Just over three years ago, Access Games developed and Ignition Entertainment released (in NA) a $20 game exclusively for the Xbox 360 called Deadly Premonition. Some loved it, some hated it, most never heard of it. I was one of those that loved it. Now, Rising Star Games just released the Director's Cut version for the PS3, featuring a significant amount of tweaks, enhancements, and even new content. If you missed it the first time around, don't make the same mistake again.
To give you an idea what I thought about the original release in February 2010, check out my original review. Being a Director's Cut version, you would be correct to assume that the core story and mechanics are essentially as they were originally. New to this version is a new scenario created by the game's original director, Hidetaka "Swery" Suehiro, graphical improvements to textures, lighting, and draw distance, tweaked controls plus the addition of Move support, DLC support (I'm not sure of any current plans for new content), and stereoscopic 3D support. Honestly, it's been long enough since I have played Deadly Premonition that I either have yet to encounter or didn't even recognize the new scenario. For me, it's difficult to discern specific differences between the two games in terms of story or new quests or areas within the twenty-six or so chapters.
The graphical improvements are a little more noticeable right away, but, it's not like the Director's Cut was converted to Crytek3 or something. The draw distance, while I have read is improved, is still rather limited, making long range viewing, especially when moving in the direction of what you're viewing, a little disappointing. There are also some framerate hiccups early on in the game that seem to smooth out after the first few hours. These were noticeable, but hardly game-breaking. Overall, the technical quality of the visual presentation is still humble, or more bluntly put, aged, but it's certainly sufficient. As I said in 2010, it's all about the gameplay and the fun factor. And if you give this game an hour or so to get going from the opening moments, I'd almost guarantee you will be hooked into the story and its numerous levels of intrigue.
Technical reservations aside, the art direction of Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut has some positive impact on the experience. There's something damn creepy about the initial enemies you encounter in the forest (and of course the Raincoat Killer). The way those enemies look, and how they move, with their quick teleportation and their feature-less eyes and mouth is chilling, even if the graphics aren't fully detailed. Couple that with their sounds and, even though they're easy to kill, these shadows are still unsettling. Other visual details I liked include some simple things like how the wall clocks in the vacant hotel rooms matches the in-game time. Many probably wouldn't have even noticed nor cared if the time on those clocks in those rooms that you might not have ever even bothered to explore were correct or not, but they are, and I think that's appreciable. The weather and night/day effects are cool too -- having to turn on your wipers in vehicles (assuming first person view driving anyway) is a nice touch.
Other visual facets are not as positive, though. I think it's a shame that you cannot fully disable the HUD -- your HP and Stamina meters, which take up almost half of the top screen, are always there. I'm unsure why those can't be removed, I had the same issue with Condemned: Criminal Origins. In both cases, it does nothing to promote immersion. Additionally, the visual cues in-game are too gaudy, which may be exactly what Swery was going for, but I'm not sure I agree with it. Let's start with the large, ever-present objective arrow, or the numerous cues indicating a place to sleep, eat, or an object (like your toolbox) you can interact with. Or the miscellaneous pick-ups like the Agent Honor badges. I thought the presentation suffered because of these overly apparent indicators that work to clutter up the screen and reduce immersion.
Visual discussion aside, there are some other gripes I would submit for Deadly Premonition. One sound that gets particular annoying is the same creaking sound for doors, although on the other hand I love the Save/Load sound and the item-pickup sound effect. Speaking of doors, if you're like me and want to explore every area you can get to, that several second delay between opening a door, any door, and being able to control your character again on the other side, gets old quick. I think it's just a matter-of-fact kind of gameplay design that maybe started with Resident Evil, but going through doors just isn't as seamless and snappy as it ought to be. That goes double for some other sequences like peeking through windows -- simply walking up to a window, pressing X to peek, pops up a load screen. You'll wait almost ten seconds for this to complete, only to have to go through another load screen to exit the window viewing mode. That can't be right. In observing anything or conversing, I wish there were a way to tell when you've reached the last 'fresh' bit of dialogue, be it voiceover work or just text. As is now, you have to keep Observing or Talking to someone an extra time to make sure you've exhausted all content. It's annoying to have to do that, only to skip through the repeated lines.
Much of what I noted while playing Deadly Premonition again can be viewed as negatives, and indeed they are, but not brazenly so. Sometimes I find that with excellent games, I have to more to say about the gripes than the positives, but that's not because the game in question is lacking positives. No, Deadly Premonition has positives where it counts, and in ample supply. The story and characters are intriguing from the start. I found myself leaving my PS3 paused for hours at a time, not knowing for sure when I would have a chance to come back to play just another ten minutes. Normally, I'm quick to save and power down. The game keeps you thinking and it's not hard to get lost -- in the good way, as in drawn in and immersed -- in the quaint city of Greenvale. In-game time moves at 1/3rd the pace of realtime, yet you won't find it hard to keep the hours full, going across town, meeting NPCs and visiting locations while they're accessible, and just outright enjoying yourself as you seek to get to the bottom of a really enthralling mystery that is told and unraveled in a fascinating way.
To the summary...