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Deathloop Review

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Deathloop is finally here ladies and gentlemen.  Deathloop is a brand new IP developed by the brilliant minds at Arkane Studios who brought us Prey and Dishonored what can we expect? Well, the game director Ding Bakaba has described it as an “inverted Cluedo“. It is essentially a big old murder mystery where you are stuck in a time loop played from a first-person perspective.

It was originally announced at E32019 and again at the PlayStation 5 showcase in 2020 and scheduled to release later that year. But, after a couple of delays due to the ongoing pandemic, Deathloop is finally here.

Deathloop – If At First, You Don’t Succeed…Die, Die Again

Since Microsoft acquired Zenimax Studios, the parent company of publishers Bethesda, they have honoured the agreement to make this a timed console exclusive. This also applies to their upcoming game, Ghostwire Tokyo which looks fantastic. This means Deathloop will release on PlayStation 5 and PC on September 14th, 2021. It won’t but until a full year later that the game makes its way to Xbox Series X/S.

DEATHLOOP
Blackreef Isle, where you start looks stunning!

If you enjoyed this review, please check out my latest one for Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2But for now…it’s Groundhog Day…again…but with lots of murder.

Gameplay

At its core, Deathloop is an FPS game with a quantum twist. The premise is simple, all you have to do is kill the eight Visionaries by the end of the day. Easy right? WRONG!! I mean, you could try and do that straight off the bat, but you will quickly learn that is not how things are done.

You play as Colt, an assassin who wakes up on the sadistic, decadent 60’s retro-style party island of Blackreef. At first, you have no idea what’s going on. That is until you have radio communication with another assassin called Julianna, At this stage, it’s hard to tell whether she is a friend or a foe. More on Julianna later. Through the narrative, you discover that for some reason you are caught in a time loop. This is where it gets interesting.

Deathloop
Well, being as you asked so nicely

Once the day ends, you wake up back on the beach where you started, on the same morning. Everything you did in the previous loop has been reset, but you retain any information you may have learned in that loop. Valuable information that will help you in this and future loops. For example, you may find information on a Visionary’s activity at a particular time of day. If you die, the loop also resets and you lose all your gear unless you have ‘infused’ them.

How do you break the loop? You guessed it, you have to kill the eight Visionaries. Each one you kill will have a Slab which you can take to give you certain powers to help. In this game, information is power. After a good 2-3 hours you are armed with all the information you need on powers, upgrading gear, and how to keep it to try and break the loop.

At the start, you will make your way through the tunnels to pick up the Hackamajig. A handy tool for hacking doors and creating distractions. Not too long after you will pick up a machete and your first Slab, the Reprise Slab. Slabs are what imbue Colt with powers and each of the Visionaries has one for you to obtain.

Deathloop
Daaaaamn…she ain’t gonna be in Deathloop 2

The Reprise Slab is invaluable for staying alive. Without it, you have only one life, and you will die and start again. No checkpoints, do not collect £200…just death. But after you start a location with the Reprise Slab, it will revive you not too far away from where you died. Others include the Nexus Slab, which connects enemies together invisibly, and whatever you do to one enemy, happens to the other. The Aether Slab cloaks Colt rendering him invisible to enemies, cameras, and turrets. There are other Slabs, but you will have to find out what they do on your own. Some of these slabs are very reminiscent of the powers within Dishonored, albeit with different names.

You will also come across Trinkets out in the wild, or collected from fallen enemies. When applied to your character or weapon, they grant them passive abilities such as, but not limited to a quicker power recharge rate, or the ability to aim down the sights quicker.

Both Slabs and Trinkets can be upgraded by spending harvested Residuum at the end of your mission. Speaking of Residuum, you need lots of this to Infuse your weapons, Slabs, and Trinkets. When you infuse them, this means that if you die or start a new day, you don’t lose them. So harvest as much as you can and spend all your Residuum because that does not carry over into the next loop. Also if you die, you lose all of your Residuum so make sure you go and get it back once you are revived. It’s also worth noting that you can only carry two Slabs per loop. Are you still with me? Great!

Deathloop
What will you do?

The game is broken up into four locations and four times of the day in which you will carry out your objectives. Information learned in loops will give you leads, Visionary Leads, and Arsenal Leads. You are going to want the best gear possible if you are to take down all the Visionaries in one loop. And some of the weapons you can find on these leads are phenomenal with some pistols, SMGs, and shotguns with incredible stopping power. Of course, you are free to explore these places as and when you want but be aware that if you do something in a location in the morning, it may have made some changes later in the day, good or bad. Once you finish an objective, the time of day will automatically move forward.

One thing I love about this game is the freedom you have. I love to play the stealth approach whenever I can, but if going loud is more your bag, then go for it. But take heed to the scribblings on the wall. If it says “don’t go loud”, take note. The sandbox style of gameplay means you can take many alternative paths towards your objective and pick up some goodies on the way. I did think at times that a map would have been handy, but only for exploring. You have an objective marker so you should have no trouble getting there. The path you take is entirely up to you. I cannot stress enough about Infusion though. Infuse everything you can to ensure when you start the next day or you die, you carry it all forward.

Remember I mentioned Julianna? The masked hunters on the island aren’t the only people you need to worry about. Through radio comms, it would seem as though she is trying to help you, albeit in a very antagonistic and teasing way. But, she can randomly pop up out of nowhere just when you think it’s safe, and try and kill you. And she is not easy to take out. The best part is, you can take on the role of Julianna yourself and invade other player’s games to give them a hard time which is amazing. Though this means that it can happen to you too, which isn’t so great. You can disable this though if you don’t want anyone coming in and interfering with your loops. But with great risk comes great reward. Something to bear in mind.

Deathloop
Well, this is going to end well!

Lastly, I want to talk about the controller. It’s nothing new to have radio transmissions coming through the controller speaker, but the DualSense’s haptic feedback is used really well. You will have different sensations depending on the terrain you are on and what you are doing; running, creeping, sliding, etc. Different guns have different levels of sensitivity and when a gun jams, the triggers will be locked. It’s small details like this that remind me of why the DualSense is so great.

I only experienced a couple of glitches which is where an NPC was unable to run through a door. It just looked like he was running on the spot. Nothing really major to speak of. There was a point where I thought I had broken the game. At one point in the game, I was investigating Frank’s Club in Fristad Rock. To access this club you need a ClassPass which nullifies any Slabs you have equipped. So if you die, you restart the loop. This ClassPass also allows you to open all the doors within the club. I got to where I needed to be, removed the pass to get my powers back and I died. With the Reprise Slab equipped I was revived outside that particular room. Now, I need to find another ClassPass to get back in.

It was probably me being a div, but I could not find one anywhere and I looked for a good hour in the area I was trapped. So I ended up just restarting the loop from the Main Menu. I probably missed something but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Graphics & Audio

However you have your graphics settings, the game looks amazing. From the menu, there are three modes available. All modes benefit from dynamic 4K scaling. Performance mode will not have any raytracing and will run at a steady 60 frames per second. Visual Quality mode will prioritize graphical fidelity, again with no raytracing but at 60 frames per second with some drops. Lastly, there is the Raytracing mode. Quite self-explanatory, prioritising graphical fidelity at 30 frames per second with raytracing enabled. I played the game in Raytracing mode and it was just beautiful.

Deathloop
Cliffs have never looked so beautiful

The environments are rich and colourful and oftentimes gave me a bit of a Bioshock vibe with its 60’s styling. The shadows and lighting work wonderfully well together and you will want to see everything Blackreef Isle has to offer. I like that the team hasn’t gone for photo-realism in a game about murdering everyone. The stylised aesthetic just works for this game. There was the odd occasion where at times it seemed the lighting moved with you, almost like you were inside of an invisible orb, but this was barely noticeable. My main bugbear in this department was that every time you woke up on the shore, there would be some screen tearing when Cole was getting to his feet.

Tom Salta (Prince of Persia, Tom Clancy games) and Cornish composer Ross Tregenza (Cyberpunk 2077, Wolfenstein: Youngblood) have whipped up a wonderful score to accompany the eye-catching visuals. The sound effects are on point as well. When you have blown someone away with a shotgun, you really hear it! But then so does everybody else so you better be ready to hide or just murder your way through it all. I played Deathloop through my soundbar, but where it really shone was on my Sony 2.0 headset. It was simply sublime.

Additionally, the dialogue is hilarious. The back-and-forth between Colt and Julianna has great anti-chemistry. That is to say, they are opposite each other but they work so well together.

Longevity

Is it possible to kill all Visionaries in one loop? Maybe. Do I recommend it? Not at all! When Bethesda publishes a game, they want you to explore and become part of its world. The more you explore, the more you know and are better equipped to take on the Visionaries. There is so much to discover you will want to make this a lengthy campaign that will keep you going for hours. Even when you do finish it, there is some fun to be had with the multiplayer element where you go in as Julianna to sabotage other player’s games.

Final Thoughts

For a game that claims not to be a roguelike, it sure does have a lot of those elements to it. It’s also impossible to not draw comparisons to other games made by Arkane such as Dishonored and Prey. But, Deathloop shifts its way to us and feels very fresh. Whatever you learn in the aforementioned games, just forget about it. The player doesn’t feel forced into playing stealthily or guns blazing. It’s entirely the player’s choice.

Coupling the Infusion system with the time loop mechanics is a stroke of genius. For such a small world, the sandbox-style gameplay offers a lot to discover and will keep you intrigued throughout. Deathloop is fun and frivolous and the combat whether you’re going sneaky-sneaky or just want to blow some heads off is a blast.

I award Deathloop the Thumb Culture Platinum Award.

Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.

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