Or, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Deadly Premonition".
DRINKING GAME FOR DP FANS: Take a shot every time someone tries to justify your love of the game by saying it's because you think it's "so bad it's good". Take two shots when someone suspects you of playing some kind of horrible joke on more discerning gamers, like themselves. Take five shots if someone accuses you of liking it because of the Endurance Runs. Warning: Players on the Giant Bomb forums may be susceptible to alcohol poisoning.
SOURCES: Destructoid, 1-Up, G4TV, Game Informer, X-Play, Chris' Survival Horror Quest, NowGamer, Something Awful, the Giant Bomb forums, Joystick Division, NTSC-UK, BeefJack, and a few other places I can't remember. There were a lot of other positive reviews of the game, but not all of them had quotes that could be shortened to a single phrase, so I had to pick and choose accordingly.
Now, let's examine some cold hard numbers, shall we?
METACRITIC SCORES (based on 23 critic reviews)
Above 75: 10
Above 70: 5
Above 60: 3, 1 of which is non-English
50 and below: 5, two of which are non-English. Also GameCritics has a second opinion review not yet listed on Metacritic which gave it a 7.5.
USER REVIEWS: 8.4 based on 142 ratings
AMAZON.COM REVIEWS: 4/5 stars (70 reviews)
SELECTED INDIVIDUAL SCORES
360 Magazine UK: 7/10
NTSC-UK: 11/10 (?!)
GamePro: When You're Strange feature
Game Developer's Magazine: Post-mortem feature, Agent York on cover
MIT video lecture by Matt Weise
NOW WHAT DID THEY ACTUALLY SAY?
If I had to sum up what most mainstream critics ended up saying about the game, regardless of their review scores, it would go something like this (and no, I am in complete certainty that these critics did indeed pick up the controller and play the game, as opposed to watching the Endurance Runs):
MAINSTREAM CRITICAL RESPONSE (POSITIVE)
-For better or worse, it's a completely unique gaming experience.
-Twin Peaks much? Not that that's a bad thing, but c'mon!
-The gameplay and graphics are terrible.
-Combat is a bloody chore...
-...but God help me, the story kept me playing anyway.
-"QUIRKY BIZARRE CHARM" (number one DP review cliche, aside from "DESPITE ITS FLAWS...")
-The map system sucked, although it did force me to learn my way around Greenvale without it.
-Story and characters are awesome. In fact they pretty much make the game worth playing.
-I have to admit, some parts were genuinely creeping me out.
-Audio mixing is terrible, in a hilarious way.
-Voice acting is meh in general, but not ear-grindingly terrible. York's VA did excellent job.
-It's really hard to tell whether some of the humor and wonky design choices were intentional or not.
-Clearly, this game does not take itself seriously. This is the only explanation for some of the antics going on here.
-This game is surprising in all the right places.
-The final plot twist would never be as awesome in any other medium.
-Only 20$ for over 24 hours of gameplay? Why haven't you bought this yet?
MAINSTREAM CRITICAL RESPONSE (NEGATIVE)
The negative scores are of course completely focused on the gameplay. Not even so much the graphics, just the controls and combat. Not much to say in this area, except that it's really the only sticking point that could cause a person to fall on one side of the fence or the other. Begrudgingly, all five of the negative reviews on Metacritic agree that there's something special about the story, even if it's buried under six feet of awful gameplay. Unfortunately, for some people this is a hurdle that cannot be overcome; understandable of course, but you'd think a lot more people would have hated the game if it was that terrible.
In general, the actual reviews tend to sound more positive than the scores. I imagine that if the gameplay and graphics were better, DP might have done exceedingly well, but in another sense it also would have been a completely different game. Critics who scored the game higher tended to take the technical flaws in stride and as part of the experience, whereas more objective reviewers tended to hover around the 7/10 territory. Some of them didn't seem to understand exactly why they liked it, but hey, that's the magic of SWERY.
Not going to say too much about this, but judging from other forums and boards, not to mention comment sections, Deadly Premonition definitely ranks higher among players than critics. This isn't surprising for a number of reasons, but here are some similar trends:
-Survival horror enthusiasts tend to have a much easier time with the controls than gamers who are used to, say, first-person shooters. This shouldn't be surprising but it would explain why some people are amused at the level of difficulty the GB team had with the combat.
-Twin Peaks or David Lynch fans tend to love the game. Again, big shock there.
-Dreamcast owners get nostalgic flashbacks when playing DP.
-The "so bad it's good" comment seems to be falling out of favor. When it does get brought up, there's usually a response like "no, it's actually good", which seems to be happening with more and more frequency as people pick up the game for themselves. Often you get a comment like "I heard it was so bad it's good, but I'm starting to think this is inaccurate..."
-"The combat isn't nearly as bad as people say it is."
-The soundtrack, everyone agrees, is simply amazing.
-Whatever else you might think about the game, it's hard to dispute that Agent York is a great character.
-Every once in a while you'll get a strange comment like "My top 3 games of all time are Gears of War II, Modern Warfare II and Deadly Premonition", completely in earnest.
-Fair number of people to whom DP has become a personal favorite, for various reasons. Pretty inevitable, given it's cult-ish status, I'd say.
Bloggers, especially those written by gamers with eclectic tastes who can afford to say whatever they want about a particular experience without having to go through the process of scoring, were especially fond of DP. Apparently it is a game ripe for intellectual consideration as well:
MIT video lecture
Deadly Premonition is definitely a video game. Some people like it ironically. Some people like it because it's just an enjoyable game. Some people think it's brilliant. Some people think the people who think it's brilliant are morons, and some people think the fact that people calling other people morons for thinking the game is brilliant is a sign of the game's brilliance. And some people spend an awful lot of time and energy telling fans that their reasons for liking the game are "invalid and also dumb".
I think that is hilarious, Zach. Don't you agree?
Awesome quotes that didn't make it on the poster:
"It's the Amy Winehouse of videogames: rambling and incoherent, a bit of a mess and not much to look at, but with a unique and distinctive voice that's very hard to ignore." (EUROGAMER)
"Deadly Premonition is good because it's actually good. ...the foibles and frailties quickly fade when you realize that Deadly Premonition possesses one of video gaming's most treasured traits: unpredictability." (GAMESPOT)
"Deadly Premonition is a pure diamond in the rough and we love it all the more for its archaic quirks." (NOWGamer)
PS: Further proof that Life Is Beautiful.