Deathloop is the new IP from Bethesda and developer Arkane Lyon. The game is a continuation of the gameplay style that Arkane is known for from the Dishonored series but to say it’s just like Dishonored is not only an oversimplification but would not be doing Deathloop any justice. In fact, this may be one of the most complicated games I have ever reviewed. But does the game crumble underneath all that complexity? Or does the complexity make the game engaging? Read on to find out.
Deathloop takes place on an island named Blackreef that is stuck on a time loop. On the island, the player plays as an assassin named Colt, who is trying to break the time loop. The game begins with Colt waking up on the beach with no memories of himself. He doesn’t even remember his own name but luckily, Colt can read the in-game text which tells him his name, which is a weird 4th wall break in the game. The in-game text guides him through his adventure and provides snarky remarks from time to time.
During his time trying to break the loop, Colt is attacked by another assassin named Julianna. Colt and Julianna seem to be the only two people on the island with memories of previous loops. Everyone else on the island has no memory of their previous loops and goes about their daily routines. There also seems to be an implied history between Colt and Julianna.
After a while, Colt soon learns that the only way to break the loop is to kill 8 people and it has to be all in one day, so it’s up to the player to hunt down these characters and learn their daily routines and kill them all in one perfect run. Although the story is simple and straightforward, the story is 100% in harmony with the gameplay. I really hope the story wasn’t made just to serve the gameplay but in this instance, it doesn’t matter, there are plenty of twists and turns along the way that made this an enjoyable romp. The game also features plenty of lore notes that are all the rage in gaming these days.
The game’s soundtrack isn’t really anything to write home about. I think it did its job in creating atmosphere and mood but there isn’t any track that stands out to me. When the game has action, the music swells and gets bombastic. When you are sneaking around, the game’s music is quiet and delivers on tension and intensity.
The audio design of the game is top-notch. The sound mixing is perfect as everything can be heard from footsteps to people talking in the distance and even the small things such as a tape rewinding. I think all the noises were satisfying especially when hacking security cameras and turrets. I only have one minor complaint about the audio design and its that the NPCs were using recycled dialogue and I’m not talking about the dialogue you can chalk up to it being a time loop, no, I’m saying that an NPC would mutter to themselves something, and then later in the same stage another NPC would mutter the exact same thing. It is not something that really matters in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a small nitpick that I noticed while I was playing.
Full disclosure, I did not play the game on my 4K TV. I had to play the game on a 1080p monitor in order to capture footage, so I didn’t get to experience the breadth of the game’s visuals, including but not limited to, HDR/color accuracy, the best contrast, and 4K textures. So with that, said I still think this game is gorgeous. The scale and details of the level design are super polished and there are some beautiful vistas to behold. I think the game looks good even in 1080p, so good in fact, that I don’t feel as if I missed out. There was one small hiccup that I encountered during my playtime and this only happened once (well actually a few times but they all happened close to each other so it’s essentially one big time) but I experienced frame stutters where the game was still running but my screen was frozen. It’s not something I was alarmed by and the problem did solve itself, but I just wanted to let you know about the potential for performance hiccups.
This is where the bulk of the review is going to be. There is so much to say here because this game has roots and inspiration from so many places. As I was playing the game I was reminded of many different games from different eras of gaming. Those games are (in no particular order) – LoZ: Majora’s Mask, Dishonored, Bioshock, Assassin’s Creed, Metal Gear Solid, Mirror’s Edge, Doom, and the recently released indie game 12 Minutes. So if you like any of these games or a majority of these games then you make come away liking Deathloop because you could figuratively mix all of these games in a blender and then out will pop Deathloop.
I hope you can appreciate that it took me listing out eight games to describe Deathloop and the reason why it took me that many games, is because Deathloop is a complex beast with so many mechanics and systems under the hood. So let’s take things one thing at a time. The game controls like a first-person shooter (fps). The game’s speed and fluidity remind me of the Doom reboot. There are lots of gruesome kills you can perform with the press of the R1 button that harkens back to those glory kills from Doom. In addition, there are lots of parkour sections where you run rooftop to rooftop and making acrobatic jumps that reminds me of Mirror’s edge – granted there aren’t any complicated movement options such as wall running and landing on the ground with rolls but the feel of Mirror’s edge was there for me.
As you go about the island there are people looking for you and will try to kill you if they spot you. So like the Dishonored games, you can choose between going in guns blazing or sneaking around stealth style. You can dispatch enemies with melee weapons, guns, or supernatural abilities which is like Dishonored and Bioshock. Also like Bioshock, there are notes and audio/video diaries you can find to fill out the story/world. In addition, if you are ever above an enemy, you can drop downs and kill enemies in one fell swoop like Assassin’s Creed. For the majority of my playtime, I opted to play stealthily, and there were times where I felt like I was playing the original Metal Gear Solid for the PS1 because I was envisioning a line of sight cones for the enemies, which they had a version of it where the bar would raise if they see you. It should be noted that the game did encourage me to try a guns-blazing approach because the in-game text told me that bullets are cheap and they are. There are many health pickups and bullets scattered around the world. As a matter of fact, there was a bullet dispenser that reminded me of the dispensers from Bioshock, and unlike Bioshock, these dispensers were free.
Finally the time loop of it all. So the purpose of the game is to learn the behaviors of the NPCs and learn strategies to defeat them in one go and unfortunately, it does involve your character dying (a lot). Dying is baked into the game so much that the game doesn’t punish you for it. There is no game over, instead, you reset to the beginning of the day and the game’s menu simply says that everything is ok and encourages you to learn from your mistakes. During the course of the game, there is so much information learned that the game remembers everything for you. In The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D (the 3DS remake) the game had a quality of life improvement where the game kept a journal for you of all the NPCs patterns/schedules. Here the game does the same with a very complex web of threads that reminds me of people on a crazy board with pictures and strings, as a matter of fact, the game starts with one of those crazy boards. But to bring it back, the game 12 Minutes has a feature where you can delete your progress and start over. This game also features that option. I did not use that option but if I did, I could have used my knowledge and possibly sequence break the game. I hope that speedrunners have a field day with this game.
Now the last thing I want to say about the gameplay is the game’s systems. Right from the beginning, the game gives you the ability to not die. You are given 3 lives per level. So if you die, instead of restarting the loop, you are resurrected a few steps behind from where you were and have temporary invincibility. I found this feature to be a godsend since I didn’t have to let one mistake end my run and lose my loot. The other thing the game does is let you keep your progress between loops, near the end of the 3-hour tutorial phase you can infuse weapons and abilities to yourself which can carry over to your next loop, and any time you die you infused items go back with you. The way you infuse items is by collecting Residuum which is energy that glows in items. Throughout the map, you will find random everyday objects glow purple and you can hold your hand out and drain the energy from the objects. It costs Residuum to infuse weapons and abilities and if you don’t have enough to infuse something you really want to be infused, then you can discard other weapons and abilities in exchange for Residuum. I don’t want to spoil the abilities you can get but think of your run-of-the-mill powers such as teleportation and telekinesis.
I also want to mention that the menu system in this game is so convoluted with so many pages to tab through, I don’t think its the game’s fault, because there are so many things the game has to organize between all the journal entries and abilities that its by necessity. The one thing I do wish that the game did was to allow me to spend Residuum anytime I want. Whenever you get Residuum you have to exit the level in order to spend it, I would have preferred if the game let me spend it during the pause menu so I can ensure that I keep my stuff should I die while trying to exit the level. It should also be noted this game only has one difficulty, I kind of wish there was an easy mode for this game as it would have made reviewing the game easier on me because I hit a wall a lot when it came to boss fights (however when I did beat the boss, it felt SOOOO satisfying). I also wished that this game took advantage of the card system on the PS5 OS where it could show hint videos.
On the note of the game’s multiplayer, I cannot comment on it because I didn’t experience the multiplayer. During my review time, the game hadn’t launched and I wasn’t able to find other people who were reviewing the game when I was playing it. The game has a mode where you can play as Julianna and invade other player’s games. In theory, It is a good way to keep a playthrough fresh because AI can only do so much, so if a human enters your game and tries to sabotage you, that could be interesting because your playthrough isn’t something you can just memorize. If you are not about that life, then you can turn off the ability for someone to invade your game or you can split the difference and have it set so only friends can invade your game.
Deathloop in my opinion is a complete package. This game is a jack of all trades and a master at some. Could this game have been better streamlined? Sure, but that did not take away from my enjoyment of this game. This game is amazing and none of the nitpicks I mentioned prior could keep me from enjoying this game. This game is easily a 9/10.
Deathloop is out on Tuesday, September 14th on PS5 and PC and will retail for $59.99 for the standard edition. A review code was provided by the publisher for purposes of review and the game was reviewed on PS5.
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