Deathloop is a video game.
It seems that 2021 is becoming “The Year of the Time Loop” – with Returnal surprising many earlier this year, Twelve Minutes hitting a couple of months ago and proving extremely divisive among its audience, and Lemnis Gate scheduled for release shortly, it’s the turn of Arkane to dive headfirst into the madness and see what they’re made of. And yes, the madness does include being a studio that’s now owned by Microsoft publishing a PS5 console exclusive. Weird how the world works, sometimes.
The game is set on a mysterious island called Blackreef, with four distinct areas primed and ready for carnage. Colt, your character, wakes up on a beach with little to no memory of what’s going on, and a bunch of words floating in mid-air as he walks toward the only obvious exit point. It quickly becomes apparent that Blackreef is a very strange place indeed, manned by a swarm of “Eternalists”, and eight “Visionaries” who are hell-bent on protecting something called “The Loop”. The loop in question is a time loop of a single day, repeating over and over again, with only a select few having any form of memory past the day in question. Your task as Colt is to snuff out the eight visionaries and “Break the Loop”, and hopefully free yourself from Blackreef. There’s a slight wrinkle in the plan though, you’re being hunted by one of the Visionaries, who’s determined to put keep you on the island and preventing you from breaking the loop.
Well, kind of. See, one of the key concepts of Deathloop right from the initial trailer was that it was a story of two assassins going after each other. While that’s technically true, the storyline reasoning for it is actually pretty genius. As everyone is stuck in the loop, there are technically infinite “versions” of each other that are potentially out there. As a result, there are, in theory, plenty of Juliannas ready to stick some lead into plenty of Colts, which is where the cat-and-mouse subplot comes into play. There is one “True” Julianna in the game who is one of the targets, but the other ones are (for the most part) player-controlled, dropping into your game and hunting you down while you attempt to go about your business. It definitely adds an air of panic when you see a notification prompting you that Julianna is in the area, and it leads to some really tense moments of gameplay. You can, of course, turn the online side of things off or set it to Friends Only if it gets too much and just want to focus on the task at hand, but it is a great deal of fun and a toggle that I’d recommend leaving on. I will say that, obviously, as I was playing the game early, it was a bit tricky to get games as Julianna, but the process was seamless when I did.
Deathloop is a video game from Arkane where you have to kill eight targets in one day, where you’ll occasionally get hunted by other players.
The four areas within Blackreef are unique enough to be distinct from each other, and a very cool twist is that each area also has four separate time periods, in Morning, Noon, Afternoon and Night. This essentially gives you 16 areas to play around in, as enemy numbers and placements will change depending on not only the area, but the time as well. Of course, things that occur in the morning will carry through to the rest of the day, so it might be worth sabotaging something related to one of the Visionaries bright and early, in order for it to be a huge hindrance to them in the evening. As you go through the game, there will be breadcrumbs left all over the place to follow, enabling you to potentially take out two (or more) targets in one place. It honestly feels a bit like a First-Person Hitman game, except everyone’s in on the gag that it takes you a few attempts to get your timing right.
Mechanically, I don’t think I’ve seen a game this dense feel this easy to play before. I’m something of a heathen in that I’ve not really played Dishonored all that much, but I’ve played enough to know that there are some definite parallels between it and Deathloop. Some of the Visionaries will be equipped with “slabs”, which enable you to perform superhuman abilities. The obvious Dishonored comparison will come with the “Shift” one, which lets you teleport, and is really useful in a pinch.
The game would be no fun if you started every single loop with no equipment, though, and Arkane have put a great system into place which allows you to carry things between loops. Throughout the world, there are shimmering items, which will provide you with Residuum, an element which can then be “infused” with your gear and carried with you across all future outings. Once you’ve found a loadout you’re comfortable with, you can choose between taking it nice and stealthy, or going all out assault on the Eternalists and Visionaries. Consider this your timely warning to make sure you immediately infuse whatever slabs you pick up from enemies, as they’ll be invaluable!
Deathloop is a video game from Arkane where you have to learn from the loop, obtain new abilities and weaponry to gain the upper hand on the eight targets across the four maps and time periods, all while avoiding other players who invade your game.
One thing that sold me on Deathloop a long time ago was the gorgeous art style that permeates every inch of the game. A touch of 50s retro-futurism here, a dab of grindhouse cinema styling there, and a sense of humour as dark as it is sharp all combine to create a world that looks as stunning as it feels. From a technical point of view, there are a few different performance options, which I’ll come to in a separate video, but rest assured, it runs really nicely.
That’s not to say it’s all superb, however. Throughout my time with the game I did encounter a few AI issues with the Eternalists, on a couple of occasions they got stuck in some scenery, and the shooting can feel a bit clumsy when you get into a bit of a hectic firefight, but these moments didn’t detract too much from a game that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with. Even though time is relative. And bonkers.