Deathloop: Even though the PlayStation 5 has been out for almost a year, the first truly essential game for it is Deathloop. When was the last time you tried to purchase a PlayStation 5? If you’ve looked into getting a PS5, you know it’s not easy to do so.
Sony can’t produce enough consoles to meet demand because of ongoing chip shortages, so they sell out very instantly once they hit shelves. The trouble is, though, that demand isn’t being driven by a desire to play any new cutting-edge games; rather, it’s being driven by a desire to acquire a glossy, scarce new PlayStation.
Games like Ratchet & Clank and Returnal are fantastic additions for PS5 users, but they aren’t compelling enough to warrant purchasing a new system. But Deathloop alters all of that. Deathloop, finally releasing on Tuesday after two delays, is captivating, mysterious, and the best reason to purchase a PS5 to date.
You’ll need a powerful computer to play it comfortably on a PC, but it’s also an option. Indications are that it will be available on the Xbox Series X|S sometime in 2019, though this is far from guaranteed.
Pre-install with Game Pass or pre-order "DEATHLOOP" today!
— DEATHLOOP (@deathloop) September 15, 2022
Deathloop is a murder puzzle developed by Arkane Studios (known for Dishonored) and set in the trippy 1960s. As Colt, you play through the experience of waking up on Blackreef Island only to learn that you are trapped in a time loop.
For Colt to escape the loop, he must locate and eliminate seven Visionaries, who are bosses located at various points across the island, all while still within the same loop. Hence, “crime mystery.”
Arkane Studios nailed it with the execution, and the concept itself is brilliant. With a fighting system that encourages experimentation and adapts to your play style and a plot that unfolds with diabolical originality, Deathloop is a game bursting with ingenuity. Colt, the PS5 graphics, and the miracles of Deathloop’s time loop aren’t the focus of the film.
The mysterious island of Blackreef is the one you’ll want to visit again and again.
Deathloop is All About Timing
Since the entire plot of Deathloop revolves around you living the same day over and over again, it stands to reason that the passage of time plays a significant role in nearly every decision you make.
There are four distinct areas in Blackreef, and they are called Karl’s Bay, Updam, Fristad Rock, and The Complex. Each location is accessible in the morning, midday, afternoon, and evening. Depending on when you go, the layout of each floor will be different.
The time of day determines the appearance of some characters and the availability of new-world locations. Meanwhile, the sun’s rising and setting cause foes to change their tactics (and where they are hiding).
On each iteration, you’ll get to decide where you travel and when you go there. However, there is only one location you can visit at any given moment. Depending on the time of day, Colt has access to a different set of floors. The cycle begins again at that point.
In a nutshell, you can only visit four of the sixteen levels per day. A person’s actions at one time of the day can have repercussions later on.
The challenge lies in determining which of the four stages can be set up such that Colt can eliminate all Visionaries in a single playthrough. You know the who and the why, and you need to figure out the when and the where and the how as you go through the story.
The idea is eye-catching, but it might potentially backfire in terms of playability. The 25 or so hours it takes to complete Deathloop will be spent cycling through the same four levels.
Time of day variations helps maintain a sense of novelty. It’s true that by the conclusion of Deathloop, you’ll be forced to replay some of the same areas over and over again, and that this can get repetitive, but the game’s combat system does a good job of making up for this.
Dishonoured fans won’t be surprised to learn that Deathloop’s levels are each a carefully created sandbox full of a few riddles and a plethora of opponents standing in the way of the way to solutions.
All the means necessary to clear the way are at your disposal, including firearms, a hacking device, and a set of unique abilities, and you are free to use them as you see fit. You can either blast your way there or use stealth to silently clear the route, or you can sneak around and (usually) avoid encounters with the enemy completely.
You’ll have access to a wide variety of firearms, as well as Slabs and other accoutrements. Slabs are magical slates that bestow upon their bearers diabolical abilities, such as temporary invisibility, while trinkets confer advantages, such as increased health, ammunition, or the ability to double jump.
Colt may only carry two Slabs at a time, so you’ll need to choose carefully among the five available. Some Slabs are great if you want to pretend you’re Rambo, while others are more covert and can be used by those who prefer it.
You’ll need timing, precision, and coordination whether your approach is passive or aggressive. Mindless shooting will almost always result in your death, and staying in one place for even a few seconds too long will notify the Eternalists (the bad guys). It requires talent and cunning to clear waves upon waves of foes, but Colt is no superhuman.
This is why the fighting in Deathloop is so spectacular. Options are provided, but they are not necessarily simple. Although you can try out different playstyles in other games, you won’t always need to rely on them. Instead, Deathloop constantly prods you to branch out and experiment.
This is in part because you will be revisiting previously explored regions. It wasn’t uncommon for me to use my gun to clear a room of Eternalists, then use the stuff to sneak out a window or into a crawl space. When I returned, I planned to use my newfound knowledge to eliminate the evil guys without resorting to gunfire or explosives.
This unique feature of Deathloop is exemplified by the fact that, while certain things remain constant from one iteration to the next, others drastically alter the experience.
Two’s a Party
The level design isn’t the only thing that keeps things interesting daily; Julianna is, too. In Deathloop, she is your sworn enemy who mocks you while she thwarts your efforts to end the game.
As you work to eradicate the Visionaries, Julianna will do the same to you. Colt and Julianna’s dynamic is captivating from the get-go. While Julianna seems to know everything there is to know about Colt, he is lost and puzzled. Colt doesn’t understand why Juliana dislikes him so much. It’s just one of the many enticing mysteries surrounding Blackreef.
I mean, Julianna is scary, too.
Frequent on-screen messages are reminding you that Julianna is actively searching for you as you progress through each level. When this occurs, no one can leave the level.
You can either try to get Julianna before she gets you by hacking a radio transmitter to reopen them, or you can risk being caught by being near the transmitter. If you kill her, the Slab will be upgraded and you’ll get new weaponry.
One of the game’s main draws is its cooperative play. Deathloop’s startup screen gives you two choices: “Break the loop” or “Protect the loop.” If you select the former, you will assume control of Colt for the game’s story mode.
With the latter option, you assume the role of Julianna and are put into another player’s game with the explicit instruction to create havoc, much like in Dark Souls’ invasions.
Multiplayer is enjoyable, but it varies from session to session. To start, it has suffered from connectivity problems, which will hopefully be resolved once the game is released. Simply put, the calibre of your opponent has a significant impact on how enjoyable your multiplayer experience is.
Whether you’re up against an invading Julianna or a defending Colt camper, you can find yourself wandering a massive map aimlessly for 20 minutes. However, just like the single-player combat, the multiplayer action builds to thrilling showdowns and rewards strategic thinking and creativity.
As a second drawback, multiplayer can disrupt the natural progression of your game. As the novel progresses, there will be points where Julianna’s intrusion will be met with more of a bitter grunt than a trembling excitement. Refusing an invading Julianna, or destroying Colt’s loop, can still be done with a certain air of superiority.
Turning off online mode is also an option if you find yourself getting frustrated with a game’s online components, such as a slow connection or an especially difficult opponent. The Julianas will still invade, but this time it will be under computer control.
Anyone who has seen a trailer for Deathloop will know that the game’s personality is one of its strongest points. It’s polished and fashionable, but also has an endearing eccentricity. Arkane Studios has used the resources at its disposal to build a world that is cohesive, consistent, and really, very cool, with all the hallmarks of a next-generation blockbuster.
The time loop you’re stuck in is intriguing to observe, and the story of Colt and Julianna is engaging. However, Blackreef is Deathloop’s biggest asset. Not only the stunning (and eerily reassuring) visuals but also the captivating character the show displays during every play.
Playing as Colt is like infiltrating a peaceful, orderly world that does not need you. If you hang out with the Eternalists long enough, you’ll hear them chatting, gossiping, and even encouraging one another to take risks they might otherwise regret. At times, you can hear them pondering the same perplexing issues that Colt does.
Colt discovers several of the Visionaries’ written records, audio tapes, and computer-archived chats, which propels the plot along significantly. While you slowly begin to understand about Blackreef, you’ll also notice how the Visionaries are each fully immersed in their interests — activities they’re in the middle of as you hunt them down.
Even though Blackreef isn’t an open world in the classic game sense, it nonetheless manages to convey the feeling of a bustling island full of ambitious people and inebriated Eternalists trying to get through the day.
Fighting is satisfying, and you’ll want Colt to succeed in his quest to end the loop, but Deathloop shines when it reveals little tidbits of Blackreef’s history and potential. Although I’ve invested 30 hours playing Deathloop, there are still plenty of mysteries I need to be resolved. The more I learn, the more questions I have. Blackreef is an enigma you must solve, a paradise you must see right away.