I spend more time than I would care to admit watching B-movies. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, Suburban Sasquatch, anything by Neil Breen, and The Room are all terrible films, but there’s an intangible quality which makes them deeply enjoyable. I’ve always felt Deadly Premonition held many of those same B-movie properties, which is why the game has garnered such a cult following in the ten years since it released.
Even with its cult following, I and many others were surprised when a sequel was announced earlier this year. What was even more surprising was that Deadly Premonition 2 would release as a Nintendo Switch exclusive. Part open-world survival horror and part crime thriller, Deadly Premonition 2 delivers its narrative in two parts. At the start of the game you play FBI Agent Davis as she interrogates retired special FBI agent Francis York Morgan following the events of the first game, but she is actually working on a case that relates to events that happened prior to that original saga. This makes Deadly Premonition 2 both a sequel and a prequel.
In their respective timelines, Agent York and Agent Davis are on the hunt for a serial killer in the Louisiana town of Le Carrè. Playing as York, you can explore a large open world with plenty of missions, side quests and activities, as well as plenty of collectibles. It’s similar to the original in this respect, but it feels like there’s more to do and see in the town of Le Carrè.
The game plays out in chapters, with each one focusing on one major plot point in the ongoing investigation. York spends most of his time chasing leads, exploring Le Carrè and conversing with the town’s local populace. Much like Greenvale from the first game, Le Carrè is full of weird and unusual characters that all add to both the main narrative and the lore of the town itself. You’ll meet a jazz band that primarily plays in their underwear, a very short hovercraft driver with exceptionally long nose hair and even a granny who’s addicted to bowling.
Adding to the weird and unusual vibe of this game is York’s main mode of transport; you’ll spend most of your time travelling Le Carrè on a pink skateboard. The skateboard also enables York to ollie over obstacles and there are further skills you can unlock as the game progresses. It’s not quite as fast as the car in Greenvale, but Le Carrè is a smaller and condensed town, so it doesn’t take quite as long to travel from one end to another. A series of fast-travel points can also be unlocked, making it easier to get about in the later chapters.
The story and characters are a big part of the appeal of Deadly Premonition 2. Much like the first game, it’s York’s interactions and reactions that are most entertaining. His back and forth with imaginary friend Zach is truly bizarre, but it’s what makes this game so incredibly unique. It reminds me of the Yakuza series in this sense, as it perfectly blends raw and violent subject matters with moments of absurd comedy and surrealist situations. Almost every interaction comes with an interesting quote or an unusual line delivery to savour.
Combat has also seen a vast improvement over the first title, with York now able to move and shoot much more effectively in combat. It’s a welcome improvement as the combat in Deadly Promotion was cumbersome at the best of times. When York finds himself in close combat with enemies, he can also throw a few melee attacks.
York looks better than ever with a noticeable graphical overhaul bringing a better level of fidelity to the series. Unfortunately it still looks somewhat outdated by modern standards, with certain textures a bit washed out and fuzzy. There are also some serious performance issues on the Switch, the framerate noticeably dropping to the low teens while out in Le Carrè, although it’s often much more stable in buildings.
Loading screens are also a real problem in Deadly Premonition 2. You’ll encounter one each time you enter or exit a building, with exiting a building sometimes taking up to forty or fifty seconds. This would be bearable in isolation, but you have to enter and exit so many buildings as you play that it’s a problem right from the start. Add to this the occasional crash and you’ve got enough to frustrate even the most patient of players.
It’s clear that the game is really pushing the Switch to the limits of what it’s capable of. Even with further optimisation, I think the console will always struggle to run the town of Le Carrè at a decent frame rate and with shorter loading times, which is a real shame. A lot of those technical issues really get in the way of an interesting story, and I worry they may be too difficult to ignore for some players.
Players of the first Deadly Premonition either loved or hated its antiquated game design, and I feel the sequel is likely to elicit the same reaction. The dated design philosophies are most noticeable in the game’s numerous fetch quests, as you are often tasked with collecting a certain number of items, but a lack of clear in-game direction often left me aimlessly wandering Le Carrè. I found myself frustrated at my lack of progress due to the vague quests on a number of occasions, to the point I had to sought help outside the game on what to do.
Deadly Premonition 2 initially seems to approach topics surrounding the LGBTQ+ community with maturity, specifically in relation to a trans character named Lena. Early on York expresses his distaste to the bigoted acts of others and even calls another character out for their transphobic opinions, but all of that is thrown out the window when he and others dead-name Lena (referring to her by her old name) and characters completely ignore her chosen pronouns later on in the game. I was initially impressed by how well the writing team handled the topic, but Deadly Premonition 2 quickly devolved into old stereotypes and dated ideas about gender.