Imagine if Twin Peaks was directed by Garth Marenghi, and then adapted into a video game, again directed by Garth Marenghi; that is what the first Deadly Premonition game is at its core. It was a schlocky love letter to David Lynch’s surreal crime-drama that was just as bizarre, albeit unintentionally. The first game was a highly ambitious project that was faced with a troubled development, and the end result was a buggy mess of a game. The sound-mixing would make characters’ dialogue inaudible during cutscenes, the frame rate was horribly inconsistent, and the vehicle physics felt unpolished.
But what Deadly Premonition lacked in gameplay, it made up for with its story. It followed Francis York Morgan–a chain-smoking, movie-loving FBI Agent who looks at his coffee for clues and has an imaginary friend named Zach. Combined with a memorable cast of strange characters, the first game told a pretty great story, and that was what launched it to the cult status it’s had since its release 10 years ago, but only partly. The other part was its aforementioned flaws. It’s hard to talk about Deadly Premonition without bringing up its flaws, because they are such a core part of that game’s identity.
Last fall, Nintendo threw a curveball our way when with no hype, buildup, or demand, they announced not only a port of the original Deadly Premonition to the Switch, but a sequel. A sequel to a game that’s reputation is largely built around how flawed it is. My mind couldn’t help but race with one burning question: What does a sequel to a game known for its flaws look like?
Well, the answer to that question is simple — a game with even bigger flaws.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise is a Survival Horror game that serves as both a prequel and a sequel to 2010’s Deadly Premonition. The game frequently shifts between two points in time; the past, and the present. In the former, you’ll take on the role of FBI Agent Francis York Morgan, who’s investigating a murder in the town of Le Carré, Louisiana. The latter sees you “controlling” (mostly via interactive button prompts) FBI Agent Aaliyah Davis, who is hot on the trail of a case connected to York’s past experience.
What Is It?
The gameplay has a lot in common with
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater its predecessor. You skateboard through an open world filled with all kinds of outlandish residents who want to throw sidequests your way. The game’s world operates on a 24-hour, seven-day cycle, with various businesses and establishments around Le Carré only being available during certain hours, or even only on certain days. This can dictate when you can activate certain missions. I felt encouraged to make the most of my time when faced with free time, almost like the game was telling me to go do something, anything in the open world instead of just making York sleep for 72 hours in a row just so I could purchase an item needed to progress the story that was only available on one day of the week. But you know what they say — “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
Why Should I Care?
Deadly Premonition 2 is a very frustrating game for two reasons — the first being how technically flawed it is. The game does not perform well most of the time. Exploring the wide-open area of Le Carré is dampened by the abysmal frame-rate that struggled to hit a consistent 30 frames-per-second throughout the entirety of my playthrough. It actually performs worse on the Nintendo Switch than the port of its 10-year old predecessor that was released last fall did.
Visually, the game suffers as well. In a screenshot, the game looks fine, but once it’s in motion, its quality quickly falls flat. As you play
Agent York’s Pro Skater Deadly Premonition 2, you’ll notice character models, environmental assets, and textures continuously pop in and out while navigating the open world, all of which can be rather distracting. I wish I could say that these flaws were the biggest issues that Deadly Premonition 2 had, but an even bigger one arises when you look at how the game is actually played.
Deadly Premonition 2 wants you to take it slow, and take in all of Le Carré that you can. It wants you to carefully manage your time, and do sidequests for the townspeople to gain money, items, and other valuables in your downtime. Even if we cast aside the glaring technical issues, nothing outside of the main missions in Le Carré feels worth doing, and that’s because these extracurricular sidequests and scattered collectibles call for a lot of effort, and give you little reward. When performing sidequests, the game will rarely ever attempt to point you in the right direction; you’re left to your own devices to explore a bland open world so that you can accomplish an objective that normally amounts to a mundane task, such as clearing out a nest of Killer Bees, fixing your hotel room’s shower, or finding some rice for a chef to cook a meal with.
They feel like a chore to play because they are literally chores; chores that you’re asked to do for hours while the game is running at barely 20 frames-per-second. The game has collectibles and achievements as well, but thanks to the prospect of having to exist in this game’s world for an even longer period of time, I never felt as if they made a convincing enough argument for me to indulge in them further.
The game happens to run significantly better when visiting indoor locations, but where the game performs the best, is also where the game showcases one of its weakest points. Combat takes place primarily indoors, and during these sections, the game plays like a basic third person shooter, emphasis on the word basic. You can aim, you can shoot, you can fire homing bullets, you can dodge, and that’s it. There are three enemy types you’ll meet throughout your journey, but they can all be beat using the exact same method; shoot ‘till they’re dead, and apply bonus damage if you hit the head. There’s no variety in how you approach these encounters, making every encounter a boring shooting gallery that, in many cases, I simply ran through to avoid because they were that unenjoyable. Once you’ve done one, you’ve done them all.
The monotony of these encounters is further emphasized by their setting. Normally, you’ll encounter these enemies when you venture to the Other World, essentially a dark version of Le Carré. But everytime the story takes you to this Other World, it’s revealed to be a collection of tight, narrow hallways that all feel and look the same, filled with the same types of enemies that can all be defeated using the same method. These sections find themselves embedded between important story beats, and often disrupt the pacing thanks to their tendency to overstay their welcome.
At the end of each Other World section, you’ll come to a boss fight, all of which leave a lot to be desired. All you have to do is create distance, fire away using your near-limitless supply of ammunition, and most bosses will go down within two minutes, maybe five for some of the later-game bosses. With each boss I defeated, I felt relief. Not because I was satisfied that I had overcome a worthy foe who had me on the ropes, but rather because that meant I was one step closer to rolling credits on this title.
Like its predecessor, Deadly Premonition 2 is a pretty rough game, but partially makes up for it with its story. Most of the game is pretty well written, and it does a great job of answering the right questions while allowing new, mostly interesting questions and situations to pop up in their places. Despite my gripes with the game’s performance and systems, I was still hooked for most of the game’s 20-hour length. While the presentation of the game’s cutscenes may feel a tad antiquated, they had a certain style about them that kept me constantly engaged with what was happening on my television screen. But once the game’s final act hits, the game’s story significantly falters, as the game rushes to a conclusion that, while satisfying, doesn’t feel like it has any sort of natural buildup, which makes the payoff at the end of the game feel unearned.
Deadly Premonition 2 boasts an almost entirely new cast of characters, and while certain characters such as Patricia Woods, York’s assistant throughout the game, have great personalities and an air of mystery behind them, most of the cast is composed of forgettable, one-note characters. There’s an instance where York’s skateboard breaks, so we’re introduced to a character who fixes it for him, and immediately after she’s done, she disappears. Same goes for a character who appears for the sake of contextualizing fast travel, and the list goes on. They appear when they’re needed, point York in the right direction, and then divorce themselves entirely from the plot, ceasing to exist as characters, and devolve into simple gameplay mechanics and systems.
What’s sad is that a lot of these characters make some very strong first impressions, and I genuinely wanted to see them woven into the narrative a little more; I wanted to know more about them, to see more sides of them, but there was never an opportunity for that. Instead, you get the opportunity to do chores for them, but in a game that already feels like a chore to play, that doesn’t sound like an appealing opportunity.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
If you’re a hardcore fan of the first game, and can put up with the poor performance, this game might be worth your time, but not necessarily your money. Currently, the game is retailing for $49.99 USD, which is a tad too steep for a game that in every sense feels like a lesser game than its 2010 predecessor. If you’re not head-over-heels for Deadly Premonition, or if you were hoping that a sequel wouldn’t suffer from as many technical issues as the original, then you’re probably better off sitting this one out.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise is a sequel to a game that’s identity is partially built around how much of a broken mess it was, and it plays exactly like you would expect a sequel to that kind of game to play. Its gameplay is barely serviceable at best, and even though it has a fairly strong story to fall back on when its gameplay quality dips into the Other World, its bland characters and open world never quite allow the game to recapture the schlocky, campy, infectiously charming atmosphere that made the first game so special, and without that, there aren’t a lot of redeemable qualities in a game like Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise.