Developer: Arkane Lyons
Release Date: September 13, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Genre: First-Person Shooter
A repeating day sounds like a dream to some but purgatory for others. The narrative has been pushed to complete positivity, though, in Arkane Studio’s newest game Deathloop. An Eden of endless possibilities as citizens of the island of Blackreef can enjoy life, death, and ever-lasting happiness, only to repeat it the following day. However, Colt aims to break this loop and escape, but that’s not going to be an easy task.
Deathloop provides a gameplay loop, unlike anything I have played before. The menu screen has the appeal of a mobile RPG where players can get lost in weapon customization, text leads, and mission choices. It’s pretty overwhelming at first, but the aesthetic is clean and inviting, providing you with all the information you’ll need to understand how to progress.
You’ll interact with this menu between various points of the day with the option to explore one of four areas. Now, I don’t expect you to understand this at a glance, but Deathloop’s gameloop is addicting. Each time of the day opens up new possible leads and areas to explore within the various maps. The environment changes throughout the day and can also be affected by the choices you made previously. The plan is to get eight of the island’s rulers together and assassinate them before the day resets.
Players assume the role of Colt, who has just woken up on the beach and has no idea why we can remember the day before. A strange voice in his head tells him that he needs to break the loop, so that’s just what he’s going to do. However, a rival named Julianna is not going to let him off so easily. Each loop begins with her letting the citizens know of Colt’s plans. If that’s not enough, she also pops up from time to time to try and kill you.
The narrative is superb, with wonderful villains and deep lore as you uncover the mystery of this island. I have never read so many notes and computer screens before in a game, but I gladly did it to learn more about this world. The stand-out characters are Colt and Julianna who’s back and force comments are brilliant each time you start a new day. It’s almost like you’re playing some loops to hear what they have to say.
The path forward for Colt relies on the player’s investigation skills. Reading notes, listening to audiotapes, and exploring will reveal possible leads. It’s almost like Colt is a detective, but not a sly and subtle one like Sherlock Holmes. Instead, Colt likes to take the brute approach and shoot his way through any obstacles. Thankfully, controls in Deathloop are exceptionally responsive and fast. It’s as if each area is a playground, and you are free to navigate them as you please. The game encourages you to get as creative as possible, offering several ways through sections of the areas, which change throughout the day.
Gunplay is kept tight and almost too accurate to a fault. I was able to use a silenced pistol and take long-ranged headshots without being caught, so I cheesed my way through most encounters. This is mostly just me taking advantage of the overpowered stealth systems. Weapons can be further customized using trinkets found that have a rarity attached to them. All cameras and turrets are hackable as well, without a cooldown meter so you’re free to hack whatever and whenever. Weapons are graded on rarity, but soon enough, you’ll be sitting on a nice arsenal in your inventory.
Saving weapons to use again comes at a price. As you’re playing, you’ll encounter Residuum, which is used to saves weapons from disappearing after the loop. Trust me, you won’t have enough to save everything, and this resets each day. Further, if you die, you’re able to reverse through time to try again. You’re body, however, becomes an apparition of your lost Residuum, so you’ll need to interact with where you died to get them back. If you don’t save your weapons, trinkets, or slabs by the end of the loop, you’ll lose them.
Each of the eight targets has a backstory that the player uncovers through Colt, but doing so reveals more about his past and how he even came to the island. By killing them, they’ll leave behind a Slab the grants unique kinesis abilities. Tying these into your gunplay makes killing enemies fun and breaks up the reliance on guns. However, the enemy AI cannot keep up in this aspect. They’re strong in a group, but they are dumb as dirt. They run into your bullets without care and lack any form of intelligence or teamwork. I could attribute this to the fact that death isn’t really an issue; they know they’ll just come back tomorrow.
One interesting feature has players invade your game as Julianna. She has her own loadout and skills where she can disguise herself or alert enemies to the player. As Colt, you must first disarm the lock on the vault to leave the stage, but you’ll also need to kill Julianna. I’ll admit, I died a lot in these instances, but I appreciated how they shifted the gameplay dynamic so that I was hyper-focused on sneaking around to kill her. As Julianna, just go out and kill Colt. Rewards are earned with powerful weapons and accessories, so you’ll want to play this mode a few times.
One of the issues with the Deathloop is the lack of direction you have if you aren’t picking up memos or reading important docs. These key items just aren’t highlighted well, so you may just pass them up. This sometimes causes a few days of mindless exploration as you search for leads or codes. However, after a few good leads are found, progression tends to come naturally. Of course, losing everything if you die also sucks, but that’s just the name of the game. Also, I encountered some menu bugs, but they didn’t affect gameplay. With over 16 hours of playing, I still have leads to follow that entice me to continue the loop and see everything this island has to offer.
Deathloop is for detective nerds who just want to blow shit up. Each moment of this game offers some insane new plot twists and discoveries that further highlights how amazing the writing is. Players are rewarded through exploration, but at the cost that they could lose it all if they die in the process. It’s an experience that demands a keen eye and patience at times to unlock everything it has to offer, but at least the dumb enemies will rarely get in your way.
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