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Please Rate This Article: The Community Response to Deadly Premonition
Low Expectations, Pride and Prejudice: The Community Response to Deadly Premonition
HIGH Realizing that it was okay to admit that I liked the game for reasons wholly separate from the ironic ones.
LOW Watching my roommate struggle through the combat sections, and later wishing I hadn't been such a wimp about it and played them through myself.
WTF The distinct feeling of having shed a second skin as my derision towards the game at the outset was slowly stripped away, quite without my having noticed its absence.
Of all the things that have been said about Deadly Premonition, there are a few that seem to go unmentioned for whatever reason. The awkward controls, the graphics, the spelling errors, etc. are all seasoned topics of discussion, either as flaws that must be ignored in order to enjoy the game or as another layer of texture laid over a deceptively complex narrative.
But for me, one of the most fascinating parts about the game really has nothing to do with the game itself. Watching the so-called mainstream gaming community, a group of people I previously had no desire to interact with based on my elitist notion that most of them wouldn't know a good story if it came out of the screen and bit them, actually pay attention to Deadly Premonition, was astonishing. And then to trawl message boards across the Internet, hoping to re-affirm my preconceptions of how narrow-minded gamers can be, only to find more and more evidence that Deadly Premonition was somehow beating the odds and being embraced far more often than it should have...
Needless to say, anyone who likes Deadly Premonition for whatever reason is okay in my books, even if their username is (hypothetically) balls0steel_52.
It's a dangerous time in the industry for a game like DP to be floating around, amidst all the superbly polished AAA properties poised to receive the latest blessings from the twin gods of 3D and motion control. DP is not only a heretic, but a heretic with leprosy, at least in terms of looks; it should have been kicked out of the temple as soon as that trailer was released in 2007 under the working title Rainy Woods, when comment sections began stacking with first impressions ranging from mild curiosity to mild disapproval and all shades of lukewarm in between. Then it finally re-surfaced to, if anything, an even more hostile response regarding the graphics, which were consistently described as being "ugly as shit". In other words, Deadly Premonition should have died the quiet death of all things mediocre.
Instead, the unexpected happened: People got divided. Then they got confused. Nobody could figure out which of IGN's 2.0 or Jim Sterling's 10/10 was the "correct" score, or even whether Sterling was being just a little disingenuous; it was hard to tell what was more frustrating, the possibility that Sterling was in fact the massive troll he was accused of being, or the fact that nobody believed Deadly Premonition could be anything other than a messy lump of fail. It was around that time that my faith in the ability of gamers to accept things outside of their own comfort zones was hovering somewhere around my ankles.
Going back to old forum posts around that time, one is able to witness the near-panic some people apparently felt when confronted with the paradox of a game that was- according to critics- both good AND bad. At the same time. Somehow. Then we found a work-around, and decided it was So-Good-It's-Bad. You know, it's like playing a b-movie! Hmm, some of us thought, that's not exactly how I feel, but at least it's a catchy-sounding concept that I can wrap my head around. Yeah, okay. I can live with saying I enjoyed playing the gaming equivalent of the Evil Dead.
But that still wasn't entirely satisfying for some reason. Finally, slowly, a few people started coming around to the horrible realization that their love for Deadly Premonition wasn't ironic, detached, or merely based on the fact that they were fond of Twin Peaks and this was kind of like that except they removed the midgets. Their relationship with the game was- why is it so hard to say?- Sincere. Genuine. And for those players, Deadly Premonition became a genuinely, sincerely, GOOD game. On its own terms. No qualifications needed. And after my prejudices about the game dropped away, and I read other accounts of people who were discovering the same things about the game I was, so too did my prejudices about other gamers dissipate.
The casualness with which some critics approach DP's merits continues to be mystifying. Frank Cifaldi from 1Up seemed to find aspects of the story particularly praiseworthy, saying "in many ways, [Deadly Premonition is] one of the best examples of video game writing I've ever seen"- but then he slaps it with a solid B and leaves it at that. Really? No mention of how it managed to pull this off, despite involving none of the writing staff from Rockstar or Bioware, not to mention the fact that it still looks "ugly as shit"? Similarly, X-Play, despite giving it a 4/5 and awarding it #9 on their "Top 10 Games of the Year... So Far" list, didn't delve especially deeply into how exactly a game with seemingly so little going for it had managed to beat out Final Fantasy XIII, nor did anybody seem to think it strange that forum-goers were more upset about Heavy Rain making the list than the grimy budget title with last-gen stubble still prominent on its face. Why it isn't more stressed that DP's success, however minor in the grand scheme of things, is pretty close to miraculous is beyond me. And no, I don't attribute it solely to Giant Bomb's Endurance Runs, although it was responsible for popularizing the name and helping to spread word-of-mouth. Yet the number of people now explicitly avoiding the ERs, in an effort to experience the game for itself, is growing all the time.
It was extremely heartening to watch the tone of the comment sections and message boards evolve through the few months since Deadly Premonition's North American launch in February. Even now, with the PAL release becoming more and more imminent, a strong handful of curious European players are waiting for their turn to experience what not one game in a hundred has: The ability to thwart expectation. Perhaps all the talk about it now is diluting the potency of that initial burst of chaos, when gamers on the Giant Bomb forums were rushing to decipher the scores on Metacritic as if it were the Rosetta Stone; but I'm confident that merely mentioning Zach, or F.K. in the coffee, or the fact that you can grow a beard, will not be nearly enough to detract from the more nuanced pleasures the game has to offer.
Perhaps, then, it's the very act of going in with low expectations that provides Deadly Premonition with the soil it needs to plant its unique seeds in your mind. Luckily, as most people will tell you, the game makes itself relatively easy to dismiss offhand. You should have no problem slipping into the comfortable role of disengaged spectator, snorting at the stilted character animation and silly dialogue. If that doesn't get work, try concentrating on the archaic combat controls, which should help to put you out of it. And once you've attained that perfect state of savvy MST-esque detachment, not expecting anything other than a cheap laugh at the developer's expense, you will be ready for Deadly Premonition to sneak in through the backdoor of your consciousness, quietly going about its business as an actually, really, truly good game. It's not guaranteed, but it has been known to happen. Whether or not we like to admit it.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail and reviewed on the Xbox360. Approximately 20 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed once on Easy). No multiplayer available.
Parents: Rated M for Mature by the ESRB in North America. Sexual themes, disturbing violence, horror and adult themes are addressed.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing: All dialogue is subtitled, although the subtitles occasionally differ slightly from what's being spoken onscreen. Awkward phrasing and spelling mistakes are also present in the localization, but for the most part, all errors are minor and incidental.
Last edited by Animagess; 07-22-2010 at 07:21 AM.
Reason: Tweaking one or two words here and there.