As much as Deathloop presents itself as a complex game and asks you to break a time warp on Blackreef Island, it’s actually a pretty simple one. Arkane Studios made the game, which made it after Dishonored and PREY, mind-blowing, introducing mechanic after mechanic and sprinting through its four main areas faster than Usain Bolt on steroids. It’s a lot to bear at first, and you will likely fear that it will be as hard a fight as you can escape the rock. But it won’t be. Deathloop will always be there to hold your hand.
Target markings clearly show where to go next, quest series make it easier to track the overall progress, menus show which phase the time loop is in. It is almost surprisingly responsive to your needs and provides information after the bucket is loaded. The solution for that Groundhog Day The puzzle is the same for everyone, but what leads you there means a leap forward for the developer; never before has it seemed so safe in his craft.
In fact, the team is so confident they’ve explained ad nauseam about how the game is set up in pre-release trailers. Colt Vahn is trapped in a time warp on Blackreef Island that repeats itself over and over again on the same day, and to break it he must kill eight targets (known in the game as Visionaries) within 24 hours. The leaders happen to be celebrating their accomplishments on the day that is set to recur, and Colt is the party pooper.
Once the game is open, you can visit four different parts of the island at different times of the day: morning, noon, afternoon and evening. The eight visionaries can only be reached at certain points in certain locations, many of which double up so you have to choose your battles. And since you can’t be in two places at the same time, the day starts all over again. The early game is mostly about learning how to kill a handful of targets in isolation, but if you want to eliminate them all in a single loop and thus escape the island, a different approach is required.
Here you can find out more about the visionaries and their backstories; What are they doing on the island and how can they be made to meet up with the others so Colt can save time? You’d expect Deathloop to leave you on your own at this point and freely explore the island to see what makes the goals tick. However, it doesn’t do anything.
The game closely walks you through this process, sharing linear paths to hit targets or join the party that wraps up the night. There’s not a lot of freedom, to the point where deathloop may not be exactly what you thought it would be.
Another expectation that may need to be adjusted is that the game will not be like a villain. All of the information you gather and progress made through quests is saved at the start of a new loop, and you can return to any point of the day you want by simply fast forwarding time back to base. What you may lose access to are the weapons, powers, and perks accumulated during a loop, but there is even a system in place to prevent this from happening. Debris – picked up from the corpses of visionaries and spread across the four cards – can be spent to penetrate all of your gear, making them a permanent part of your arsenal for future loops.
Then it will feel familiar in parts. We could go the reductive way and describe Deathloop as Hitman meets Dishonored meets Returnal meets Outer Wilds meets Dark Souls. Oh yeah, rest assured there are a feature or two from the FromSoftware locker. However, this would ignore what the title really does. It’s a fantastic experience, thanks largely to the wonderful, experimental gameplay
While Arkane Studios’ Dishonored series offered room for chaos, it was always designed to be camouflaged. Deathloop borrows a lot of these systems and then refines what happens if you decide to get so loud that it becomes an equally tempting option. Fast-paced and explosive gunplay means you don’t have to rescue any scraps (you couldn’t anyway because there is no manual storage).
Both approaches are now more than viable: sit back until you find the visionary and then make a loud statement, or stay in the shadows at all times and learn of unique opportunities from nearby NPCs and documents. For example, the party life Aleksis loves its chocolate beer. Should the supply of this particular alcohol be interrupted, he reveals himself by scolding other ravers. Then go to the rafters and silently eliminate him with a pistol or let everyone know you mean business by dropping a grenade in his lap. Play the way you want; This time there are no limits.
It wouldn’t be an arcane game without some powers, however, and Deathloop is packed with skills that greatly expand the gameplay possibilities. Once again sourced from the corpses of Visionaries, the game has its own version of Dishonored’s Blink and then a copy of Domino from Dishonored 2. Supernatural possibilities are ether that temporarily makes you invisible, Havoc increases the damage caused. and Karnesis throws enemies around the place.
Amazing is the word we would use to explain the impact of these skills on our interaction with the environment. On your first visits to the four Blackreef areas, you will be paralyzed by your powerless charge. Avoiding enemies as much as possible and searching the location for exit points to keep your life intact, you will have three of them before the entire loop starts all over again. But the more powerful you get, the more options open up. Rooftops are becoming much more viable options to traverse, and the invisibility makes it a streamlined process to escape the skirmishes and sneak past enemies. You can turn a meticulously and carefully planned route through the level into a five-minute sprint to the destination that puts little emphasis on discretion. However, the former will always remain an option for stealthy people.
Julianna, a visionary who actively hunts you, throws a spanner in the works. Controlled either by the AI or by another real player who selects “Protect the Loop” from the main menu, their job is to do just that: prevent Colt from breaking the time loop that Blackreef is currently stuck in. Much like the protagonist, she keeps her memories and knowledge across loops, making her a constant threat during the roughly 12 to 15 hour campaign.
With her on its tail, Deathloop is pushed even further into this experimental territory. The game is about knowing when to take things slow and stay in the shadows, but also learning when is the right time to get loud and get out by whatever means necessary. Arkane Studios has now gotten to a point where it can balance both styles somewhat, resulting in a sublime experience that allows you to seamlessly mix and match your approach.
All of this holds together the story of Colt, Julianna, and the Isle of Blackreef itself. The revelations behind the time warp and everything that happens are somewhat interesting, but the main driving force is the two main characters. Colt and Julianna just love to joke and argue over the radio, explain how they’re going to kill each other, and explore their personalities and backstory. It’s fun and consistently touching, especially in the final hours of the narrative. The other visionaries have their own stories to tell, but they are explored through collectibles, voice recordings, and files rather than face-to-face dialogue. As such, nothing else can touch the charismatic duo at the heart of the plot.
Off the beaten path, there are optional clues to help open more maps once they are solved, or you can repeatedly chase the Visionaries to force upgrades to your powers and find the game’s most powerful weapons. The structure of the time loop actually allows this freedom as it never feels like wasting hours; Just focusing on upgrading your gear from morning to night can bear fruit in future attempts to get off the island. With the infusion system saving the equipment for another time, no run is wasted.
Some stumbling blocks prevent the game from reaching greater heights. Some tedious goals outside of killing the visionaries require you to constantly restart the time loop in order to move forward, which leads you to an essentially speed running procedure if you want to advance the quest line. These tasks could have been better done to fend off players who shut off their brains and sprint to the target three times to move forward.
And then there’s the bad enemy AI, which must be the game’s biggest low point. The residents of Blackreef have to wear their blinkers because you can meet them very closely and personally and they will not notice anything. A warning system works with the usual caution and danger mechanisms, but it doesn’t matter if it affects so little of the actual map. Three enemies can be alerted to your presence on a street, but turn a corner and everyone in the alley in front of you will pretend nothing happened. That is despite all the shouting and gunfire. It’s pretty bad, and a bit of a mockery of the entire gameplay loop, when enemies can be manipulated and exploited so easily.
As a game that skips the previous generation of consoles for a PlayStation 5-only version, you’d also think Deathloop would make the most of the new features and horsepower numbers. In some places it works. It feels like the slightly stylized look is holding it back in a few places, but the title has some nice graphics and views overall. While it’s not on the same level as Demon’s Souls, Returnal or Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – far from it – Deathloop can look good if it wants to.
The PS5 DualSense controller also gets some love with haptic feedback that replicates Colt’s footsteps through vibrations, and the adaptive triggers that give weight to shots. The resistance isn’t as diverse as what Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War has to offer, but what’s there feels efficient enough. However, the widely advertised feature of having your gun stuck has been completely overrated. We literally met him once; You will never be a problem with better gear on offer almost immediately.