Ready to return to Greenvale Zach?
Deadly Premonition is often cited as a game meant for a previous generation of consoles due to outdated controls, low resolution textures, and limited animations; in fact, it is often jokingly referred to as the best Sega Dreamcast game “that never was.” Given the graphics quality in the original, expecting a drastic graphical overhaul for the Director’s Cut release is unrealistic, but even though the overall style and models of the original remain pretty much the same, the upgraded textures and the improved lighting add an unexpected level of visual polish not seen in the 2010 release. I think what I was most struck by is how Greenvale finally lives up to its name with its vibrant, inviting, and lush greenery. The trees are fuller, to the point where some side paths – easily visible in the original game – are slightly obscured due to the added foliage. Another seemingly minor change with major impact is the remodeling of the bushes that line Greenvale’s streets. In the Director’s Cut they no longer look like vaguely green boulders scattered around the town; you can actually make out individual leaves and branches. Between the increased foliage and the removal of the purple filter, the overall effect is that Greenvale looks less muddy and brown, and more like the small, wooded town it’s meant to be.The improvement to the game’s environments can also be seen on the new lighting and additional textures on the town’s architecture. The new lighting is most noticeable on key buildings like the Sheriff Department: the additional glowing exterior lights near the entrance makes the location seem more warm and inviting. But even more compelling are the improvements to the store signage and the wall art around town and indoors: they look more vibrant and, thanks to use of higher resolution textures, many have turned from illegible blurs to decipherable content. The shop signs and walls now have more detailed line work and the buildings show varying shades of color that were either nonexistent or hidden under the purple outdoor filter of the original. Admittedly, there’s still repetition of buildings, like the six Mash Bros Markets on any given street but, overall, I think the new details make the town seem a little more lived in and definitely provide more to feast your eyes on than before.
Greenvale has never looked so green!
The new texture work around town isn’t the only visual improvement: many of the character models, menus, and items have been given fresh new details. Most noticeable for me personally was the model work on Anna Graham and the Shadow enemies; the new texture work on Anna Graham in the opening cut scene actually made her look somewhat attractive and the open sores/rips/scratches on the Shadow enemies made them appear more menacing and corpse-like. But the modeling improvements go beyond a few characters, even the game HUD, loading screen item images, and in-game collectible trading cards in Director’s Cut have had facelifts.Unfortunately, the improvements aren’t universal; some areas went noticeably untouched and instances of low resolution textures crop up throughout the game. For example, during the cut scene where York takes the master key from the hood of a police cruiser outside the Great Deer Yard Hotel, a definite improvement can be seen in the textures of the hotel’s exteriors, but the accompanying note is still low resolution and blurry. But, even with the resolution inconsistencies, I was still very pleased with the overall improvement in the game’s graphics.
The original release of Deadly Premonition is often criticized for its awkward and outdated controls; in response to that criticism, the re-release has completely redesigned, more intuitive controls. While the game is easier to control overall, there are a few changes that I feel are awkward for players of the original game (although it could be that I’m just so used to the original control scheme I couldn’t overcome my muscle memory): aiming the gun with the right analog stick instead of the left and the brake (L1) vs. boost (L2) arrangement for driving. The awkwardness of aiming with the right analog stick was definitely a muscle-memory issue, but the brake/boost placement actually made the game more difficult because it caused me to second guess my response every time a turn appeared ahead of me; I definitely prefer the driving controls of the original. Both of these problems would have been easy to solve if the Director’s Cut provided richer control customization; unfortunately, customizing the analog sticks and driving controls aren’t allowed. Director’s Cut does offer an option to use the Playstation Move controls, but I don’t have Move so I can’t comment on its implementation.
What surprised me most about the new control scheme of the game was the removal of York’s 180-degree turn. At first, this omission seemed unhelpful because the strategy I used to defeat Wall Crawlers in the original hinged on turning quickly and shooting them down after dashing underneath them. But, honestly, given how easy all the enemies die overall in the Director’s Cut, the absence of the 180-degree turn wasn’t a hardship. Wall Crawlers now have slower attacks and allow plenty of time to make a traditional turn to shoot.
With all the changes I didn’t like, one control change I did like was not needing to hold down a button to speed the presentation of text, which appeared line-by-line at a crawl in the original. In the Director’s Cut the text appears quickly by default; no need to hold down a button!
Anna looks better than ever!
While the new control scheme did simplify gameplay, I feel that removing the original difficulty settings was a change for the worse: disposing of enemies is far too easy. In fact, I would say it’s now unnecessary for players to bother finding the higher power weapons in the game because Shadows can be defeated with a few shots in the head using the default 9mm Infinite Handgun FBI Custom. Really, the only time I ever felt York was in any sort of danger was during the Raincoat Killer quicktime events where one wrong button push can result in instant death. I know combat isn’t the focus in Deadly Premonition but the neutered difficulty in the Director’s Cut makes combat, well, boring now that it offers no real challenge. I really wish that, instead of abolishing the difficulty levels, they had simplified the Easy difficulty and left the original Normal and Hard difficulty selections as they were so players like myself, who enjoy the challenge of the original, could still have the option to bump up the difficulty.Another big UI change in the Director’s Cut is the lack of fixed camera angles. Being able to move the camera freely and look at the environment is a big positive and useful when you find yourself fighting in tight corners. I had a lot of fun panning and zooming-in the camera to get a closer look at posters and other details around Greenvale and this ability made my return that much more immersive. Unfortunately, there’s one instance where the fixed camera was dearly missed: the “Lily’s Part Time Job” side missions. During these missions you are required to push three crates into position on three separate floor plans. In the original, the camera stays in an isometric view of the storage room so you can see all the boxes and where you need to move them at the same time. In the Director’s Cut this overview shot is shown only for a few seconds before the camera returns to the normal over-the-shoulder view. The end result is that you have to make most of your moves from your memory of the floor plan. The mission isn’t that much harder to complete, but I definitely prefer the fixed camera in this particular situation.
The one UI change I really would have liked to see that wasn’t in the Director’s Cut is the ability to zoom out the map. The map UI is one of my chief complaints about the original game and I know I’m not alone in wishing it was fixed! So, fair warning, if you don’t already know your way around Greenvale things may be a little confusing for a bit. Fortunately, the map in Director’s Cut has one slight improvement that makes navigation a tad less frustrating for newbies: the small GPS map in the left corner of the screen now has the ability to enlarge and overlay the screen in real time so you know the names of the surrounding areas and which way you are moving on the map. This makes navigation a little easier since the map now moves with you on-screen. That said, there is a downside: the feature is tied to the quick map button and while in this view you cannot scroll through the map. This means that unless the place you need to find is within the immediate vicinity of the GPS screen, you will have to click through multiple menus before you can scroll through the areas you’re looking for.
While I consider the annoyances of the new controls and camera superficial, I was really sad to see frame rate and audio stuttering in the Director’s Cut. Given that this re-release was supposed to fix the technical issues of the original, it was surprising to see that brand new ones had taken their place. Depending on who you ask, these technical hiccups can be considered either minor annoyances or game breaking issues. Personally, I found them to be the former rather than the latter and, overall, my experience of the game wasn’t diminished by the stuttering.
I experienced frame rate drops mainly while shooting Shadows in the head and occasionally during the item pick up screen or while exploring certain areas of Greenvale. I also noticed stuttering during a few of the in-game cutscenes, but it wasn’t a constant issue. Overall, I wasn’t bothered by the dips in frame rate because they were intermittent, short-lived, and, more often than not, occurred during insignificant moments of the game so my gameplay wasn’t hindered in any way. What I did find annoying was the audio issues that seem to plague the Director’s Cut. Not only are the sound balancing issues from the original still present, but now there are new glitches thrown into the mix. Most noticeable is the echoing that’s sometimes present during conversation and the stuttering of the background music – especially when the game is paused or on the start screen.
The new cutscenes featuring a little girl and her grandfather have little bearing to the Greenvale investigation.
I’m sure those who already own the original Xbox release are wondering about the additional content and if it’s worth it to buy the game again. The story plays out just as did in the original release; the new cutscenes featuring a little girl and her grandfather have little bearing to the Greenvale investigation. Personally, I don’t think a few extra cutscenes will be worth a $40 purchase so I would only recommend getting the Director’s Cut if the improvements in the game graphics, controls, and future DLC entice you. With that said, as a fan, I really enjoyed the new scenes and I think the extended ending in the Director’s Cut provides a much more satisfying resolution than the original (it even brought a few tears to my eyes). My only complaint is that Swery and company missed a perfect opportunity to include new side missions and dialogue.So overall do I think you should purchase Deadly Premonition: the Director’s Cut?
One of the reasons I love Deadly Premonition is the storytelling; in my opinion, it tells one of best stories in this console generation. Despite its technical shortcomings, the depth and charm of Greenvale’s residents and the rollercoaster ride of emotions throughout York’s investigation is nothing short of amazing. Francis York Morgan may be the protagonist, but during your stay in Greenvale it’s hard not to grow attached to every resident you meet.
So, yes, even with the framerate/audio hiccups and small control annoyances I firmly believe that the story alone is worth the purchase. Overall, the improvements outweigh any minor issues I had and the additional cutscenes, especially the ending, definitely gives the advantage to the Director’s Cut over the original release. If you love a good crime drama with a dash of the paranormal, B-Movie theatrics, and a story full of heart, you’ll be missing out if you don’t give Deadly Premonition a try.