will react.
Compare this to something like Grand Theft Auto IV, which is an almost shockingly shallow depiction of a working world. Once, on a whim, I decided to follow a prostitute and her John around town to see where he drove after picking her up. A minivan pulled over in the warehouse district and a prostitute walked over to speak with the driver. They talked for a moment and then she climbed inside. Riding a motorcycle I tailed the couple, remaining a discrete distance behind, of course. I assumed that at some point they’re reach a location, the transaction would be completed, and then the prostitute would leave: Verisimilitude Accomplished!
It never happened, though. I tailed the car for nearly 12 in-game hours without any further incident. As the sun rose over liberty city, I realized that nothing was ever going to happen—their roles as hooker and john had disappeared as soon as she climbed into the car. Once that was over, they were just another random bit of traffic, following a new AI routine. I wound up with the same results when I picked a random person in downtown FakeManhattan and walked behind him for half an hour. Over the course of ten in-game hours the man never went into a building or met with anyone. He just wandered aimlessly around Liberty City until I got bored of watching him.”
As someone who plays games primarily for escapism, for the chance to leave my world entirely and become enveloped in another, that sounds like chocolate-chip crack.
If any of this inspires you to go out and pick up the game, be absolutely sure to read this page, which outlines strategies that mitigate the most painful elements of the gameplay.