Where the hell to begin with a game like Deadly Premonition Origins? You play as Francis York Morgan, an FBI agent sent to the rural town of Greenvale to investigate the ritualistic murder of a young woman named Anna Graham.
Joining forces (and occasionally butting heads) with the local law enforcement you’ll attempt to figure out the mystery of this odd murder with things only getting stranger and darker the deeper you dive and not just in the ways you’d expect a typical crime investigation to. Victims will slowly pile up sure, but even more worrying are the truly nightmarish horrors York will have to tackle in what is known as the ‘Other World’. This includes the sinister Raincoat Killer stalking him throughout his investigation and said to kill only when it rains.
If the game’s story wasn’t enough to leave you scratching your head then its characters and overall tone certainly will. The residents of Greenvale are the strangest bunch I’ve seen in any recent game, their actions and personalities a mixture of over-the-top and at times baffling. Did I also mention protagonist York will often make remarks to or have full-on one-sided conversations with a person in his head known as Zach?
There’s definitely a strong B-movie vibe running through Deadly Premonition Origins; from voice acting that constantly wobbles back and forth between just plain bad and so bad, it’s good to the (at times) unintentionally hilarious writing to the game’s dated look and bumpy animations.
On paper, I should hate this, but instead, it all rather amazingly works in the game’s favour further nailing that low-budget horror movie feel, you have to imagine the developers were shooting for. It should be odd seeing an FBI agent cracking a joke in front of a recently murdered victim or hearing the game’s music drown out anything being said by the characters but in the world of Deadly Premonition, it’s something I can simply laugh and have a good time with.
Much like its presentation, playing Deadly Premonition Origins is a flawed and often clunky experience whether you’re roaming its open-world or engaging in one of its many combat-focused scenarios. The game does demonstrate some interesting ideas especially for a game released nearly ten years ago.
Take the town of Greenvale for example, its inhabitants and businesses all running on their own schedules and even reacting to the changing weather meaning you’ll also have to manage your time or risk missing an interview or a shop closing. York can spend his time going for a bite to eat, getting some rest, shaving his growing facial hair, playing some darts or participating in a number of other activities some of which will impact his finances or general state of health.
All of these elements help make you feel like you’re living the day to day life of York and what at first might seem jarring jumping between these mundane tasks and the supernatural ‘Other World’ sections actually feels surprisingly fresh. On the flip side though, the town can also feel pretty empty, key landmarks often separated by long stretches of bare road. Greenvale itself also doesn’t look particularly great, textures low and colours dark and muddy. It makes exploring the world less appealing even more so thanks to the fact driving around doesn’t feel great either, the handling overly twitchy and jerky.
Similarly fighting your way through the ‘Other World’ certainly has its moments of excitement such as hiding away or outrunning the dreaded Raincoat Killer but overall feels and looks like a less polished and satisfying version of Resident Evil 4. It’s not all bad; the environments and monsters are suitably creepy while the ability to hold your breath and avoid conflict is a neat idea. Where these areas stumble a great deal is in the controls. Aiming feels sluggish resulting in encounters proving tougher than they really should. Even something as simple as switching between weapons or items requires you to hop to the game’s pause screen as opposed to a button press. Repetition also starts to rear its ugly head if you play for too long, the combat not really engaging enough to stretch the entirety of each location.
All that being said though, I still found myself sticking with the game. Whether that was to see where this crazy tale was heading next, hope to run into another wacky resident of the town or just mindlessly shoot my way through waves of funny-sounding monsters is hard to pinpoint. What I do know, is there’s a particular charm about Deadly Premonition Origins that in spite of its numerous shortcomings convinces you to keep playing. It’s goofy from top to bottom and that is a quality hard to dislike.
The game has been awarded (perhaps that’s not the right word to use here) with the record of ‘Most Critically Polarizing Survival Horror Game’ by the Guinness World Records and after finally getting hands-on with the game for myself I’m beginning to understand why.
This is an experience that’s clunky to play, messy in its execution at times and visually ugly and dated however in spite of all this I’ve found my time with Deadly Premonitions Origins to be enjoyable. Like a questionably acted B-movie you learn to love its eye-rolling moments and start to embrace its flaws. Is Deadly Premonition Origins a good game? After 20 hours I’m not sure I even know for myself. What I do know is, I had a great time with Francis York Morgan and cannot wait to join forces once again in next year’s sequel.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Numskull Games