Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise Review – You Already Know If You Like It
Deadly Premonition 2 is the sequel to one of the most baffling titles in video game history. For those unaware, Deadly Premonition is a game that is terrible in just about every single possible regard. And yet, by some strange alchemy, the terrible aspects become fantastic. More than fantastic; Deadly Premonition is one of the most genius games ever created. Somehow.
I am a huge fan of the first game (you can read my review for the game here). And so I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Deadly Premonition 2. To create a fantastic bad game is nothing short of incredible; to do it twice is impossible. And yet, somehow, Swery65 have more or less done it again. Deadly Premonition 2 will not have the same impact as Deadly Premonition, and yet, it is an amazing game nonetheless.
Let’s just get this out of the way. Deadly Premonition 2 runs like shit. A solid 24 frames per second, the barest minimum, with frequent framerate drops in the overworld. This part is unfortunately indefensible. With performance being such a heavy criticism of the previous game, they could have put more focus on fixing it. That said, who gives a shit. This is Deadly Premonition and if you weren’t expecting it to run like shit, nor willing to play it in spite of, then this is probably not the series for you.
In Deadly Premonition 2 you play as Frances York Morgan, special agent of the FBI. This version of York looks more youthful, but is largely the same character we know and love. As those who have played the first game will know, York is accompanied by the mysterious Zach. Zach is a non-present being which more or less exists in York’s mind, and for narrative purposes is basically you the player. York is constantly in conversation with you (Zach), to the bewilderment of anyone nearby.
Deadly Premonition 2 is both a prequel and a sequel to the events of the first game. The majority of the game takes place in flashbacks, to a time where York was investigating the town of Le Carré, years before the events of Greenvale. While on the hunt for a mysterious drug known as “Saint Rouge,” York ends up in Le Carré, Louisiana after a strange murder—Lise Clarkson, a 16 year old, was brutally killed and left on an altar. A child of the powerful Clarkson family, York believes this case is connected with the production of Saint Rouge, and thus the case begins.
Focusing on an occult murder in the deep south, Deadly Premonition 2 makes no attempt to hide the inspiration from True Detective season one. Among other parallels in the story, one tutorial popup literally has the phrase “time is a flat circle.” At the same time, the game channels the campy Twin Peaks energy that defined the previous game. Deadly Premonition 2 certainly leans more towards the latter, using the True Detective inspiration as more of a setting rather than aesthetic. All in all, the thematic change works very well, even in this new bayou setting. Fans of the previous game will have no problem enjoying the new style.
This style, of course, is weird. Intentionally so. Deadly Premonition 2, as with the previous game, attempts to emulate the David Lynch-esque cinematography and dialogue from Twin Peaks. Probably one in three characters you meet in Deadly Premonition 2 is in any way normal and not ridiculous.
York himself is still an unusual man, obsessed with any and all movies, and a sponge-like brain that is perfectly willing to accept transcendental and metaphysical experiences. He doesn’t bat an eye when he first enters the Otherworld, a dark parallel dimension similar to the Black Lodge, nor does he seem surprised at the one-man hotel manager who has different costumes and personalities for each job. I was actually hoping that, as a prequel, Deadly Premonition 2 would give us some context as to why he is so unphased by the Otherworld in the original game. But it kind of doesn’t; he’s just really open minded.
The story is the main focus of this series, by a huge margin. It’s hard to give an accurate review of Deadly Premonition 2’s story. It is incredibly complex and weird, but also I don’t want to spoil any part of it. I will say that I think the first game’s story was much better. Deadly Premonition 2 had some significant pacing issues. For instance, the first hour and a half of the game is one extended conversation. Admittedly, this was great and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it should give you an idea as to what you should expect. There was no combat for probably five hours into the story, and for a game that is around 20-30 hours long, that’s a huge chunk.
On top of that, there were some instances of Deadly Premonition 2 where it was clear they were simply lengthening the runtime. Fetch quests where York explicitly says “this is a fetch quest.” And, one of these fetch quests required that I arrive at a location on Monday. This meant that I had to go back to my room, and sleep 24 hours five times in a row. These were disappointing, but hardly game breaking. If anything, I would prefer the game be shorter, rather than artificially extended.
But it also seems like Deadly Premonition 2 is in some way unfinished. Aspects of a deeper experience are visible, but lead nowhere. One example would be the presence of antidotes. Throughout the game, you can find different kinds of status curing items. One of which is the antidote, which cures poison. However, unless I missed something (which is very possible), the only enemy that could inflict poison was the final boss, and even then, I was only infected once. There are a few other items like this too, such as anti-cold medicine, which were not used at all. Perhaps this is for a DLC, or perhaps these are just leftovers from cut content. In any case, they led me to believe there was more in Deadly Premonition 2 then there actually was. Not a good feeling.
The gameplay for Deadly Premonition 2 is fairly similar to the first game. It’s a third person open-world game, primarily focused on talking with people. Eventually you get into some combat sections, where York enters the Otherworld and fights through, well, otherworldly creatures. But this is fairly one-dimensional interdimensional combat. With long hallways largely empty of scenery, and enemies that are not particularly challenging, Deadly Premonition 2 has combat similar to the non-boss fights in No More Heroes. That is to say, they’re okay, but certainly not the driving point of the game.
On the topic of combat, I would say Deadly Premonition 2 was a bit of a letdown. Deadly Premonition had probably, in addition to some melee weapons, just four guns total, which when I played was disappointing. Deadly Premonition 2 has only a single gun. All the more insulting, as one of the first locations we visit is a store selling a lot of guns, which you can never buy. I spent the entire game waiting for another weapon to appear, but it never did. Of course, this isn’t exactly necessary; the pistol we have is more than adequate for combat. But Swery should know that a gamer’s lizard brain releases a massive amount of dopamine and serotonin every time they are given a new virtual weapon, and to deny the gamer brain that fix is sure to frustrate.
Instead of multiple guns, in Deadly Premonition 2 you are able to craft different charms. These charms, which you get from finding bits of garbage on the ground. Sparrow feathers, alligator eyes, string, stuff like that. These can be crafted to augment all kinds of York’s aspects. Everything from health, to magazine capacity, to skateboard speed, to rock-skipping proficiency are available. The downside is that these drops are largely random, which significantly slowed the crafting process. By the time I was getting mid-level charms, the game was almost over. Thankfully they’re not exactly necessary for success, but still.
There was one more feature for the gun in Deadly Premonition 2, which I had almost forgotten about because of how little I used it. In the Otherworld, where the majority of the combat takes place, York’s gun receives special properties. Holding down the trigger allows for the gun to lock on to multiple targets, and fire special homing rounds. This is cool, but the lock on time took far too long, and generally, I found it easier to just shoot regularly. Still, I appreciate the creativity.
There are some significant improvements in Deadly Premonition 2. For instance, rather than using a car, York now has a skateboard. Initially sounding like a huge downgrade, the skateboard actually functions much better than a car. For one, it doesn’t take a long ass animation to get in the car. The town of Le Carré, unlike the sprawling Greenvale, is pretty much just a large square. The skateboard is significantly more maneuverable, allowing for driving through alleys (and across dirt and grass, weird but not complaining).
This is absolutely a more fun experience than driving those terrible cars in the previous game, and my only wish is that there was more skateboard content. I was only able to learn two tricks, both of which were only usable in certain situations. Skating around was incredibly fun, and more skateboard content would make Deadly Premonition 2 100x better. The only downside was, like the previous game, York likes to talk with Zach while skating. However, for some reason (perhaps a glitch?) York would repeatedly say the same things, which was very tiring.
There’s literally too much going on in Deadly Premonition 2 for me to talk about. There’s prophecy, there’s voodoo, there’s magical realism, and real magicalism. There’s gator hunting, rock skipping minigames, exploration, boss fights, and a “Blood Moon” style event every day at midnight. There’s crafting, scavenging, and a dozen items you’ll never use. There’s a hygiene meter, with flies circling you when you are dirty. And of course, there is nonstop bewildering dialogue and cutscenes. But that’s why we love this series.
This is sure to be a divisive game. I would say that half the players of Deadly Premonition 2 will hate it, and half will love it. Deadly Premonition was lightning in a bottle, an inexplicably shitty game that was also almost perfect. To recapture that ethos is an impossible task, but overall I think Swery came as close as he could to recreate the magical experience.