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The Greenvale Tourism Board (Deadly Premonition is the Game of the Year, Part 6)

Daniel Weissenberger's picture

It's time to take a look at Deadly Premonition's claim of being the first true "open world" horror videogame. A claim that, while technically true, may mislead people about what kind of game they're going to be playing. You see, while Greenvale is a realistically large town, in that it seems like it could (just) contain the 500 people we're told live there, the game never breaks from the realism of the situation, or allows the player to go hog-wild with York's actions, so there's a realistically small number of things that can actually be done while tooling around Greenvale in a borrowed cruiser.

Let's take a look at a map of Greenvale, shall we?

That's actually a pretty big landscape.

That map means one thing—it's time to discuss another of the game's unforgivable design errors! Note what a huge area of land the game's map covers—certainly a change for a horror game, which generally attempt to ramp up tension by locking players into tiny areas, keeping them there with the threat of instant death if they wander away from the prescribed path. Anyone remember the dogs at the front door in the first Resident Evil?

With all of this freedom comes two huge drawbacks. 1: navigating is, to put it in the nicest possible fashion, a bitch. The map exists in two states—fully revealed, as you can see above, or way too zoomed in:

Oooh, map folds!

You can actually zoom in even further if you'd like, although I can't imagine a situation that would require you to do so. It's not like the game features any hedge mazes. Adding insult to injury, the zoomed-in map rotates to match York's current facing, while the overall map remains static with north (basically) at the top. Which means just figuring out exactly where you are in town can be something of a chore. Try, for example, to determine where on the large map that small visible section above is located.

Not easy, is it? Now, to be fair, once you've spent an hour tooling around Greenvale's back roads, liberating human bones from a pack of stray dogs—

You'll have a pretty good sense of where everything is located, and be more than capable of driving around instinctually. Of course, spending a couple of hours learning the layout of a fictional town while driving a virtual car with horrible handling is something that nearly no one wants to do, which is why I've counted it among the game's crucial flaws.

That's the main drawback to offering players a realisitcally large rural village—it takes a realistically large amount of time to get anywhere. While it may not seem excessive in the real world to have to drive for three minutes to get from your hotel to the police station, doing it ten or twenty times over the course of a game quickly adds up to inconvenience and frustration. Especially when the driving isn't in service of the main plot, but rather to take part in time-wasting fetch quests that don't really seem like they have any place in a largely real-world based murder mystery. But driving around picking up trading cards with the faces and bios of the various characters in the game is just another one of those things you've got to just accept if you want to get into the world of Deadly Premonition. And at this point, really, why wouldn't you?

I want this trading card.

Oh, right, because games don't generally ask you to slowly drive back and forth across a realistically large town. Of course.

Well, have no fear, because Deadly Premonition isn't all crippling gameplay flaws—next time I'm going to point out a ray of light that cuts through the dark clouds of design ineptitude that hang over huge sections of the game, so rest assured, even though I've pointed out some giant problems with the game, if you actually head over to Amazon and buy a copy of Deadly Premonition, and then read the very next article in this series, I will let you in on the two secrets necessary to get through the game with minimum possible hassle.

Two secrets that, had they just been plainly explained in the game's manual, I'm sure would have swung the game's Metacritic average about 15-20 points north. Assuming, of course, that video game reviewers actually read manuals. I honestly have no idea if that's the case.

Next time: The Manner in which Unforgiveable Design Mistakes can be Overlooked (Deadly Premonition is the Game of the Year, Part 7)


Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   PS3  
Developer(s): Access Games  
Key Creator(s): SWERY 65  
Series: Deadly Premonition  
Genre(s): Horror  
Articles: Editorials  
Topic(s): Humor  

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Is This A Joke?

All these articles you've written about Deadly Premonition has got me seriously intrigued. I've not read them in detail as I don't want to spoil the experience but when it's finally released in my neck of the woods (end-October) I'll make sure to give it a go.

BUT

I appreciate the effort you've gone to in really expounding the virtues and exposing the flaws of the game, but truly, I cannot remember such lavish attention given to a single game before. Not even blockbusters get this kind of attention. I mean SIX (6) carefully prepared articles with screenshots carefully selected to illustrate your POV, for what is, lets face it, a low key release.

Then there is the blunt as hell title 'Deadly Premonition is game of the year'.

Finally there is the fact that in EVERY such article you have a 'head over to Amazon and buy Deadly Premonition' type link. Yes, I know where to get Deadly Premonition from when it's released over here, thank-you-very-much. You never feel the need to 'remind' me where to get other games, so why go the extra mile for this one?

I am thus very concerned that you (either yourself personally, or GameCritics.com) are in some way connected to the developer/publisher and all this is just a cynical attempt to plug the game.

Indeed, in an almost psycho-horror style, the shameless plugging is so over-the-top and blatant it seems as if you're actually trying to convey the real hidden message -- "It's crap but we can't tell you directly as we're being FORCED to plug it!"

So end result for me is that I feel all these articles are just some sort of massive ironic joke. Sort of like "Well hey, Destructoid gave it a 10/10, so what the hell, we'll make it game of the year!"

On the subject of whether or not this is a joke-

1 - We're not being paid in any way for these articles.
2 - It's not a joke.
3 - Yes, Deadly Premonition is actually that good while, at the same time, being terrible when using most of the metrics normally employed to judge a game's worth (graphics, gameplay, etc).

Why am I writing this much about the game? Because somebody had to - the game honestly deserves to be spotlighted more extensively than any other title out there - because there's more to be said about it than almost any other title out there.

dang

Man, somebody should have told me about our special deal with SWERY before I gave Deadly Premonition a 4. Brad, Chi, you're asleep at the wheel!

Anyway, Dan has done something this long, if I recall correctly, for Dead to Rights. It's just that it was crammed into a single absurdly long post instead of distributed into shorter essays.

Moving on to something less stupdenously silly, I'd like to hear more of your thoughts on the usefulness of this structure, Dan. You don't seem to have been too enamored of the side-quests that were available, but in one of our twitter conversations Brad indicated that he liked the extra investigations that were available in the town, and that he felt they contributed to the feeling of being a detective. Do you think Deadly Premonition struck a good balance between its linear plot and its open world? Do you think a game with this structure can strike a satisfying balance?

There's definitely tension between those elements. I felt it more acutely in the case of Mafia II, which never really let you free in the city unless some part of the plot was already in motion. In contrast, Deadly Premonition has some open periods that let you get out and about without the continuing story hanging over your head. Still, I couldn't escape the feeling that, if I was buying into this world, I should be staying on task. I mean, there's a serial killer loose, right? It's difficult to choose a fishing trip over catching that villain.

More open to interpretation is whether the side quests fit the character. Morgan seems to be somewhat put off by the people and town of Greenvale (unlike Dale Cooper's reaction to Twin Peaks). Obviously that changes a bit as the story goes along, but some of the side quests just don't seem like they'd appeal to him, if he wants to finish his investigation and get out of town as soon as possible.

It's a waste of words surely?

Daniel Weissenberger wrote:

1 - We're not being paid in any way for these articles.
2 - It's not a joke.
3 - Yes, Deadly Premonition is actually that good while, at the same time, being terrible when using most of the metrics normally employed to judge a game's worth (graphics, gameplay, etc).

Why am I writing this much about the game? Because somebody had to - the game honestly deserves to be spotlighted more extensively than any other title out there - because there's more to be said about it than almost any other title out there.

Great, in which case is it really necessary to constantly remind us to go to Amazon and buy it? I've come to this site for critical opinions that I respect (but not always agree with), not to be reminded of where I can buy it from (have common sense and Google for that).

It's a waste of words surely?

Replies!

Sparky- I'm largely fond of the side missions (they're covered more in the next post)- with a couple of exceptions I felt they did a good job of making it feel like York was actually getting the chance to investigate non-essential parts of the case. After all, you never know where the big clue is coming from, right? Especially when doing those investigations lets you feel like you're eliminating suspects, or getting closure on parts of the story.

Alv - The Amazon links are there because I want everyone to play this game - if there's even the slightest chance that having an Amazon link at the bottom of a post might lead to someone impulsively dropping the double sawbuck it takes to play the game of the year, then I'll do it. Likewise, once I start finding used copies of DP in the 5-10 dollar range I'll start stockpiling so that I can give them away to people who haven't played them, like I do with DTR, Winback, and Alone in the Dark.

Hooray, Another Article!

I loved the sidequests. It's entirely possible to tear through the main story without doing any of them (which is what I did on my first playthrough), thus nullifying any tension between my goals and those of the characters. Then I went back to see all the character development I'd missed. I'll probably play it again, keeping all this in mind.

If you ask me, the game structure actually works better for this type of story than the televised serial format of Twin Peaks (BLASPHEMY!!). Even the show's most vehement fans will tell you there are easily several subplots of varying quality that could be done away with without disrupting the integrity of Cooper's murder investigation. The sidequests in DP aren't necessarily any more interesting, objectively speaking, but the fact that YOU control the pacing of when and how you interact with the characters makes, say, trying to figure out what's going on between Quint and Becky far more entertaining than whatever James was getting up to in the second season of TP.

If you're going to talk about the tension between character goals and player goals (not to mention developer goals) as a problem, you might as well apply that to every game that tries to have a protagonist with a well-formed personality in a story that makes sense. And that goes all the way back to stuff Ebert said about the medium's difficulty with authorship. I prefer to see it as DP demonstrating how even the simple act of giving me some form of limited control over how I experience the narrative can vastly improve the element of exploring characters not immediately related to the plot. And besides, as Dan pointed out, everyone is a suspect. A cooking pot could be a deadly weapon in the right hands!

Alv wrote:

I appreciate the effort you've gone to in really expounding the virtues and exposing the flaws of the game, but truly, I cannot remember such lavish attention given to a single game before. Not even blockbusters get this kind of attention. I mean SIX (6) carefully prepared articles with screenshots carefully selected to illustrate your POV, for what is, lets face it, a low key release.

There's a lot more than you think out there on DP. Magazine articles, podcasts, fan films. And more coming every month it seems!
http://planetredwood.webs.com/apps/links/

And I don't know why it should be common practice to reserve one's admiration of a game, any game, ESPECIALLY one that wouldn't usually get a lot of attention. Gamers have the weirdest ideas of how to treat their medium. You would NEVER get a movie lover questioning another fan's love of a particular movie- Hell, look at Troll 2, and DP is actually GOOD.

Quote:

Then there is the blunt as hell title 'Deadly Premonition is game of the year'.

I think you're confusing "blunt" with "true".

Quote:

Are you shilling for the developer? (paraphrase)

The fact is that games like Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect and Bioshock 2 don't need to remind people to buy them. Games like DP do, because apparently people still think this is some kind of ironic joke. Hell, even SOMETHING AWFUL linked to an Amazon page in their review, and I'm pretty sure you can guess that they're not getting compensated for it by Access or Ignition (and look at their article title: 2010's Greatest Game to Ever Be Made in History of the World. Don't read it if you don't want spoilers, but there you go. And no, they're not entirely kidding either, if their forums are any indication).

Anyway. Glad to hear someone is considering buying the UK version. I hope you have fun with it, Alv, but trust us: It's not a joke, and the Amazon links are like a fragment of a sentence in yellow text at the bottom of the page. Not everyone has a super-awesome memory like you and they might be tempted to schlep off and watch the Giant Bomb ERs without thinking that maybe they should play the game themselves first.

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