DEADLY PREMONITION: ORIGINS – NINTENDO SWITCH
Developed by: Access Games
Nintendo Switch Port Published by: Numskull Games
Category: Open World Survival Horror
Release Date: 09/05/2019
Playing Deadly Premonition Origins is like doing a really hard workout at the gym. You might put the weights up and extend your cardio because you know that it will benefit you in the long run, just like playing a remake of a cult classic game from 2010 will allow you to join in conversations about it with your own personal views. However, putting up the weights and running further and longer leaves you with a deep ache that seems to reach your bones, and what feels like the centre of your brain, which is exactly the feeling that every session with Deadly Premonition Origins will leave you with.
That could make playing Deadly Premonition Origins sound like an unpleasant experience, which it definitely can be, but what I’m really trying to get across is how much effort is required to persevere with it. The game presents a bizarre story that holds more plot twists than the average game of Twister, glaringly obvious technical issues that may even be design choices, and a cast of characters that seem to be there just to represent each stereotype there is. However, Deadly Premonition Origins, despite all of this, is a game you can’t help coming back to.
In Deadly Premonition Origins players take on the role of Special Agent Francis York Morgan (but everyone calls him York) of the FBI, as he investigates the gruesome murder of an 18 year old girl in the town of Greenvale. As the investigation unfolds York will discover that the Raincoat Killer, a mythical being from the town’s history, has seemingly returned to wreak havoc on Greenvale’s residents once again. York then makes it his mission, as you’d hope the FBI would, to track down and incarcerate the Raincoat Killer.
Having never played the original game, which launched in 2010 for Xbox 360, I took to the game as many probably will on Nintendo Switch, fresh-faced and bright-eyed. But the story is hard to understand, both because it’s completely mental, and because key points are often mixed in with artificial chit-chat that doesn’t even pass as mundane.
Despite the lack of great, or even good, dialogue in Deadly Premonition Origins, the story is gripping in its own way. The mystery of the Raincoat Killer keeps you coming back for more, in spite of whatever might have made you turn the game off beforehand. There are genuinely terrifying moments in the game, as well as hilariously random ones, all of which culminate into something that is undeniably enjoyable.
You may have heard that the game is so bad that it’s good, and that’s because it is. I was constantly angered when York, having been introduced by someone else, proceeded to introduce himself once again, flashing his badge at every opportunity. Conversations frequently turn from the case at hand to something completely irrelevant, such as turkey, jam, and cereal sandwiches.For some reason though, this only serves to make the game better.
York is an incredibly awkward and clunky character, made no less odd by the fact that he continuously talks to the player controlling him, who he calls Zack. This breaks the fourth wall at every opportunity, but it becomes both relevant to the story, and highly amusing, the more it goes on. For most of the game I was simply pretending that York was completely unhinged, and just pretending to be an FBI agent investigating a serial killer, whilst simultaneously being the serial killer he’s hunting.
Despite how insane York appears to be, he does have some redeemable qualities. Yes he may have a disorder that causes him to introduce himself to everyone he sees, but he also uses coffee to see the future, and has a resulting crippling addiction to it, similar to my own, that really helped me identify with him.
When playing Deadly Premonition Origins players will be doing one of three things. The first is driving from one end of the map to the other, because nothing in Greenvale was built within what seems like 10 miles of another building. The second is investigating, which requires them to run through tortured versions of buildings in another, darker world. The third thing that players will be doing in the game is running from the Raincoat Killer, which was easily the highlight of my time with it.
The investigation portions of Deadly Premonition Origins transport players to another world, in a similar way to the Silent Hill series. Here they’ll face terrifying enemies that are twisted versions of humans who bend over backwards to approach you, occasionally warping to the left and right. The aiming system in the game isn’t very helpful when trying to shoot these enemies, which only adds to the tension you experience when there’s more than one on the screen.
I had quite a few problems with the twisted human enemies dying but not despawning. They would melt into the ground, but as I ran to go past where they had fallen, York would get stuck. While it’s not a huge issue, it’s certainly something that I had to bear in mind moving forward, and could get frustrating.
Before I move on, I want to point out that holding the run button and opening doors will save you about 5 hours in these sections. Don’t do what I did and realise that half way through the game.
In amongst these investigation periods, players will begin to encounter the Raincoat Killer. Instead of fighting the otherworldly being, which is what I expected, York must hide from the antagonist. These moments, when you can see the Raincoat Killer’s perspective as well as York’s are the most thrilling points of the game. I genuinely looked forward to encountering the Raincoat Killer so that I could play through another hide and seek section, though they are marred by awful QTEs. Games like God of War give you ample time to see the button you need to press, while Deadly Premonition Origins expects you to already know what to do before it tells you. This led to a number of restarts, giving one encounter the feel of a Dark Souls boss, as I learned the QTEs after dying to them, one after the other.
Deadly Premonition Origins has some great moments of gameplay, but in between there are some confusing choices that I can’t make sense of. The game revolves around needing to get to locations within certain time frames. York can sleep to pass the time in batches of 3 hours, but if you only need to wait for 2 hours, you’re stuck. There’s very little to do to pass the time in Deadly Premonition Origins, with fishing being the only good mini-game. There are collectibles and side missions, but these feel more annoying than anything when compared to the meat of the core story. I especially hate the weird racing mini-game, and I don’t see how anyone would consider it fun.
The technical side of Deadly Premonition Origins is something I found far less endearing than the clunky storytelling or hard rocker character, who seemed to have tinnitus so bad that he now constantly hears heavy metal. There are many issues with the game, but most could be avoided if not for the overall design that the director, Swery, must have been going for when making it.
Some issues are simply the game being a bit broken, but others feel intentional. For example, there are often times when the game’s music is so loud that you can’t hear what the characters are saying. Other times the music simply disappears, and the silence is quite literally deafening. Characters will also do the strangest things, like they’ve only got a certain number of poses, and someone was determined to have them doing at least one at all times.
Driving is bad, and that’s a shame because you have to do a lot of it. Players need to drive around a fairly sizeable map in order to visit suspects or enter the spooky lumber mill and nearly die. This is usually between specific time periods, since every character has their own daily routine, which really does help bring the world to life in a way. However, getting from A to B is difficult because the driving feels like forcing a spoon through hard set butter, and steering is like letting Jesus take the wheel and seeing what happens.
Unfortunately there’s no other way to get to locations, often on opposite sides of the map, until you unlock fast travel later on. Cars in general aren’t the best, because they shudder when York sits in them. I could overlook this if it wasn’t for the cutscenes in vehicle interiors, during which the cars still shudder.
It’s also worth pointing out that the cars in Deadly Premonition Origins need fuel. This means that you need to drive to a gas station every now and then to fill up, which is actually a good way of forcing you to talk to the owners as part of the story. However, do not be fooled into thinking that at 0% fuel you can still drive around, because I tried it. Being stranded in a game world as big as Greenvale isn’t something I’d wish on anyone.
When I looked into why there were systems for fuel, keeping York fed and well rested, and even swapping his suits and cleaning them, I was surprised. Swery has previously spoken about these ‘survival’ elements of Deadly Premonition, explaining that they were added to make the player feel like part of the town. People need to eat, sleep, stay clean, and even put gas in the tank, none of which changes if zombies invade a town, or a serial killer is on the loose. This makes an odd sort of sense to me, and on that basis I can accept these ‘survival’ elements for what they are.
While the driving in Deadly Premonition Origins is easily the biggest flaw to me personally, there are other issues that could have been ironed out during the porting process. When entering the centre of town for example, the framerate drops dramatically, but there’s no real reason for this since the world is quite empty. I also experienced a crash when I entered a conversation with a particular character, losing about an hour of gameplay between save points.
Deadly Premonition Origins is still definitely worth your time despite the broken parts it’s made of.
A typical playthrough of Deadly Premonition Origins could run you up to about 30 hours. That’s a lot for a Nintendo Switch game, and it’s a lot for the game itself if I’m honest. However, I still find myself wanting to go back to Greenvale to pick up all the cards, hide from the Raincoat Killer, and drive around until the car’s tank runs dry again, but directly outside the gas station this time.
I don’t want to mislead you, there are a lot of flaws in the game. But you genuinely won’t believe how bad it is until you’ve played it, and then you’ll be so hooked that you think it’s as good as I do. Everything from the way serious moments are interwoven with ridiculous ones, with accompanying music for each, the way that you have to use subtitles when it rains because the noise is so loud, to the sandwich scene that still makes me wonder if a planned Sonic the Hedgehog mini-game was pulled at the last minute, are all brilliant.
In pieces, Deadly Premonition Origins is not a good game. When you look at all the technical issues, or the problems around the storytelling on their own, they tell the tale of a game you don’t want to play. But when taken as a whole, the game transcends its shortfalls and becomes something that you can’t wait to load up at launch time and play.
I think being on the Nintendo Switch definitely helped me enjoy my experience with the game, even though at times I didn’t want anyone to know I was playing it. On other consoles you’re locked in for a few hours at a time, but on Switch you can pause and take a break whenever you want, wherever you are. Playing it indoors near a window while it rains outside brings something that I don’t think any other version of the game could achieve.
The sequel to Deadly Premonition Origins, Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in disguise, will release exclusively for Nintendo Switch in 2020.
Numskull Games, the European/Australian publisher of Deadly Premonition Origins, actually have a physical release of the game coming up. It’s a collector’s edition with incredibly apt badges that anyone who plays the game will learn to adore, I recommend picking it up on the 22nd of November. Aksys Games is publishing the physical collector’s edition for the NA region.
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Review code provided by Numskull Games.