Deadly Premonition 2 is sadly too bad to be good this time
It's finally on PC, and I won't finish it
I adore Deadly Premonition, a game which shines despite substantial elements being janky or bad. The 2010 horror game about an oddball FBI agent investigating ritual murders in small-town America is not "so bad it's good", it's so good it doesn't matter that it's bad (and maybe the badness even amplifies the good). Well, I've been playing Deadly Premonition 2 ahead of its PC release today, and I'm sorry to say the sequel does not shake out the same way. Despite some bright spots, enough of Deadly Premonition 2 is bad that I've given up.
I tried to avoid Deadly Premonition 2 when it debuted on Nintendo Switch in 2020, holding out hope for a PC release, so all I knew was it had terrible framerate problems. I assumed it had big non-technical problems too, because it is a Deadly Premonition game, but I hoped for better than this.
Let's step back. Deadly Premonition 2 is both a sequel and a prequel to the first game. The main strand is set in 2005, retelling an earlier case where special agent Francis York Morgan (please, call him York—everyone does) investigated previous murders connected to otherworldly red seeds, this time in the small Louisiana town of Le Carré. This is framed by sections in 2019, where FBI agent Aaliyah Davis is questioning a frail and withered Francis Zach Morgan about those events with great suspicion.
I dig this setup. I was so happy when our boy was introduced as Francis Zach Morgan, reflecting his acceptance of himself and his trauma at the end of the first game, then it's gutting to see how badly his life has apparently gone since then. I'm interested in the conspiraces of this Louisiana town ruled by a merciless criminal family. The murder case is a curious one I want to see solved, and I think I've caught a few hints about future revelations. Patricia, the precocious child who declares herself our partner, is a delight. It has some good jokes, too. But the parts I'm enjoying are not enough to make me want to fight through the rest. The tone is relentlessly wacky, and the game is plagued by busywork.
An example: in the main quest, York must collect three foods for the town minister before he can talk with a woman connected to a gruesome killing. The town shop sells spam, easy enough. For spinach, you must check all the vending machines around town until you stumble upon the one which stocks it. And the diner sells red beans & rice, but only on Mondays. At this point in the game's simulated week, even though I had done a fair bit beyond the critical path, it was only Thursday. So I tried killing time with more side-quests. I shot 30 of the monsters which flood the streets past midnight (combat is better but still bad). I perfected skateboard tricks. I shot 30 wild dogs (which takes ages farming respawns). I mastered minigames. I chased the hotel chef and bellboy and concierge around the hours of their separate schedules. I found photograph spots. I shot 30 bees. I started a quest I couldn't finish until the story advanced. I shot 1 squirrel. It was still only Saturday. So I headed to my hotel and slept for 24 hours straight, waking up with my health draining from starvation. After jogging to the restaurant to scarf down a full seafood platter followed by Bananas Foster, I returned to bed for another 24 hours. Upon waking I took a shower to clear the swarm of flies now buzzing around me, then ate two platters of BBQ shrimp to keep me alive during my journey to the diner. Red beans obtained, I finally returned to church. The minister accepted the food and gave me a new mandatory three-part fetch quest. I closed the game.
By the way, the woman I am so desperate to talk with can be found casually hanging out in the bar I know she owns. I can walk right up to her but not interact at all. Her attention must be fully focused on whatever it is she's not actually holding.
It's full of small changes which waste time or make life difficult. The cigarettes which let you skip time anywhere don't last as long, and no longer stack in York's limited inventory space. The beds scattered around the open world are replaced with campsites where you need to bring a sleeping bag which breaks after use. Fetch quests can be made easier with a new 'concentration' ability which highlights pickups on the minimap, but it recharges slowly so you'll want to stock up on energy-restoring coffee. Even with a fast travel system opening up sooner in the sequel, too many other changes make it bothersome to catch people around the world during their daily routines. At this point, the payoff doesn't feel worth the effort.
Deadly Premonition's tone was quirky in a charming way, built upon contrast. A sleepy town rocked by murder and otherworldly horror. Local cops bouncing off York's brash eccentricities and dinnertime anecdotes about serial killers. A long and slow drive interrupted by a chat with Zach about Richard Donner movies or punk bands. A few colourful characters amidst townsfolk living mundane lives. It struck a good melodramatic balance. The sequel heavily tips the balance from quirky to zany.
Deadly Premonition 2 is one of the trashy 80s movies which York so adores. Most people in Le Carré are outwardly and instantly exhausting, loudly performing a wacky character trait. York himself is a full-on weirdo, lost in flights of fancy and casually telling everyone about how he's chasing riddles posed by a voodoo priest he sees in visions. And he can barely complete a thought without an extended digression about movies, hyperrealism, or "the Deep South". With little normality to make quirkiness stand out, the sequel is just wacky, which isn't nearly as charming. The only time I have space to breathe is when I'm hunting for items or crafting materials, which is hardly relief. Even when York is trundling about town, it's now atop a skateboard which he calls "his darling", because someone stole his rental car and left the board in its place.
I could push through. I could look up walkthroughs to optimise its time-wasting, though I don't want to experience this story and its characters between alt-tabbings. Maybe I will, eventually, when memories of busywork have faded. But for now, I've given up after 13 hours.
Oh, and DP2 is also wonky on PC. I had a bad feeling when the first screen I saw at startup was a warning not to turn "the console" off during autosaving, and yep. Screen resolution is locked to 1080p. It has no keyboard and mouse support, and the unbindable gamepad controls annoyingly have confirm on B and cancel on A. The game has softlocked during conversations, requiring a restart. Background NPCs pop into existence mere metres away. In a cutscene with a grim mutilation, one character undercut the tension by vibrating intensely. My dear little sidekick was often stuck in a pointing animation. And so on. Look, here's the sherriff that time he spent several days locked in an idle pose as he slid around town, phasing through fences and buildings.
I just wanted to turn in my 'kill 30 dogs' quest in the hope he might then talk to me without feigning a movie announcer voice. Or he'd give me another bounty quest. Oh, I've looked it up: it's another bounty quest.