Deadly Premonition 2 is sadly too bad to be good this time

I love Deadly Premonition, a game that shines even though the substantive elements are bad or bad. The 2010 horror game about an eccentric FBI agent investigating ritual murders in small-town America isn’t “so bad it’s good,” it’s so good that it doesn’t matter that it’s bad (and maybe the bad amplifies the bad). Okay). Well, I’ve been playing Deadly Premonition 2 ahead of its release on PC today, and I’m sorry to say that the sequel doesn’t work the same way. Despite some bright spots, Deadly Premonition 2 is so bad I’ve given up.

I tried to avoid Deadly Premonition 2 when it debuted on the Nintendo Switch in 2020, hoping for a PC release, so all I knew was that it had terrible framerate issues. I figured it had big non-technical issues too, because it’s a Deadly Premonition game, but I was hoping for better than this.

Let’s take a step back. Deadly Premonition 2 is both a sequel and a prequel to the first game. The main thread is set in 2005 and retells an earlier case in which Special Agent Francis York Morgan (please call him York, everyone does) investigated earlier murders involving red seeds from another world, this time in the small Louisiana town of Le Carré. This is framed by sections in 2019, where FBI agent Aaliyah Davis questions a frail and withered Francis Zach Morgan about those events with great suspicion.

I like 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 heartbreaking to see how badly his life has apparently gone since then. I’m interested in the conspiracies of this Louisiana town ruled by a ruthless crime family. The murder case is curious and I want it solved, and I think I’ve picked up some clues about future revelations. Patricia, the precocious girl who declares herself our partner, is a delight. She also has good jokes. But the parts I’m enjoying aren’t enough to make me want to fight for the rest. The tone is relentlessly wacky and the game is riddled with work.

York saying 'This is nothing but a shameless quest' on a Deadly Premonition 2 screenshot.
This screen is no fun when the game wastes my time so egregiously.

Case in point: in the main quest, York must collect three food items for the town minister before he can speak to a woman connected to a gruesome murder. The town store sells spam, easy enough. For spinach, you need to check all the vending machines in town until you come across the one that stocks them. And the restaurant sells red beans and rice, but only on Mondays. At this point in the simulated week of the game, although I was well past the critical path, it was only Thursday. So I tried to kill time with more side quests. I shot 30 of the monsters that flood the streets past midnight (combat is better, but still bad). I perfected skateboard tricks. I shot 30 wild dogs (which has been farming respawns for years). I mastered the minigames. I chased after the hotel chef, bellman, and concierge during their separate schedule hours. I found photo stains. I shot 30 bees. I started a quest that I couldn’t finish until the story progressed. I shot 1 squirrel. It was still only Saturday. So I headed to my hotel and slept for 24 hours straight, waking up in depleted health from hunger. After rushing to the restaurant to devour a full plate of seafood followed by Bananas Foster, I went back to bed for another 24 hours. Upon awakening I took a shower to clear myself of the swarm of flies that were now buzzing around me, then ate two plates of barbecued shrimp to stay alive during my trip to the restaurant. Got the red beans, I finally went back to the church. The minister accepted the food and gave me a new three-part mandatory quest. I closed the game.

By the way, the woman I’m so desperate to talk to can be found casually hanging out at the bar I know she owns. I can walk up to it but not interact at all. Her attention must be completely focused on whatever it is that she is not holding.

York is behind Professor R at the bar in a screenshot from Deadly Premonition 2.

It is full of small changes that waste time or make life difficult. Cigarettes that allow you to skip time anywhere don’t last as long and no longer stack in York’s limited inventory space. Beds scattered throughout the open world are replaced with camps where you must carry a sleeping bag that breaks after use. Fetch missions can be made easier with a new ‘focus’ ability that highlights pickups on the minimap, but recharges slowly, so you’ll want to stock up on energy-restoring coffee. Even with a fast travel system opening earlier in the sequel, plenty of other changes make it annoying to catch people from all over the world going about their daily routines. At this point, the reward doesn’t seem worth it.

A cowboy in boxer shorts leads a jazz band in a screenshot from Deadly Premonition 2.

Deadly Premonition’s tone was quirky in a charming way, built on contrast. A sleepy town rocked by murder and otherworldly horror. Local cops bouncing off York’s brazen eccentricities and dinnertime anecdotes about serial killers. A long, slow drive interrupted by a chat with Zach about Richard Donner movies or punk bands. A few colorful characters among the townspeople who live a mundane life. It struck a nice melodramatic balance. The sequel heavily tips the scales from wacky to quirky.

Deadly Premonition 2 is one of those 80s trash movies that York loves so much. Most of the people in Le Carré are outwardly and instantly exhausting, playing a quirky character trait out loud. York himself is an oddball, lost in flights of fancy and casually telling everyone how he is chasing riddles posed by a voodoo priest he sees in visions. And he can barely complete a thought without a lengthy digression on movies, hyperrealism, or “the Deep South.” With little normalcy to highlight the quirkiness, the sequel is just plain wacky, which isn’t all that charming. The only time I have room to breathe is when I’m searching for items or crafting materials, which isn’t a relief. Even when York is hanging around town, he’s now on top of a skateboard he calls “his love of him” because someone stole his rental car and left the board in its place.

York references a movie in a screenshot from Deadly Premonition 2.
No, I could have guessed it.

I could push through. You could look up tutorials to optimize your wasting time, although I don’t want to experience this story and its characters between alternate tabs. Maybe it will, eventually, when memories of busy work have faded. But for now, I’ve given up after 13 hours.

Oh, and DP2 is also weird on PC. I had a bad feeling when the first screen I saw on startup was a warning not to turn off “the console” during autosave, and yes. Screen resolution is locked at 1080p. It doesn’t have keyboard and mouse support, and the annoyingly unbindable gamepad controls have confirm on B and cancel on A. The game has crashed during conversations, requiring a restart. Background NPCs spawn just a few meters away. In a scene with a somber mutilation, a character undermines the tension by vibrating intensely. My dear little fellow was often stuck in a pointing animation. And so. See, here’s the sheriff that time he spent several days locked in an inactive pose while he slithered through town, past fences and through buildings.

I just wanted to turn in my ‘kill 30 dogs’ quest in hopes he could talk to me without faking a movie announcer voice. Or he would give me another bounty quest. Oh, I’ve looked it up: it’s another reward quest.