Trying to talk about the original Deadly Premonition is complicated. On a fundamental level, it’s a mess – a groaning slab of technical shortcomings and design deficiencies that would usually be enough to sink a game without a trace – and it’s a game that’s often dismissed, unfairly I think, as bit of a joke, a so-bad-it’s-good experience worthy of a chuckle on YouTube and nothing more. Enough of us would argue though – unironically and with absolute earnestness – that it’s also brilliant, a masterpiece of form; bold, ambitious, fiercely heartfelt, and a game that aims so, so high, and succeeds not because of, but in spite of its flaws.
Partly that’s due to the original’s wonderful sense of place; its small-town murder mystery might have borrowed liberally from Twin Peaks, but its open-world setting – the perpetually grey, pine-scented highways and byways of Greenvale, Washington – felt both distinctive and positively alive as its sprawling cast of wonderfully realised oddball inhabitants went about their daily schedules in real-time, revealing their secrets to anyone with the curiosity to follow and observe.
It was frequently ridiculous, yes, and not always intentionally so, but it was also, ultimately, genuinely affecting as its engrossingly bizarre plot wrought havoc on this shonkily implemented microcosm of life, finding some oddly insightful truths along the way. And at the heart of it all was Agent Francis York Morgan, still one of gaming’s most endearing protagonists, a relentlessly upbeat, chain-smoking FBI investigator, with a penchant for monologuing about his favourite 80s movies and a mysterious invisible friend called Zach.