GameTech: One of the oddest games ever

GameTech: One of the oddest games ever
Gears 5 opts for a slightly more open-world approach — with plenty of success.

In some parts of Ireland, the word ‘deadly’ means excellent. We couldn’t have known how good Deadly Premonition was going to be. In fact, no one had this premonition back in 2010.

The largest gaming review website in the world, IGN, gave Deadly Premonition 2 out of ten upon its release, saying “it’s been a long time since we played something this amateurish”.

Meanwhile, another huge site, Destructoid, awarded it 10 out of 10, calling it “a beautiful trainwreck, and well aware of the fact.”

We didn’t get to Deadly Premonition until a few months after its release back in 2010, because almost no one was talking about this low-budget game and Ireland only had a handful of copies. Once we did play it, however, it became one of our favourite games of all time.

Deadly Premonition is gaming’s only true ‘so good it's bad’ experience, and the funniest game ever made.

Heavily inspired by Twin Peaks, you play as the mildly insane FBI agent Francis YorkMorgan, who arrives in the town of Greendale to investigate the gruesome murder of a woman who has been pinned to a red tree. The game’s opening even includes twins, one of many references to David Lynch.

At first, Deadly Premonition appears to be in the vein of Silent Hill or Resident Evil, setting the player up for horror in a small town. In some ways, it stays true to that.

However, just after the prologue, things take a turn for the farcical, with Morgan openly talking to someone called ‘Zach’, who exists only in Morgan’s head, consulting with the voice on the investigation and discussing pop culture.

Bizarre, nonsensical characters and conversations initially leave you bewildered, until you realise they are all part of the plan, and the dissonance becomes funnier as you progress.

Terrible controls initially leave you frustrated, before they too slide naturally into the greater tapestry of hilarity that the game represents. Deadly Premonition isn’t just art-comedy, however. There’s a compelling structure holding the whole experience together.

Like Bully or a small Grand Theft Auto, the player must travel freely around Greenvale, talking to different residents and uncovering the plot, while shooting creepy backward-monsters and finding collectibles. The sense of freedom and structure is well balanced.

And as you drive around in your police car with awful handling, Morgan will strike up conversations with Zach about movies, music and TV shows that will leave any nerd delighted.

As for premonitions, here’s another thing we never saw coming. Firstly, Deadly Premonition Origins has just been released on Nintendo Switch. It’s a Director’s Cut of the game that irons out some of the more irksome controls to make things a little more accessible.

Secondly, and here’s the real surprise, Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise was also announced for Nintendo Switch.

Taking place years before the original, it will switch between two characters in different timelines, including Morgan, as another murder gets investigated.

How do we feel about that, Zach? In a word – deadly.

SHIFTING GEARS

While Deadly Premonition has a clunky engine, other games continue to go through the gears. To be fair to Gears 5, however, the team have tried something different this time around. Firstly, we can’t call this series Gear of War any more – now, it’s just Gears.

Secondly, although the series has shortened its name, it has also widened its scope.

Gears 5 is largely more of the same from Microsoft’s flagship shooter (Halo hasn’t been active enough in recent years to warrant that title) but with one significant change. While previous Gears games were very much linear shooters and cinematic thrill rides, Gears 5 opts for a slightly more open-world approach — with plenty of success.

So instead of completing mission after mission on rails, the player is given just enough freedom to bring the series in line with most other action-adventure titles, without losing what made Gears great in the first place — namely, tightly controlled battles with superb cover and gunplay.

Sure, this means Gears brings in a few modern elements we don’t particularly like, such as loot, but overall the team have achieved a great balance between cinematic splendour and player ownership.

Which makes you feel like more than just a cog in the engine.

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