The release of Deadly Premonition marked an unprecedented case within the gaming industry. The survival Horror, undermined by innumerable technical defects and raw and incomplete gameplay, divided the criticism in two, yet the work of the visionary game director Hidetaka Suehiro, known as Swery, immediately knew how to carve out a place in the heart of a large audience, quickly becoming what we could define without a shadow of a doubt as a “cult” in the sector.
Score – 7.5/10
10 years after the onset of the investigations of the detective Francis York Morgan and his imaginary friend Zach, Deadly Premonition 2 A Blessing in Disguise is in direct continuity with the predecessor inheriting all the distinctive features, for better or for worse. Despite this, A Blessing in Disguise it is not a simple more of the same, since, within the familiar structure of an open world citizen, it offers new playful and narrative solutions.
Between prequel and sequel
If the first Deadly Premonition was fishing with all hands from the imaginary born by David Lynch in Twin Peaks, it is already clear from the opening film that this time Swery he was inspired by the noir-style detective story back in vogue with True Detective. Louisiana seen in the first season of the show created by Nic Pizzolatto takes the place of rural Greenvale.
Abandoned the landscape covered by the thick fog of the woods, the sunny Le Carré is the small city wherein 2005, a very young novice York agent, happens almost by chance investigating the origins of a new mysterious drug, Saint Rouge. Soon the protagonist will find himself investigating the murder of the beautiful Lise Clarkson, a young heiress who was brutally killed and torn to pieces during a black magic ritual. And his investigations will lead him not only to discover the dark secrets of Le Carré and his symbol family, the Clarkson, but also the first direct connections with the cult of the Red Tree, a central element of his future investigations in Greenvale. Deadly Premonition 2 isn’t a simple prequel though, because the case of Le Carré is remembered through an interrogation carried out in 2019 to an old and retired Morgan, now suspected of having taken part in the series of murders that shocked the town. After the discovery of Lise Clarkson’s body 14 years after his death, detective Aaliyah Davis, with the help of his colleague Simon Jones, decides to reopen the Le Carré case starting from the testimony of the former FBI agent. The episodes in which Deadly Premonition 2 is divided therefore alternate between these two temporal plans with the aim of providing an in-depth analysis of the protagonists’ past but also a conclusion to the history of York and Zach.
As a sort of extension and epilogue of the Deadly Premonition narrative universe, this second chapter – albeit less grotesque and over the top in shape – it is even more self-referential than its predecessor, requiring the player not only previous knowledge of what happened in the first episode, but also a certain familiarity with Swery’s style.
The authorship of the Japanese game designer pervades the game in a decisive way, and between continuous cinematographic quotes, disquisitions on hyperrealism and the nihilistic philosophy, crazy dialogues with a questionable rhythm and repeated gestures beyond belief it is easy to lose the thread of the speech. The most experienced players will be pleased to recognize the intrusion of works such as D4 or the influence of the master Suda51 (honoured through references to works such as Killer7 and Flower, Sun & Rain), while the others will remain rather dumbfounded in the face of such a tangle of styles and themes apparently disconnected from each other, characterized however by a certain fascination for the absurd.
As was expected, Deadly Premonition 2 is stylistic and narrative it is an anarchist work, where total chaos reigns. On the other hand, the gameplay, almost surprisingly, is much more linear and predictable than what it tasted in 2010. Within the progression, the investigative phase was emphasized, characterized by sequences that could recall the structure of a graphic adventure point and click, a bit like what happened in Dark Dreams Don’t Die.
For example, there are the interrogations of Aaliyah where we will not have any type of control over the movement, but we will be able to interact exclusively with the objects present in Morgan’s apartment to ask questions related to the investigations. Or the decryption phases of the oracles, in which we will be asked to interpret the riddles of the Houndan spirit to decide the next destinations. Without forgetting the analysis of the crime scenes and the relationship diagram, which will be updated at the end of each narrative sequence that will allow you to actually view what has been discovered about the Le Carré case.
They are all stages extremely simple and impossible to fail, which however clearly set the pace of the game, much more reflective than in the past, and make up a third of the entire play experience. Alongside these sessions, the gameplay of Deadly Premonition 2 obviously adds the inevitable exploration of the city and the combat sections: three elements that return in equal measure, and almost always in the same order, in all the episodes that make up the story.(Embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBfBIhv71fY (/ embed)
The end result is the main quest of medium duration, around 10 hours, simple and linear in development but which leaves ample opportunity for digression in secondary activities throughout the course of the game.
Shootings and controls
One of the great Achilles’ heels of the first chapter resided in the shootings, afflicted by commands so woody as to make it almost impossible to aim with precision and fluidity. Fortunately, A Blessing in Disguise presents a more responsive and fluid shooting system, but still far from satisfactory. Although there are some small role-playing components, such as the possibility of contracting various malus and a concentration bar necessary to deliver loaded shots (which adds to the already present indicators of stamina and energy) the shootings are lacking in bite and uninspired.
The difficulty is still non-existent, despite the presence of parameters to keep an eye on such as hunger and fatigue, and the sections where we will have to take down the enemies end up showing long corridors, all very similar to each other, which soon risk be careful of the player’s patience. With practically infinite bullets, a limited arsenal and a scarce variety of enemies with dubious animations, there is very little to say about the action phase of the title, which fails in an attempt to be sufficiently engaging.
Welcome to Le Carré
Unfortunately, the exploration of Le Carré is also disappointing. If Deadly Premonition’s Open World system, borrowed directly from a masterpiece like Shenmue, represented the beating heart of an imperfect but tremendously fascinating work, this second chapter he cannot repeat the same formula as the progenitor.
The player is asked to get lost in the checkered streets of the Louisiana town, to discover autonomous points of interest and secondary missions. There are many side activities to take part in, such as bowling, throwing stones on the water, boat rides or skateboarding routes, which has now become the only means of transport always available, which can be recalled at will via the press the Y button. Between one dead moment and another, since many missions can only be carried out at certain times of the day, you can go hunting for materials to create amulets with which to enhance York’s statistics, customize the skate, complete the assignments available on the sheriff’s bulletin board or carry out the side quests entrusted by the supporting actors. Without forgetting the ability to complete the stamp board, of the trophy / objective species that will require the accomplishment of certain actions to be obtained.
If you do not want to take part in all these activities it will be possible to speed up the passage of time to continue with the investigations through the use of some consumables such as cigarettes or sleeping bags with which to rest on the spot. Unfortunately, the open world of the title is marred by a game engine that trudges from all points of view: rough and incomplete models, woody and recycled animations, absent collisions, continuous interpenetrations and an absolutely unstable frame rate.
It is true that a fairly obsolete technical sector is part of the charm of Deadly Premonition, and those who have loved the defects of the former will immediately feel at home, also thanks to series trademarks like completely busted sound design and low-resolution textures. But there is a threshold that, once exceeded, row against the enjoyment of the experience itself.
For example, the city is so bare and immobile that it is difficult to imagine finding the same vitality as the ingenious routine of the Greenvale NPCs. A feature that allowed you to get lost and identify with the city of Washington and experience Swery’s creative vision firsthand.
Every time you pass from inside a building outside the city, the loads are so exhausting that we can give up on entering the few places that can be explored. The map of Le Carré is also flat and uninspired, devoid of points of interest or even simply a semblance of life, whatever the time in which we will move. And the game engine, full of micro loads that block the action and crippled by a frame rate that collapses repeatedly, encourages us to use the taxi service for fast movements and inevitably dampens the curiosity of exploration.
Between confirmations and perplexities
Whether it is a specific stylistic figure or that it is due to a very small budget, it is difficult to be able to postpone before such an approximate technical realization, which undermines the essential gameplay features. The same could be applied to the first Deadly Premonition, but it should be remembered that in that case there was talk of a title born on Playstation 2 and brought, not with little effort, during the design phase, on the consoles of the next generation.
In Blessing in Disguise, despite the different conditions, it even seems to take a few steps back and the comparison with the “Origins” version of the first chapter, recently released on Switch, makes us think of a gestation of the project aggravated by some problems too many.
Those who loved Deadly Premonition will probably also appreciate A Blessing in Disguise, a game that, despite the change of rhythm and style, exudes Swery’s signature from every pixel. Many new players will only be perplexed in the face of such an anachronistic hodgepodge, while the fans of the Japanese author will complete the adventure amused by his strong authorship. What is certain is that the charm of the first chapter has not been replicated as we would have hoped: net of its obvious flaws, this second episode still has its own gritty b-movie personality, full of potential, unfortunately, strongly unexpressed.