Has there ever been a more divisive game than Hidetaka Suehiro’s, bizarre, broken, but often brilliant, Deadly Premonition? A gloriously bat-sh*t, Twin Peaks homage, the 2010 cult classic overcame its mountain of technical faults and arcane mechanics thanks to its fantastic sense of place, brilliant collection of offbeat characters, and above all else, its introduction to one of gaming’s best ever protagonists.
Ten years later, and the sequel that fans thought they’d never get is finally here, and…..well, nothing has changed. It’s still bat-sh*t crazy, it’s still awash with technical faults and poor performance (really poor performance), and for many, it’s likely to be just as beloved as the original. Is it a good video game? No, not really. In fact, in most respects, it’s an outright bad video game, but you know what, it, like its predecessor, remains an experience quite unlike any other. Will it be for everyone? Absolutely not, but for those who click with its distinctive tone, it is likely to live much longer in the memory than many of the infinitely more polished, but ultimately, far blander gaming experiences currently doing the rounds.
And that’s really why this game works – it’s the antithesis to everything that many (or at least some) see as a major problem with the industry and the way that it’s going right now. The middle might have fallen out of the market, but this is a resolutely AA gaming experience at a time when the vast majority of games are either AAA behemoths of smaller indie projects. Thanks to ballooning budgets, risk has largely been removed from the industry, and with it, games of this ilk have gone the way of the dodo. This is a weird, wonderful mess of a game that cannot match its ambitions, but tries anyway. It’s a wild swing for the fences, a game that shouldn’t exist in 2020 (on any level), but one that does, and one that, despite its mountain of flaws, should be celebrated for delivering something quite unlike anything else on the market.
As enjoyable as Deadly Premonition 2 might be though, even fans of the original will have to accept that there is a heck of a lot of rough to go with the smooth. Of course, nobody was expecting a technical masterclass or anything particularly innovative from a gameplay perspective, but even judged against the decidedly low bar of the original, Deadly Premonition 2 is rough.
The new semi-cel shaded art style (similar to that of Swery’s often overlooked but really rather brilliant, D4), makes this a much prettier, and far less visually drab experience than its predecessor. Sadly, while the pleasant but somewhat uneven aesthetics are largely a step in the right direction, the technical performance is nothing short of a disaster. Now, I can forgive the game’s clunky combat, poor animations and often repetitive game design as part of the strange appeal that comes with a Deadly Premonition game, but poor performance? That’s an altogether tougher pill to swallow. Some will invariably argue that it’s part of the ‘experience’ or ‘charm’, but juddering frame rates and long loading times are no fun at all if you ask me, and this game has both in abundance.
Long loading times, while undeniably annoying, is something I can learn to live with, but the frame rate really is unforgiveable. It’s pretty bad across the board, but outside, when moving around the otherwise pleasant town of Le Carré, it’s nothing short of a disgrace. It’s something I’m sure the developers will look to improve in future patches, but as it stands, it remains a technical issue that even the games’ most ardent fans will find hard to overlook.
If you can get past it though, and admittedly, in time, it’s something that I was able to do, Deadly Premonition 2, despite, and in some instances, even because of its faults, has the ability to get its hooks into you. The overarching mystery, the suitably strange cast, and yes, the unforgettable charm of detective Francis York Morgan and his irresistibly pop-culture fuelled asides with Zach (the omnipresent voice in York’s head), all combine to deliver that unique Deadly Premonition magic. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, technical issues and archaic gameplay aside, the tone and consistently bizarre narrative won’t be for everyone, but like the original, those who do like it are likely to fall in love all over again.
Acting as both a sequel and prequel, Deadly Premonition takes place with a rather beleaguered York in 2019, and a much more sprightly York searching for the aforementioned Le Carré in 2004. What starts as a search for a deadly new drug, quickly escalates to deliver the kind of Twin Peaks-esque narrative than fans will have been hoping for. Split between the picturesque deep south and its host of idiosyncratic characters and the bleak, Otherworld, a paranormal realm in which York will have to battle against all manner of ghoul and ghost, Deadly Premonition 2 continues to wear its primary inspiration proudly on its sleeve. It feels lazy to call this yet another unabashed Twin Peaks homage, but despite the move towards a more True Crime-style aesthetic, this is still Lynch inspired storytelling through and through.
And honestly, that’s what makes the game shine. Many have tried to recapture the curious magic of Lynch’s, Twin Peaks, but for my money, nobody (whether it be on TV or the cinema screens) has come as close to matching its sense of familiar otherworldliness as Hidetaka Suehiro. Yes, traversing the world can be a chore, and the commitment to a 24 hour game clock can lead to some genuinely frustrating missions, but despite those faults, it’s the characters, the sense of place and the surprisingly compelling narrative that keeps the experience from ever growing stale.
The storytelling in particular, something that could easily be dismissed as ‘quirky’, combines light hearted asides with far darker twists throughout. Like Lynch’s finest work, Deadly Premonition 2 delivers an almost absurdly cheerful representation of the American south that has true darkness hiding in what feels like every shadow. Deadly Premonition 2 takes classic Americana, turns it up to 11 and allows the inherent weirdness that comes with it to flow to the surface. Some might argue that it’s more of a rip-off than an homage (given its similarity to David Lynch’s work), but if the results are this weirdly wonderful, then it’s something that I am happy to overlook.
Something that is harder to overlook is the games’ consistently terrible combat. It’d be fine if it was sporadic, but when traversing the Otherworld, you’ll have to mindlessly blast your way through armies of identikit enemies with little to no skill required. There are a few boss battles to mix things up, but even these are largely uninteresting affairs that require little more than a dodge / shoot / repeat approach. Beyond the technical issues, this is where the games’ limited budget is most severely felt with uninspired locations and archaic design combining to deliver what has to be the weakest element of the Deadly Premonition 2 experience.
Like its predecessor, Deadly Premonition 2 promises to be hugely divisive, and honestly, as much as I enjoyed my time in Le Carré with detective York, I totally appreciate that many cannot see beyond the game’s myriad shortcomings. If the narrative and unique tone don’t click for you, it’s hard to imagine you enjoying any aspect of Hidetaka Suehiro’s latest; it’s technically poor, it’s mechanically dated, and if viewed from a design perspective, can actually be rather boring. For many, though, the unique tone, Le Carré’s genuinely unforgettable cast of characters and the unmatched sense of place will allow them to overlook those issues and appreciate Deadly Premonition 2 for the uniquely brilliant, broken mess that it is.
So, what to do about the review score? I’m not sure a review score has ever been less relevant, but, well……
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10
User Review( votes)
For many though, the unique tone, Le Carré’s genuinely unforgettable cast of characters and the unmatched sense of place will allow them to overlook those issues and appreciate Deadly Premonition 2 for the uniquely brilliant, broken mess that it is.