Do You Want The Rest Of The Story, York?
HIGH The ending is a perfect place to leave the characters.
LOW So many crashes!
WTF Is that character named after me? Probably not, right?
The first thing a Deadly Premonition sequel needs to do is justify its own existence.
“Fans want it” isn’t a good enough reason — if it were, there would be annual Tribes games. No, Deadly Premonition is such a singular artistic achievement and a story so powerful that few games, if any, have managed to equal its impact. To be worth making, DP2 would have to offer a story that absolutely demands to be told. Anything less would result in another fiasco like the Director’s Cut version of the original.
Fortunately for the die-hards who’ve spent a decade waiting, Deadly Premonition 2 is absolutely the sequel we’ve been hoping for. It improves on the first in nearly every respect and offers a more focused, accessible open world while losing almost nothing that made its predecessor such a masterpiece.
The story is fantastic. Where the first was an improved version of Twin Peaks, this sequel draws heavily from the first season of True Detective. As players meet the quirky cast of characters that populate the town, they’ll get a solid sense of the new environment until it winds up feeling even more like a real place than Greenvale did in the last game.
In the decade since players last saw him, protagonist Zach Morgan has collapsed emotionally and physically, reduced to a disheveled wreck and sequestered away in a hovel surrounded by empty pizza boxes, piles of medical marijuana, and evidence from the one case he just can’t seem to solve.
At first, players control new character Aaliyah Davis, an FBI agent who arrives to interview Zach about a series of murders from fifteen years ago. A long-missing body has turned up, raising suspicions in the young agent’s mind about just how truthful Zach’s reports of the events were. This leads to the game breaking into two distinct halves.
At the start of each chapter, the player investigates Zach’s apartment and interrogates him about his experiences until he’s is ready to offer details of the case, which then transitions DP2 into an open-world adventure section where players take on the role of York Morgan investigating a murder in Le Carre, Louisiana, 2005. If the name switch seems puzzling, that’s only because it absolutely is — the script might be incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t already played Deadly Premonition.
The open-world areas are satisfying to explore, largely because Le Carre is packed with activities. The main quest has over fifty parts, there are a similar number of side-missions, and a ton of “Free Missions” based on the things players can find around town. Most importantly, the world is breeze to explore due to one of DP2‘s best innovations — York Morgan’s skateboard.
Instead of cars, or unlimited fast travel, the player will spend most of the game getting from place to place via skateboard. This seems a little absurd at first, but the convenience becomes impossible to overlook. Instead of wasting time getting in and out of cars and dealing with parking spots, high-speed travel is never more than a button press away.
The skateboard is also one of Deadly Premonition 2‘s most brilliant conceits in the way it establishes York’s character — fundamentally, he’s the kind of person who decides that finding his car stolen is the universe telling him to learn how to skate, so he does just that.
Despite the areas where Deadly Premonition 2 succeeds, I’m sad to say that it’s plagued by technical issues, with framerate dips in the open-world area and combat that’s never better than ‘acceptable’. It’s a huge improvement over the original’s dire action sequences, but it still fails to impress. However, the difficulty has been dialed back considerably and almost anyone should be able to muddle their way through without too much trouble — there’s even a crafting system to improve stats for those who need more help.
While these technical shortfalls are disappointing, Deadly Premoniton 2‘s biggest problem is tied to its greatest strength — the amazing story.
The core narrative is just as jaw-droppingly audacious as the first, but the side stories aren’t nearly as robust. One of the greatest pleasures of DP1 was wandering around Greenvale, meeting characters and learning about their lives. Even the main story featured several long scenes of York hanging out with the main cast and chatting. By the time credits rolled, players who put the time in knew everyone in town, making it one of the most authentic locations in videogame history. That just isn’t the case here. Most characters have only a few lines of dialogue, and only a handful have side stories that say much about their personalities.
The sole exception is Patricia, the 10-year-old daughter of the sheriff who winds up as York’s deputy for the investigation. She hangs out with York constantly, comments on his weirdness, offers insight into the town and chats about her taste in television shows if the player starts up optional conversations. While other characters are still well-rounded by videogame standards, Patricia is a fully-realized person of the type one would expect from Deadly Premonition. It’s just too bad that the rest of the cast doesn’t get the same kind of treatment.
I never officially reviewed Deadly Premonition. It’s my favorite game of all time, and I fell so completely for it that it would be difficult to express my thoughts about it in a traditional review. After all, how does one express in a thousand words how something with disastrous gameplay was also the best game of the decade?
Deadly Premonition 2 doesn’t pose the same type of conundrum. It’s a bold, funny, scary, unbelievably intense way of getting closure for the previous game. As such, it’s a masterpiece that’s difficult to recommend because it can only be fully appreciated by those who are already deeply invested in Zach’s story. Still, I have to recommend it because it provides a more powerful ending to the Deadly Premonition story than I ever would have expected, and a better experience than we probably deserve.
Disclosures: This game is developed by White Owls and Toybox, and published by Rising Star Games. It is currently available on Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch.
Approximately 70 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This was rated M by the ESRB and contains Blood and Gore, Use of Drugs and Violence. Weirdly the ESRB missed the fact that York can go to a bar and get drunk whenever he feels like it and smokes as a game mechanic to pass time. So yes, he’s a very bad role model. Seriously, though, this is a game for adults only, not just because of the gore and partial nudity that they also missed, but because its themes of loss, obsession, and the inescapable frailty of the human body will likely not resonate with younger teens.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played much of the game without audio, and experienced almost no difficulties. There are no audio cues to speak of, but the font used for subtitles is white and doesn’t have a substantial outline, so it can be difficult to read in especially bright outdoor scenes.
Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable.