Did you hear that, Zach? It’s the sound of a completely improbable sequel on the horizon; Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise.
Deadly Premonition has…a reputation. The 2010 murder mystery/open world/survival game has accrued a passionate cult following across the past decade thanks to its unrelenting uniqueness and earnest charm. Simultaneously considered one of the best and worst games of its generation, Deadly Premonition remains as vital to the video game landscape today as it was when first released.
In a genuinely surprising bit of fortune, Nintendo announced last year that a sequel to the beloved title would be hitting the Switch in 2020. With Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise now just a month away we take a look at some of the things we want to see from the sequel.
1) Keep it Weird, Baby.
When Nintendo swooped in and saved the Bayonetta series from ruin by offering to publish a sequel, it did so while maintaining the integrity of the game’s strengths. It’s sexuality and bonkers narratives were allowed to thrive once more and we are hoping that Nintendo allows SWERY to continue his uniquely wild visions too.
Much has been said about the links between Deadly Premonition and Twin Peaks, what with both pieces focusing on small-town America murders and eccentric writing, but Deadly Premonition pushes things in genuinely unique directions. It is a take on the genre that is born from a willingness to play with the provocative edges of sexuality and power. Deadly Premonition had a lot to say about myriad social issues like gender, small-town politics and even the military (yeah, it’s a lot)
For Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise we are hoping to see this trend continue and develop further. It will be interesting to see how the subsequent years of media have shaped SWERY’s lens on the edgy strangeness that elevates the first game. Will he lean harder into the occult? Is our hero detective’s younger self intentionally hunkier to balance out the game’s objectifying lens? Will we get answers to the first game’s more obscure and fantastical questions?
We have our fingers crossed.
2) Better Technical Performance
When it comes to unpacking Deadly Premonition’s technical performance there are two distinct angles to approach it from. The first is the game’s signature aesthetic which could most generously be described as a hot mess. Americana iconography and muted small town drab define Deadly Premonition and no sequel that ever hoped to follow it up would dare to improve too much on the uniquely janky art direction that makes the game such a charming mess in the first place.
That said, the other angle you need to look at Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise from is its technical performance on the hardware. The Switch port of the first game, which was handled by the same developers behind the sequel, was a definitively less than ideal way to experience an already shoddy work of art. Massive dips in the frame rate and murky texture work plague the handheld port and we hope to see improvements on these issues with the sequel’s exclusive development for the Switch.
3) Gameplay Mechanic Refocus
Deadly Premonition’s combat was the watered-down restaurant Cola version of Resident Evil 4’s over the shoulder shooting. It was unresponsive, awkward and more of a hassle than an engaging good time. Given these flaws you’d be forgiven for thinking we want better combat for the sequel but actually we’re hoping for a refocus away from combat entirely for Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise. Which might even be much more in line with the original intentions for the series.
In a 2013 interview with Polygon, director Hidetaka Suehiro (better known as SWERY), noted that combat was never a focus for the development and an early build of the first game didn’t even have it at all. The decision to force underbaked shooting mechanics into the title came from higher up as a publisher was concerned that a game without combat wouldn’t sell well in the West. While this doesn’t exactly excuse the game’s shoddy mechanics it does offer insight into the artistic intentions of the team and gives us a potential thread to pull on for the sequel.
A lot has changed in the industry since 2004 when development first began on Deadly Premonition. We’ve seen a massive boom in narrative-focused titles that retool mechanics to focus much less on traditional combat styles and more on story-based interactions. For the next game in the series, we would love to see more emphasis on investigation and exploration mechanics, something akin to Firewatch or Life is Strange, rather than another retread of lacklustre combat.
4) Quality of Life Improvements
That aesthetic jank we love so much in Deadly Premonition’s presentation can stay but ideally, the sequel will make the act of playing it a little smoother. These changes don’t have to be huge but the design quality of open-world titles has changed a lot since the first game dropped and it would be good to see Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise follow suit.
Things like fast travel being unlocked from the beginning of the game, smoother controlling vehicles that move faster than a glacial pace and a more interactive map system would make traversing the game much more enjoyable. It would also go a long way to help new players who might be turned off by some of the game’s less traditionally appealing qualities to get into a unique experience they shouldn’t miss out on.
Much like the potential for a more focused narrative experience, instead of combat, this could be a great chance for the game to control at least half as well as you’d hope. There is potential too in stealth-lite mechanics (much like holding your breath in the first game to avoid monsters) as well as better implemented survival metres to control hunger and the like.
5) Better Queer Representation
This is a tough one, and easily the most “subjective” thing on our list but there is something to talk about with how Deadly Premonition handled its queer representation. Toward the finale of the first game, you discover that police assistant Thomas MacLaine has been engaging in a warped sexual relationship with his boss, and town murderer, Sheriff George Woodman.
Woodman abused his power of MacLaine, manipulating him into helping with the seduction and eventual murder of young women in the town. During their affair, MacLaine would often dress up as a woman for Woodman’s pleasure, eventually enlisting his own sister into their relationship. Yeah, it’s a lot.
For those familiar with problematic queer representation there are several things in this write up that should raise red flags. While nobody is suggesting that queer characters can not be portrayed as antagonists or dangerous, there is a history of malapplied tropes to queer characters such as cross-dressing, sexual deviance and violence. MacLaine is also distinctly effeminate in his animations and mannerism, a cliche that when paired with the other tropes ascribed to his character paint a very grim portrait.
Given that Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise is set in New Orleans there is a lot of potential for better queer representation in the game. New Orleans is widely considered to be one of the most LGBTQ friendly cities in the world, boasting a rich history of Pride. It would be great to see the sequel take advantage of this setting and introduce a queer character (or two) who embody more than the harmful tropes used against the community for decades.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise launches on July 20th 2020 for the Nintendo Switch. Keep an eye on PowerUp! for our review of the highly anticipated mess to come.