Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut (PS3) Preview & Interview
The Guinness World Record holder for Most Critically Polarizing Survival Horror Game. The game that brought us the sinner’s sandwich, FK in the coffee, “Life is Beautiful” and York Morgan (call him York, everyone calls him that). Deadly Premonition is finally seeing a release on PlayStation 3 this year. But not just a sloppy, dirty port of the nearly 3 year old 360 title. The folks at Access Games, including producer Tomio Kanazawa & the infamous Hidetaka “SWERY 65″ Suehiro, the director of the original Deadly Premonition, have teamed up with Rising Star Games to release a “Director’s Cut” version, both digital and retail, of the game in late April of this year. Just about every criticism lobbed at the original game has been taken into account. Poor, low-resolution graphics? Iffy control scheme? Choppy framerate? Lame achievements? I can assure you, all of this has been addressed in some way or another. You folks who missed out on the game the first time, you’re covered. And for those of you who have already pledged to the Cult of Greenvale, there’s plenty more that this version has to offer. Grab some coffee & join me, Zach.
In case you have no familiarity with the original game, I’ll do my best to bring you up to speed. Deadly Premonition follows FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan as he investigates the grisly murder of Greenvale resident Anna Graham. York meets the residents from Greenvale, ranging from the gruff sheriff George Woodman & his deputy Emily, to the eccentric & mysterious entrepreneur Harry Stewart, the creepy twins Isaach & Isaiah & others who may or may not come into play during the investigation. The game is an open-world survival horror title where the townspeople interact in “real-world” time (though obviously sped up for gameplay purposes). You’ll encounter otherworldly enemies to kill while finding clues to solve the mystery of the raincoat killer. You’ll also be able to shave, bathe, eat, sleep, play darts, drive around town, pump gas, wash your car & just about anything else an FBI agent living in a strange town might want to do. I could list all the reasons why I love Deadly Premonition, but I know I won’t ever do it justice. It’s hilarious, legitimately creepy, unconventional & unforgettable. I just can’t possibly fathom how SWERY & crew got away with a title that’s both a total mess to play & utterly captivating to experience. I’d rather not make this a Deadly Premonition love in, so I’d rather just talk about what I saw at a preview event earlier this week.
A handful of us were directed to a room with a rep from Rising Star Games along with Kanazawa & SWERY himself. The demo we saw was hands-off & directed by the representative, who chose different (early-game) sequences to show off from Director’s Cut, including the brand new framing story that opens up the title. The original game starts up with a mostly-silent opening title sequence, where the aforementioned twins discover Anna’s body in a seemingly ritualistic sacrifice-inspired crime scene. We were able to watch this cutscene in full, which had vastly improved lighting, bloom effects & higher-resolution textures in comparison to what the original game had to offer. As for the new framing story, it follows an as-of unknown grandfather telling York’s story of Greenvale to his young granddaughter (Kanazawa mentioned that the player will learn more about these characters as the game progresses). I was kind of giddy to see any kind of new story content from the game, so I was immediately invested in this newly implemented story device, though it remains to be seen if it will pay off by the end of the journey.
With that said, the rest of the demo featured events & sequences that were playable & available in the original version of the game. The first playable instance of the game, referred to as the “training” sequence, is where the player first takes control of York. The original game took a lot of elements from Resident Evil 4‘s action sequences- behind the shoulder viewpoint, dotsight aiming & stationary combat. To put it simply, the action in Deadly Premonition got in the way of what made that game so great. It felt like a chore. I’m not quite sure if Director’s Cut is fixing what I didn’t like about the combat (namely, just how unsatisfying it was to shoot a gun in the game) but it looks like the aiming & control issues have been fixed. You can now finally map your controls however you see fit in the settings menu, while the auto-aim (think Red Dead Redemption’s gunplay) makes shooting a bit less of a hassle. The framerate was a bit wonky, with spots where the game ran faster than it should then extremely choppy right after, but it seemed on the whole improved from the original game.
The next sequence we got to see showed more of the open-world aspects of the game. York was told to meet at the sheriff’s office in order to debrief before a rendezvous at the hospital & we got to see our first instance of the driving. Other than the car interior & exterior looking much cleaner than before, the driving still seemed to be the same as it ever was. Yes, that includes the damage & gas percentages (run low on either & you’ll have to find another car to get around town), as well as the non-sensical, pop-culture laden conversations between York & his friend Zach, who might or might not be imaginary (SWERY believes that “Zach” is a stand-in for the character, as a sort of fourth-wall breaking story device). The much-maligned map from the original game returns with a new function- the player can expand the map to a semi-transparent state (much like what you’d see in an MMO) , making traversal across Greenvale much less of a hassle than it once was. Another much-needed improvement dealt with load times, or lack thereof. Though not completely optimized, loads that would creep into double-digit territory have been shaved in half, at least, with the pause to access the menu becoming nearly instantaneous.
SWERY & Kanazawa gave up some new insight on the game’s additions thoughout the demo. They had thought that the difficulty options still made the game daunting to most players, so the default difficulty, which is the only difficulty available from the outset, has been toned down significantly. There are new UI differences, including the aforementioned map, cleaner looking health/energy bars & weapon/item submenus. There will be new music composed specifically for Director’s Cut, though old favorite themes will return. DLC is planned, though not much detail was provided other than that. The game will support Trophies, and unlike the Xbox version (which gave out only story-based achievements which were based on completing each chapter), the game is set to have around 50 different Trophies to collect & unlock. On top of that, the game was announced to support the PlayStation Move as well as stereoscopic 3D, though unfortunately neither element was present at the demo.
I am eagerly awaiting to see what Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut brings to the table. Thoughout the demo, hearing specific themes ingrained in my brain, seeing story beats play out as I remember, even the inflection on specific dialogue just sparked a Palovian response from me. I had a goofy grin on my face throughout the demo, because I love the town & residents of Greenvale. I’m eager to revisit them & I hope others are too. And if this title will be your first experience with the game, it’s a perfect time to hop right in & see what all the fuss is about.
I was able to spend a brief moment chatting with Kanazawa & SWERY after the demo for a short interview, which I have embedded below.
Vince Osorio: People love or hate Deadly Premonition, but the one thing they all have in common is that they all reacted strongly to the game. How did you react to the different responses that were inspired by the game?
Tomio Kanazawa: We saw that people who didn’t like the game had the same issues with it, whether it was the combat, the controls or the difficulty. Some people also didn’t understand why the graphics were poor & didn’t give the game a chance.
SWERY: We took those negative points & tried to improve the game based on the feedback. We changed the difficulty, improved the graphics & brought the game to the PlayStation 3 for players without an Xbox 360 so we could expand the audience.
Vince: What, in your own words, is in this Director’s Cut? What separates this game from the original retail release?
Tomio: The new story content is the main addition, along with the difficulty changes, improved graphics & new control scheme.
SWERY: I didn’t want to change any of the main story content in the game, because I feared that we would segregate the audience- those who have only played the 360 game & those who have only playes this version.
Tomio: We wanted to include new characters & expand the world without changing what we loved about the game in the first place.
Vince: For people who were turned off by the first game, whether it was the difficulty or the awkward gameplay, what does Director’s Cut provide that will spur players to give the game another shot?
SWERY: The quick-time events, which received a lot of criticism, have been adjusted or removed, the graphics are improved and the controls have been adjusted. The flaws have been addressed so that the player can spend time focusing on the story & investigation more than worrying about combat.
Vince: Can you describe how PlayStation Move will work with this release?
Tomio: It was decided that we wanted to experiment with motion controls when we revisited Deadly Premonition for this release, so we added Move support to the game. For action sequences, I feel like using the Move controller for aiming makes combat much more simple & direct.
Vince: Will we hear familiar voices from the first game? Has new music been added to this release?
SWERY: We have written & recorded new dialogue for the prologue/epilogue story featuring new voice acting. 3 or 4 new musical themes will also be added to the main game at certain sections.
Vince: A few less serious questions. Who is your favorite Greenvale resident?
SWERY: Of course York. Apart from York, Sigourney the Pot Lady. [This was followed by SWERY & Tomio performing Sigourney's signature hurried pot dance, a highlight of the night.]
Vince: How do you take your coffee?
SWERY: With milk!
Tomio: No sugar, some milk.
Vince: And finally, what’s the deal with the Sinner’s Sandwich? [This is a sandwich consisting of white bread with the crust removed, turkey breast, jam & cereal.]
Tomio: SWERY was offered a sandwich during the production of the game that was so tasty & delicious that he decided that it had to be referenced in the game.
SWERY: I love hamburgers & had a Twinkie for breakfast. I love junk food & wanted to show that in the game.
Many thanks to Rising Star Games, Tomio Hanazawa & SWERY for speaking with me. Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut will be available for digital download & retail shelves as a PS3 exclusive by the end of April.