Way back in 2010, a game came my way. A game that had some of the most polarising reviews I’d ever seen. For everyone who loved it, there were many more who hated it. A game famous for its off-kilter story, strange characters, surreal locations, graphical and performance issues and overall wackiness.
That game was Deadly Premonition and I loved it. It was a game that I fell madly in love with. All its flaws just part of its charm and I still rate it as one of the best games I played in the last decade.
I would have loved a sequel but as time went by and all we got we’re re-releases and ports of the original, it seemed like that would never happen. Yet, here we are in 2020 and we finally have it. Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise, a sequel and a prequel to the game I and many adored.
Taking place in two time periods, most of the game puts players back in the shoes of FBI agent Francis York Morgan (call him York, everybody does) pre-Greenvale. The year is 2005 and York has arrived in the fictional town of Le Carré, Louisiana following the trail of the drug Saint Rouge and to investigate a ritualistic murder. The two seems to be related and it will be up to York to put the clues together and solve the mystery.
The other part of the game takes place in 2019 and is mostly dialogue between two new FBI agents and a retired York. They want to get as much detail about not just the Le Carré case, but the Greenvale case too as the pair seem to be connected.
The goal is to explore the town of Le Carré (via skateboard as York’s car was stolen), complete missions and solve the mystery behind the murder and how it is connected to Saint Rouge.
While initially slow (the opening first hour to two is very dialogue heavy), Deadly Premonition 2 proves to once again have a masterful story that draws players in. Fans of the original will be drawn into the wonderful world of the Le Carré case but stay for the 2019 side of York’s story.
It’s hard to not reveal too much about the story as it’s something not to be spoiled, however rest assured it really does evolve into a true Deadly Premonition tale.
Of course, so much of that is driven by the characters and once again, York is the star. Wonderfully voiced, his varied demeanour and unusual behaviour is as charming as always. Yet, there is more detail here as we’re experiencing a younger, more fresh-faced York (who still has Zach with him) and the older, seen and experienced so much, York. He is a fascinating and deep character. Yet, happily he is not alone as Deadly Premonition 2 has plenty more memorable characters throughout it. Some important to the plot, some just the unusual brand we’re used to.
Characters like the hotel concierge, bell hop and chef who all happen to be the same man. Or the bartender who likes to wear crisp, clean white underwear and nothing else. When York presses him on this, he simply reminds York that America is a free country, yeah?
Perhaps the most memorable (aside from York) is Patricia. The daughter of the Le Carré sheriff and York’s sidekick for most of the game. A character that you might expect to be a bit of annoyance but ends up being a beloved one.
On story and character, Deadly Premonition 2 doesn’t have many faults. No, those are found elsewhere and start to come to fruition once you’re finally let off the leash to explore Le Carré.
Explore and discover that the town really doesn’t have much going on nor does it have much to do. Most buildings, aside from mission related ones, are out of bounds and most NPC’s just stand around and you can’t interact with them.
This would be less of a problem if there was an abundance of things to do elsewhere but there simply isn’t. The small number of mini games, the sort of things you try once and that’s it. Mini games like skipping stones, bowling and completing skateboard tricks. The rewards earned from these, as well as items picked up around town and from killing squirrels, wild dogs and alligators can be used to create charms and upgrades. Stuff that can be applied to York and his tools giving small boosts here and there.
A nice inclusion but not stuff that is necessary as the game is straight-forward. Ammo, heath items, food, coffee and all the stuff you need to keep York functioning are in abundance. Few will rarely struggle with the game’s difficulty even when in the ‘otherworld’ as there are only a handful of different enemy types and each require the tired and tested formula of shoot them until they’re dead.
Even the boss battles fail to create much of a challenge even if they are (mostly) exciting affairs.
If the empty world of Le Le Carré wasn’t a big enough problem, the missions are another. The lack of variety and time-sensitive ones isn’t exactly what you’d call ‘fun’. Often, it’s going from A to B or having to collect an item for someone. The latter is even joked about by York during an excessive event of fetch-questing which doesn’t make it any easier to enjoy.
It might seem strange to complain about the time-sensitive ones considering that exact same thing was prominent in the first game, however the lack of things to do in Le Carré makes it more of a problem.
Take one quest for example. I needed to get red beans from a restaurant but this restaurant only served them on a Monday and it was Wednesday. With nothing to do, I ended up having York sleep for 24 hours at a time to just to get through to Monday so I could continue the story. The handful of time-wasters the game offers just wasn’t enough to get through 1 in-game day let alone 5.
Sure, you could go out on the skateboard and explore Le Carré but it’s just not that big or interesting. However, there’s a bigger reason you might find yourself unwilling to go out and about and that is the performance of the game.
There’s simply no defending just how poor the framerate is, how excessive the load times are and how frustrating the crashes become. The original Deadly Premonition had its issues, but it made up for them elsewhere. A great story and wonderful characters just aren’t enough to ignore them here.
Skateboarding around Le Carré is sickening at times. Buildings, items and people popping into view like it’s a PS1 game. All while York repeats the same titbits over and over again, that you can barely hear because of the sound effects of the skateboard! You’ll feel real relief when later, a fast-travel option becomes available. Although that just brings with it more loading screens.
The performance of the game is so bad that I’m not even sure a (possible) patch would be enough to improve it significantly.
For many, it’s an experience that they can’t get past thus consigning this sequel/prequel to the bin. Which is a shame because so much of what made the first a cult classic is here too. Are you willing to put up with so many issues to experience another slice of Deadly Premonition story-telling?
I didn’t think I was but the more I played, the more I got used to it and the more I found myself heavily invested in what was happening. It is not as good as the original, not even close but it’s still a damn good game.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise
The Final Score - 6/10