The Benefits of Virtual Carpooling! (Deadly Premonition is the Game of the Year, Part 10)

In the last article I skipped over yet another fascinating detail of the game's story, but not without cause. I've previously discussed just how voluminous the game's supplemental material is, and how it's profoundly worth it for the player to take the time to fully explore Greenvale—there's one problem with it, however. In order to see everything, the game absolutely must be played twice.

This might seem like an arduous chore, especially considering how many people haven't made it all the way through the game a single time, but it's vitally important if you want to get a complete picture of the town and its denizens—and really, why wouldn't you? Playing the game a second time can offer a completely different story experience—this isn't a Fable 3 situation, where there's no real reason to go back and find out how the world would be different had the King or Queen been a dick to everyone all the time.

(Spoiler Alert: It would be worse!)

Which brings me to the choice that the player, as Zach, must make, and how I'm going to advise players to make it. Previously I've mentioned just how much say the player gets in what kind of game they're going to play, but I haven't focused on the drawbacks to a more lackadaisical approach. While the side-stories are always available should the player decide to take a break, certain dialogue and character moments aren't.

The most obvious examples of this happen during the ride to the hospital—as with all such trips, the player has the option to skip the carpool, certain that George and Emily will wait at the hospital for as many days as are necessary until the player feels like showing up. If the player decides to do this, the punishment is twofold. First off, some more judgment from George:

Far more importantly, though, they'll be missing out on an unbelievably important conversation that would have taken place during the drive over.

See what I mean? We get more suggestions about the importance of York's scar (note the way he shuts down when pressed for information about it by Emily) as well as a window into George's feelings about the fairer sex. Which, given the nature of those feelings, really raise more questions than they answer.

So does the player really have to go through the entire game twice? Isn't there a less time-consuming way to view all this content without resorting to YouTube? There is, but it has its own drawbacks, and requires a slight amount of internet-usage to manage smoothly.

Deadly Premonition has one of the oddest mission structures on record—all progress is saved, and remains constantly updated as the player retries earlier chapters. So if you collect a great gun and buy a few med-kits in chapter seven, when you go back to replay the rainy path from the start of the game, you'll be fully equipped.

Of course, switching the difficulty resets all progress, so there's no going back and playing the game on hard with some of the ultimate weapons that become available in the final chapter. There's no reason to ever play the game on hard, though, so I suppose it doesn't really matter.

While this does mean that every time the player completes a chapter with an optional carpool they can simply quit out of the game and replay the chapter, this time puttering around and seeing the sights, essentially seeing the whole game in one (and a half) playthroughs, I'm going to discourage doing so. Traveling with the other characters and engaging in conversations with them puts York on a more traditional narrative track, which would be disrupted by jumping back and trying out the chapter a different way. There's no good comparison to this in other media, although I suppose people who used a thumb to mark their page in a choose-your-own-adventure book wouldn't be the farthest thing from it... My point is that stopping and replaying the game—even though there are rewards to doing so (namely seeing the whole breadth of the story without knowing the ending—really any of the last 1/3rd plot developments)—would break the powerful narrative flow that builds if the player just sticks to the main story.

I know this must seem contradictory, when I've spent so much time singing the praises of the extended world of Greenvale—but Deadly Premonition is fairly unique in that some incredibly vital story sequences are optional. There are enough opportunities to wander around between other story events, whenever offered the opportunity to spend a little more time with the other main characters, it's important to do so:

Even if that means playing through the game twice to get the full experience.

Of course, 40-50 hours is a prohibitive amount of time to spend with a rental, or a game borrowed from a friend, so why not buy yourself a copy? At less than twenty dollars, it's basically twice the cost of just renting the game—and if you're the type to keep a rental a few days extra when you find a game especially compelling, it might even wind up being cheaper!

Next time around, we'll take a look at the game Deadly Premonition might have been, before crashing back down into the world of the oft-times frustrating game that it wound up being.

Next time: How Games Should—And Shouldn't—Be Designed (Deadly Premonition is the Game of the Year, Part 11)