The North American cover art, as published by Ignition Entertainment
Rising Star Games (PC)
Deadly Premonition, known as Red Seeds Profile (レッドシーズプロファイル?) in Japan, is an open world, survival horror video game developed by Access Games for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. In 2010, the Xbox 360 version was published by Ignition Entertainment in North America, Marvelous Entertainment in Japan, and Rising Star Games in Europe, while the PlayStation 3 version was simultaneously released only in Japan by Marvelous Entertainment. A director's cut for the PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows was published worldwide by Rising Star Games in 2013. Set in the fictional, rural American town of Greenvale, Washington, Deadly Premonition follows FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan as he investigates the murder of an eighteen-year-old woman, which is similar to a series of murders across the United States.
Deadly Premonition is a reboot of Access Games's earlier, multi-platform video game Rainy Woods. In production since 2004, Rainy Woods was cancelled soon after its debut at the 2007 convention Tokyo Game Show due to technological issues.
The game is notable for introducing open world, nonlinear gameplay and a comedy horror theme to the survival horror genre. It is also notable for implementing a free-roaming storyline within an open game world where all the characters have their own schedules.
It has become known for its "headline-making strangeness" and is considered one of the most critically polarizing games of all time (holding the Guinness World Record for most critically polarizing survival horror game), receiving both extremely negative and extremely positive reviews and is seen by some as an example of games as art.
The objective of Deadly Premonition is to guide the player character, FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan, from an over-the-shoulder perspective, as he investigates the identity of the Raincoat Killer, who is responsible for a murder in the rural town of Greenvale. York receives in-game money for numerous actions—both for finishing levels and for minor events, such as shaving or changing suits; he can also be fined for poor performance, such as wearing dirty clothes. Additionally, he requires food and sleep at regular intervals, as indicated by the gauges measuring his hunger and need for sleep. If his gauge for sleepiness reaches zero, he will become hungry more quickly; if his gauge for hunger depletes, he will begin to lose health. Sleeping restores his health and tiredness, while food and items to ward off sleepiness, such as coffee, can be purchased from stores in Greenvale.
Greenvale is an open world, which York may explore on foot, by car, or by using a special item obtained by completing a sidequest. Cars must be maintained, as they consume fuel, which York must purchase, and accumulate damage that eventually renders them useless unless York pays for their repair. York often has a specific time frame for investigating sites and interviewing non-player characters; however, if he misses the timeslot, the player may simply try again during the next day without a penalty. Places of business and entertainment venues in Greenvale have specific hours of operation and must be visited at the proper time to make use of their services. Non-player characters also have their own specific routines and travel around town as they go about their business. The weather affects the responses of the non-player characters. If York engages one at the right place and time of day, he or she may offer him a sidequest to perform for additional rewards. In addition to sidequests, trading cards are scattered throughout the town, which the player can collect while exploring. York can also participate in mini-games, such as darts, racing through checkpoints, and fishing, and may accelerate the passing of time by smoking cigarettes.
Deadly Premonition contains several combat sequences, in which York encounters supernatural enemies while trapped in the Other World. York may battle them using melee weapons or firearms, or may choose to evade them by holding his breath. Melee weapons will eventually break with continued use, and York's pulse increases whenever he runs or holds his breath. Periodically, York encounters the Raincoat Killer, which will activate either a quick time event, a chase sequence, or a hiding event necessary to escape the murderer. During the Other World sequences, York's primary objective is to investigate crimes that took place there in the recent past. He collects photos of evidence to use to "profile" the scene and reconstruct events that took place with his deductive skills. Furthermore, the Other World regularly affects the entire town, excepting the interior of buildings, from midnight to six in the morning.
Setting and characters
Deadly Premonition is set in a fictional universe, in which good and evil are spread by the messengers influenced by the Forest and Red Tree respectively. Contrasting pairs play a role in the game, such as "good and evil, reality and abnormality, earthly life and eternal life, day and night, criminals and victims, the forest and the red tree, and twins and dual personalities." Throughout the game, the protagonist, Francis York Morgan (Jeff Kramer), periodically visits two supernatural rooms: the White Room and the Red Room. The White Room represents a normal subconscious, while the Red Room represents one influenced by evil.
The game centers on York, as he investigates the murder of 18-year-old Anna Graham (Melissa Hutchison) in the fictional rural town of Greenvale, Washington, in the United States. He takes on the case due to the manner of the killing: a ritualistic murder of a young woman where red seeds have been found on or near the body, similar to a series of other murders across the United States. York generates considerable friction with his dismissive attitude toward the locals, bizarre demeanor, and tendency to interrupt conversations to deliver asides to an unseen person he refers to as "Zach". He is assisted by the town's sheriff George Woodman (Casey Robertson), who is scarred by a past of childhood abuse; the deputy sheriff Emily Wyatt (Rebecca Wink), who moved to the town from Seattle during her high-school years; and Thomas MacLaine (Christopher Sullivan), George's meek assistant who excels at cooking. Additionally, York finds himself regularly ambushed and attacked by the Raincoat Killer, who, according to the folklore of the town, kills only when it rains.
As the investigation continues, Anna's close friend Becky Ames (Amy Provenzano) and Diane (Christiane Crawford), Becky's elder sister and art gallery owner, are murdered in a similar fashion, with a mark placed nearby that York believes to be a peace symbol upside-down. He learns that the red seeds originate from Greenvale and that there are two Raincoat Killers. The original one, who inspired the folklore, went on a killing spree after the United States military released gas made from the red seeds into the town in 1956, causing the residents to temporarily experience an uncontrollable, murderous rage. The second, the New Raincoat Killer, hopes to gain immortality by consuming the red seeds and murdering four people.
York suspects Thomas's involvement in the crimes and is subsequently kidnapped by him. York realizes his romantic feelings for Emily, who searches for him with Forrest Kaysen (Doug Boyd), a traveling tree salesman. During a confrontation with her, Thomas—who belongs to a secret club built by George, together with his younger sister Carol (Amy Rubinate)—falls on a hook, dying in the process. York reveals that he believes the copycat raincoat killer is George. Emily and York find the final victim, Carol, dying; Carol then forces Emily to ingest some of the red seeds out of jealousy that George only loves her. York then leaves Emily in Kaysen's care. He confronts George (who confesses to being the murderer and has gained shape-shifting powers as the result of eating the red seeds) and kills him.
Afterward, York realizes that, while George was the Greenvale killer, he could not have been responsible for the other similar murders nationwide and was likely just a pawn. He eventually discovers that Kaysen is responsible, and that the symbol seen close to all the victims was a tree. York finds that Kaysen has planted a tree inside Emily's stomach, and the sight causes him to recover his repressed memories: as a child, Zach witnessed his mother (Rebecca Wink) dying with a tree sprouting from her body, with his father (David Rosenthal) and Kaysen in the room. His father was unable to kill her out of mercy, leading to a more agonising death for her, and then killed himself. Unable to cope with the trauma, Zach psychologically switched places with his newly created other personality, York. Though unable to save Emily, Zach kills Kaysen, a supernatural entity from the Red World and messenger of the Red Tree, and leaves the town with optimism for his future. In the closing scene, York, Emily, Thomas, and all of the Greenvale murder victims are seen happily existing in the alternate reality.
Deadly Premonition originates from Rainy Woods, a game that Access Games began work on in 2004. Rainy Woods debuted as a multi-platform title for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 game consoles during the Tokyo Game Show 2007, during which several video game journalists noted that the title shared strong similarities with the American supernatural television series Twin Peaks. It featured the "young and very cynical" FBI Special Agent David Young Henning as its protagonist. Rainy Woods was cancelled soon after its debut, as, according to Suehiro, "with the differences in memory allocation, lighting, and various other hardware differences between the platforms, there were a lot of large technological difficulties that prevented us from really getting started."
In 2008, Access Games began work on Deadly Premonition, which was intended to be a reboot of Rainy Woods, although the project faced cancellation four times. The budget for the overall project, according to Suehiro, was "[n]ot very much." Suehiro created a new protagonist, Francis York Morgan, with help from his friends in the United States, and he and Kenji Gota, an independent film director, created York's dialogue with his split personality, Zach. As Gota and Suehiro are good friends and often have conversations about film, Suehiro tried to bring that atmosphere to the dialogue. Additionally, they wrote the main plotline, while Suehiro wrote eighty percent of the sidequests and all of York's conversations with the nonplayer characters. The character Zach was intended to involve the player more in the game; according to Suehiro, "Agent York arrives in Greenvale to solve a murder case. But, the player lives this scene from his living room in front of the TV. To fill this gap, I needed something to create the illusion, without turning the character into an avatar, that the user was the main character."
A central focus of the gameplay is freedom for the player, as Suehiro had wanted to create a game that the player could progress at his or her own speed. He had planned to incorporate two more mini-games involving chess and perfume, and had considered having the player character's weight and hair length fluctuate. Additionally, the combat sections of Deadly Premonition were added last in development, after a publisher worried that the game would not sell well in the West without it. Aspects of the game were initially more violent as well, as a way to express the fear of death; for example, the second victim was intended to be disembowelled while still living. However, the scenes were later toned down, as Suehiro felt that they were "too extreme".
Suehiro's guiding concepts for the game's setting focused on "'real time,' 'real scale,' and 'real life.'" The developers traveled to the United States and noted the width measurements of the various billboards, railroad crossings, and roads to create a sense of realism for the town; the angles of the sun and weather patterns were also calculated. To add to that sense of realism, every street in Greenvale is named, and an hourly wage was decided on for a local diner. Additionally, the daily schedules of the non-player characters were created from their detailed background profiles.
Areas of difficulties in the game's development were memory allocation, various lighting and shadow aspects, and their use of the physics engine PhysX. According to Wataru Nishide, the lead level artist, and J's Kataoka, the lead programmer, "Deadly Premonition was our first stab at next-generation development, so we began the project astounded by the vast amount of RAM available--much more than any previous consumer hardware had offered. Astonishment gave rise to overconfidence, and eventually to the worst-case scenario: our data management became sloppy." The team found a balance between the practicalities of the available memory with the desired aesthetic of the outdoor sections of the game, which initially contained too many objects. The developers also had difficulties with balancing the game's lighting, desired aesthetics of the game's shadows and the processing rate. Furthermore, their use of PhysX proved to have mixed results; the developers enjoyed the "dynamic expression" that it gave the game's world, but had problems with the inability to "cheat" the "brutally honest" simulation and the resulting toll on the frame rate and processing. Initially, the team "had everything that could possibly be displayed with a physics engine running through PhysX--hair, clothing, even fishing rods", which they had to cut back to preserve the frame rate.
To help the composers understand the aesthetic of Deadly Premonition, the developers hummed ideas for songs, let them see game designs, and played music that matched a certain feeling that they wished to convey. "Life is Beautiful", which uses whistling to evoke a calm walk in the countryside, was easily composed, along with "York and Zach", which appears during York's monologues. "Miss Stilletto Heels", the second theme of the game, and "Red Tree", a song meant to symbolize madness, proved more difficult to create, particularly its improvisation section. The sound effects were outsourced to another company, as Access Games lacked a department to deal with the sound. More than six thousand lines of dialogue were recorded over two weeks at WebTone Studio in San Jose, California, three thousand of which were lines for York's voice actor, Jeff Kramer.
Deadly Premonition was published for the Xbox 360 by Ignition Entertainment in North America, priced within the budget range, on February 23, 2010; by Marvelous Entertainment in Japan on March 11, 2010; and by Rising Star Games in Europe on October 29, 2010. In Japan, the game was also simultaneously released for the PlayStation 3. Additionally, Rising Star decided to forgo an Australian release, as a result of what it cited as "classification concerns".
The director's cut of Deadly Premonition was developed by ToyBox Inc. In 2013, Rising Star published it in for the PlayStation 3 in Europe and North America on April 30, and in Australia on May 16. The same year, Rising Star published it for Microsoft Windows on October 29, and its non-configurable resolution for the PC edition was fixed by a fan-made patch. On March 13, 2015, Deadly Premonition: Red Seeds Profile: Complete Edition, a Japanese version of the director's cut, was released for the PlayStation 3. In 2015, NIS America announced a limited collector's edition for the PlayStation 3 on November 24; it includes a hardcover artbook, soundtrack CD, a 54-card deck inspired by the game, and a voucher for the downloadable content.
The director's cut has updated controls, stereoscopic 3D, updated HD visuals, PlayStation Move support, downloadable content including various pre-order bonuses, and additional scenarios written by Suehiro. It adds a frame story of an elderly Zach narrating the plot of Deadly Premonition to his granddaughter, Michelle Louise Morgan. The extended ending shows the elderly Zach entering the alternate reality, where he is warmly greeted by the inhabitants. York reassures him that he was there every step of the way and tells him about a new case involving an outbreak of illness in New Orleans. After asking his opinion on the case, York tells him "it's time to wake up", and Louise can be heard off-screen informing her mother that he has disappeared and wondering where he could have gone to.
An interactive guide, Deadly Premonition The Director's Cut: The Official Visual Companion was released by Rising Star Games exclusively for iPad in October 2013. It includes three interactive maps, concept sketches, the soundtrack, Suehiro's notebook from the development of the game, and other interactive elements, such as puzzles.
In North America, Deadly Premonition led sales of Xbox 360 games on Amazon.com for the week of April 9, 2010, temporarily overtaking higher-profile releases such as Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Mass Effect 2, and Left 4 Dead 2. 50,000 copies of Deadly Premonition were sold in North America during the first three months after its debut. According to an interview with Suehiro in February 2013, the original release of the game had not been commercially successful. The Director's Cut version on PC later sold over 258,000 units through Steam, as of January 2017.
Deadly Premonition received a weighted average score of 68/100 from aggregator Metacritic, indicating "mixed or average" reception. It is a critically polarizing game, with scores ranging from as low as 2 out of 10 from IGN US (later 7.5 out of 10 from IGN UK) to as high as 10 out of 10 from Destructoid. In the 2012 Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition, Deadly Premonition holds the record as the "Most Critically Polarizing Survival Horror Game".
The plot was positively received as "quirky" and "bizarre and entertaining". A reviewer for Edge wrote: "The beauty of Deadly Premonition is that it's a straightforward whodunnit viewed through the cracked prism of an unreliable narrator, conjuring an atmosphere of suspicion and confusion throughout." According to Destructoid's Jim Sterling, after the prologue, Deadly Premonition "becomes a ludicrous pantomime of pop culture references, shamelessly contrived humor, and the kind of dialog that leaves you both scratching your head and laughing your face off." The characters were positively received by reviewers as memorable, endearing, "fascinating", and "charming". Tom Hoggins of The Telegraph remarked that the characters served as "cartoon interpretations of small-town Americana" with distinct personalities. According to IGN UK, the interaction with characters and uncovering the details of their fictional lives helped "to fashion a genuine, albeit silly, emotional core - and its payoff resonates long after the credits have rolled as a result." Matt Keil of G4TV described York as "an oddly endearing character considering his arrogant behavior early on", with his love of films, video games, and music being a highlight. Eurogamer summed him up as "a grade-A fruit-loop with a side of narcissism, and one of the most interesting gaming protagonists for years." Reviewers also saw similarities in Deadly Premonition's characters with the characters of Twin Peaks.
The gameplay received a range of critical reaction, from competently done for a budget title to horribly executed. The gameplay of Deadly Premonition drew comparisons to that of Shenmue the Clock Tower series, and its combat was compared to that of Resident Evil 4. According to 1UP's Frank Cifaldi, Deadly Premonition's combination of similar gameplay to Shenmue, The Last Express, Resident Evil 4, and the Grand Theft Auto series proved to be "a 'jack of all trades, master of none' scenario." Erik Brudvig of IGN US wrote: "The Twin Peaks meets Resident Evil with a dash of Grand Theft Auto formula sounds pretty great, but it was well beyond the capabilities of this development team." The controls were criticized as detracting from the game's appeal. The combat sections received mixed reactions. IGN UK's Matt Wales wrote that while the combat was "simplistic", the atmosphere and profiling worked nicely. According to Eurogamer's Chris Shilling, the sudden appearances of the Raincoat Killer made the sections frightening and the profiling made for some unsettling yet "relatively restrained" moments of horror, despite the "over-long and frequently clumsy" combat sequences. Kevin VanOrd of GameSpot described the supernatural enemies as not particularly aggressive and boss battles as taking too long.
Further criticism was directed at the game's music and visual quality. The graphics were frequently remarked upon as "terrible" and low quality. IGN's Erik Brudvig wrote that "[t]he graphics make this title look like a bad PS2 game." PALGN's Bev Chen, in contrast, felt that the quality of the graphics "heap another helping of bizarre charm on the game." Similarly, the game's soundtrack received criticism as sometimes thematically inappropriate, with serious scenes often containing a light-hearted jazz track; conversely, some critics found the soundtrack memorable and enjoyable, though repetitive in its selection.
Nevertheless, the game has received a significant cult following. This cult success was attributed to how the game's "wildly mixed critical reception and headline-making strangeness got people talking" by Will Herring of GamePro. Citing the game as an example of "video games as art", Metro praised it for its "emotional range, from traditional survival horror scares to farcical comedy". G4TV named it one of the "Top 10 Games of 2010... So Far" in June 2010. The game has received over a dozen other awards from various publications, including "Best Cult Game" from Gamasutra, Game of the Year from Game Critics, "Most Surprisingly Good Game" from GameSpot, and "Best Worst Game" from GamesRadar.
The director's cut for the PlayStation 3 received a weighted average of 70/100 from Metacritic, also indicating "mixed or average reviews."
Speaking in an interview concerning his Xbox One-exclusive game D4, Suehiro said that while working on the game, he was also working on the director's cut of Deadly Premonition and a sequel. In a 2015 interview, Suehiro said that he was still considering a sequel, but that he had no idea what form it would take, who he would be collaborating with or how it would be presented.
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