This review is free from heavy spoilers for Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise.
Deadly Premonition wasn’t a game I knew too much about until earlier this year, when I picked up the ported version, Origins, in a Nintendo Switch sale. Within hours I had fallen in love with what’s best described as a “B-movie” thriller/murder mystery. Hook, line and sinker, I was completely taken with the broken and clunky mess, accepting it as the masterpiece it truly is.
Deadly Premonition originally released in 2010, so for fans awaiting the sequel, it’s been a long and hard slog to see more of Agent Francis York Morgan. With such a long wait, is Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise a worthy successor to the cult-hit that was the first game?
Deadly Premonition is a series which relies heavily on its narrative. The games both feature FBI Special Agent Francis “call me York” Morgan, and both games see him trying to solve some incredibly dark murders.
The meat of the new game takes place in the deep South, where you’ll be battling it out against both the spooky beings of the other world and the day-to-day villains York encounters in Louisiana. You’re tasked with unravelling the mystery of the Clarkson family, which you’re remembering from the present-day as an older man in Boston.
York is now joined by Patti, a young girl who’s wiser than her years. It’s nice to see a new side of York, who definitely comes across more fatherly this time around thanks to the addition of Patti.
Deadly Premonition 2’s plot is somewhat more complex than the first game’s, though it failed to grab me in quite the same way. Serving as both a sequel and prequel, it arguably has too many story threads and often gets bogged down by the sheer number of characters, making for an overall less personal experience.
I also found that some of the story elements are a little problematic and dated, especially those looking at sex, gender and race, which I can see being an issue for some players.
That being said, the game kept me engaged for the full 20+ hour experience, even if it wasn’t flawless. Despite its occasional clunkiness with the storytelling, Deadly Premonition 2 weaves together a dark and intriguing story that will keep you scratching your head until the very end. Though it’s not perfect, it’s definitely one of the most compelling “page turners” I’ve ever enjoyed on the Switch.
Graphics And Style
One of the many things which made Deadly Premonition a cult classic was its awful graphics, texture issues, terrible facial animations and just its all-round budget aesthetic. It plays out like a failed Kickstarter game, and thankfully, that same look has migrated over to the sequel.
If Deadly Premonition 2 launched with the polished textures and AAA animations of every other 2020 release, I have no doubt that the fans would be more than disappointed. Thankfully, that isn’t the case, with some of the most horrendous framerate drops, over-the-top animations and the most nonsensical texture pops you’ve ever seen in your life.
Deadly Premonition 2 looks as terrible as its predecessor, and it’s absolutely what we needed to see. It’s quite possibly one of the worst-looking games on the Switch, but it’s absolutely the most forgivable.
New Content & Game World
One of the best parts of Deadly Premonition 2 is its game world. The map is a huge step up from that of the first game, feeling more like an actual living and breathing town that’s no longer tedious to explore.
Wandering around the town of Le Carré can eat up hours of your time, whether you’re searching for crafting materials or if you’re completing a side quest. There are more explorable sites than ever, and even the dumpsters you pass on the side of the road can be checked for errant consumables. Unlike the empty streets of the first game, Deadly Premonition 2 has the feel of being open world, something which made the game infinitely more fun to explore.
It’s not just the game world which is bigger in this sequel though, as it’s packed to the brim with stuff to occupy your time in between main objectives. From U.F.Os you can shoot down for materials, to keeping on top of your body odour, there’s a lot more to whittle away the hours between missions. Mini games are a welcome addition, and include bowling, shooting and more. The mini games have their roles in the main storyline, but there’s also a lot of replayability there, especially as higher scores will earn you better rewards.
There’s also now a crafting element which will allow you to beef up your Agent York to your suiting. Crafting charms from various ephemera will allow you to customise your character’s abilities including things like stamina, plus improve your weapons and skills in combat. There are limits here which are nicely implemented. Crafting a charm to make your gun more powerful could affect the firing rate, for example, and there’s also limits on how many charms you can carry at once.
While I often got bored trying to run down the clock in the vast and empty world of the first game, Deadly Premonition 2 is absolutely teeming with stuff to keep you occupied, making for an all-round better gameplay experience.
Gameplay & COMBAt
Deadly Premonition 2 expands on a lot of the core gameplay outlined in its predecessor. Tasked with investigating the Clarksons, it’s up to you to collect clues, profile situations, meet with the townsfolk and – of course – shoot some ghosties.
The investigations feel a lot more fleshed-out this time around, with different options for you to choose from when you’re looking at clues or assessing a situation. Though this is nice to see, you’re often forced into situations which offer you a select menu for your response, despite only having one thing to choose from. There’s also one puzzle which gives you the answer without you needing to figure it out, which sort of defeats the point of having a puzzle in the first place.
Following in the footsteps of games like Shenmue, a lot of your investigations run on game-world clocks, requiring you to be at specific locations at set times to meet your goal. It’s never too hard to meet these goals, and it gives you more time to explore the world, rather than just waiting out the clock.
Combat is still clunky, though it’s definitely less cumbersome than it was in the first game. Combat encounters are fun in the way that playing a PlayStation 1 horror game is, meaning that they technically work, but it’s not exactly the selling point of the game. Still, taking down an enemy (or alligator) in Deadly Premonition 2 is massively more fun than in the first game. There’s much less horror this time around though, with the enemies looking much less chilling than those of the first title.
One of the best new additions to Deadly Premonition 2 is York’s skateboard. Gone is the need to spend hours driving around the town, as you can just hop on your board. It feels more dynamic than your more traditional means of transportation, and there’s opportunities for you to learn some cool tricks along the way. Yes, there are framerate issues with the skateboard, but again, I wouldn’t expect anything less.
There’s not too many additional options to make Deadly Premonition 2 suitable for all gamers, though it does utilise subtitles, which is a must-have feature for such a dialogue-heavy title.
The game does have the option to select from four different pre-mapped button loadouts, so if you’re struggling with things like running, shooting or skateboarding, you do have some ability to change this.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise is the true spiritual successor to the original game. It’s just as much the horrible, slow, glitchy mess that the first game was, though it packs more of a punch than ever thanks to its host of new gameplay features.
Sadly, the storyline didn’t grab me as much as the first game’s, and I found myself keen to play through the title to experience its game features more than to unravel the mysteries laid out before me. With almost too many characters to engage with, I found myself caring less about them, meaning this was less of a hard-hitting experience than the first game. There’s also less horror here, with less-terrifying enemies and fewer tense and spooky moments.
Though it’s about as far from a technical masterpiece as you can get in 2020, it has more style and heart than most of the AAA experiences on the market right now, with genuine laugh-out-loud moments. I maxed out my Switch memory card with screenshots of absurd dialogue, bizarre encounters and nonsensical segues, proving that this is hands-down one of the must-play games of the year. I was just a couple of hours into the game, scribbling notes for this review when I wrote: “The game has no business being as good as it is!!!!” All the way until the end of the game, this remained completely true.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise was reviewed on Nintendo Switch. It releases exclusively on Nintendo Switch, July 10.
Featured Image Credit: White Owls