Part 2 of our Deadly Premonition feature focuses on protagonist FBI Agent Francis York Morgan. Our man, Matt Reynolds explains why he’s one of gaming’s most interesting characters. You can find Part 1 here if you missed it…
“Looks somewhat nervous, though I sense an inner strength in him. He’s serious, and an excellent cook…”
The character of Francis York Morgan is surely one of the best and most underrated protagonists in gaming. Simultaneously witty and simple; obstinate and coercive; caring and insensitive; and just very, very strange – he is a fully rounded character with many sides to him that you will discover as you proceed. A renowned profile of serial killers; even with York’s somewhat dreamy persona he is brilliant at his job and has often succeeded in spite of his many idiosyncrasies. York often looks for hidden messages in his morning coffee; he chain smokes – which he insists he has to do in order to complete investigations – is obsessed with food and cooking; used to be a punk rocker with a particular love of The Ramones; is an expert in 80s movie trivia, which he loves to discuss with his imaginary friend Zach during the many car journeys taken throughout the game. He is utterly unflappable in the face of gruesomeness and brutality, and often forgets that others aren’t quite so resilient – one brilliant scene has York relating the details of a past case where a man would piss into the skulls of his victims and then drink from the skulls, and another case where a law student raped over 800 people – all over a nice steak dinner with his horrified small-town colleagues.
York is self-admittedly terrible when it comes to matters of the opposite sex and struggles with his burgeoning feelings for Emily; expressing to Zach that he ‘doesn’t want to come off as a psycho’. Buried in his past and psyche are deep-seated issues that even York himself is unaware of; building to some genuinely moving revelations in the late stages of the game. Sexually, the game often goes to dark places, in a way many games don’t. It’s handled with a maturity you wouldn’t expect but what is interesting is that York himself is extremely naive and innocent when it comes to this subject – almost child-like. He is undeniably drawn to Emily but seems to have no idea on how to act, often asking Zach for advice.
“George, which do you prefer? Mustard or hot sauce?”
The sheer amount of incidental details built into the character are things that are almost always passed over when developers write video game characters, and all come together in a beautiful car crash of a protagonist that is pretty much unrivaled anywhere. When studios are looking at how to write a sympathetic, funny, clever and whole lead character then they need look no further than Deadly Premonition.
All this is very well, but the tragedy is that most players will never get to experience this wonderful plot in full. The reason for this is the meat-and-potatoes of the game is just no good. Graphically it is horrible, betraying its origins as a last-gen game. The combat is extremely clunky, and York controls very badly. The camera is no good, and the cars handle like big boxes slipping around on banana skins. York has to constantly be fed, watered, have regular toilet breaks and showers, and has to shave (brilliantly, he grows a beard in real-time). If you neglect him, large clouds of flies will surround him constantly and the locals will refuse to co-operate with him. Its like micro-managing a Tamagotchi in the middle of a murder investigation.
“FK… in the coffee…”
All this will probably be too much for some players which is a huge shame, in a market dominated by tedious multiplayer gunfests and snooze-worthy annual sports iterations, Deadly Premonition is a palette-cleansing breath of fresh air. In exciting news, a Director’s Cut of the game is to be released this year; promising to fix many of the gameplay issues and keeping its heart and soul intact. If you are truly passionate about gaming and desire a unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else; then have a little faith; have a little patience; and pick up a copy of Deadly Premonition – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
So says Mr. Stewart…
– Matt Reynolds. Play the game, follow him on Twitter @thelostmoment and tell him how much you love it.