What if every day was the same? Of course that gets boring quickly. But what if every day is the same on an island full of gun-toting idiots who only celebrate the beast because there are no consequences anymore? Then you get something that is not boring. Then you get a deathloop.
The concept of Deathloop is simple: Blackreef Island has entered a time loop for an unknown reason. Everyone gets up every morning to do the same thing, no matter what happened the day before. Although people are aware of the time cycle—and thus drink, celebrate, and venture as if tomorrow does not exist—no one has any memories of what happened the day before. Except for Colt and Juliana. As a player, you start out as a Colt, who discovers that he can break the time loop by killing a number of specific targets within a day. But if you die yourself, the day begins again.
Does this make a deathloop a rogolite? not exactly. So don’t be alarmed by the idea of ”permanent death”. In Deathloop, first of all, you have not one, but three lives in each time loop. If you really die, you usually keep a lot of progress and sometimes weapons, upgrades, and supernatural powers, like the ability to teleport. On the other hand, even if you don’t die, the time loop will only restart when the default day ends.
Thus, the time loop is more than a simple game mechanic. It is an essential part of the game. The ultimate goal is to kill all targets in one round, but that’s easier said than done. Blackreef is divided into four regions and the day is also divided into four parts of the day. You can only visit one area each day partially, and your actions also affect the rest of the day. If Hitman is chess, Deathloop is chess on four boards at once.
Because of this setup, death is rarely frustrating, even if you lose a great weapon. Deathloop is not about trial and error, it’s about learning more and more about the game world.
A simple example: There is a fireworks factory destroyed by a fire every afternoon. Unless you cut off the power to the plant in the morning, there will never be a fire. But beware: the fireworks factory will burn again the next day if you don’t intervene again that day. Therefore, knowledge is your greatest weapon. Little by little, together you sum up what to do and what not to put all the targets in exactly the right place, so that you can kill them all in one day.
Because of this setup, death is rarely frustrating, even if you lose a great weapon. Deathloop is not about trial and error, it’s about learning more and more about the game world. You discover a new acronym, you’ve heard a fun conversation and now you’ve learned something about a target, or you’ve managed to “infuse” a weapon with the remnants of multidimensional objects so that you’ll have it in your arsenal the next day you sit down. And if you do not have enough leftovers, then at least now you know where and when you can find this weapon again. Every run makes progress in one way or another. The time loop isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing that makes you smarter and stronger. While everyone starts the same routine over and over again, only you know what will happen and how you can influence the course of events.
Or at least almost alone. In addition to being a Colt, you can also play Juliana, the only other person who remembers things. As Colt tries to break the time loop, Juliana tries to defend the time loop. When you play as Juliana, you are conquering the game of other players. Your only goal, then, is to annoy the other player. The fun part is that you have no idea how armed or experienced the other player is. Besides, Colt has three lives, but Juliana only has one. So you are at a disadvantage and have to work smarter. For example, you can masquerade as a normal non-playable character to be less conspicuous. After some practice, the undersigned were able to mimic a NPC’s walking ways – after all, NPCs do exactly the same every day. The unsuspecting Colt looked miserably when he thought he was chasing a stupid non-playable character and was suddenly treated to a shot of hail at point blank range. But beware: Juliana from all over the world regularly invades your game.
It is somewhat questionable how much extension there is in Deathloop’s “multiplayer”. As a Colt, you’ll really end the game at some point, while you can continue as Juliana basically indefinitely. So over time, more people will want to play Juliana than Colt and that of course isn’t possible. As a Colt, you can also disable multiplayer so other players can’t invade your game. By the way, you do not get rid of Juliana, because if you go offline, the enemy controlled by the computer will regularly disrupt your game. That fight between Colt and Juliana is an essential part of Deathloop.
The titular time loop and all that surrounds it is undoubtedly the main achievement of the Deathloop, but it’s definitely not the only thing that makes the game so exciting. After all, Arkane Studios wouldn’t be from Arkane Studios if the exploration of the game world itself wasn’t incredibly interesting. Deathloop’s world is strangely detailed. The 1960s aesthetic with organically shaped furniture and muted colors blended perfectly with a touch of futuristic retrofitting, but that clearly wasn’t unique enough for Arkan.
The island itself is a crazy collection of exotic locations. Even if you have a number of time loops, the environment continues to get exciting and there are always new things to discover. On top of old military bunkers, concrete complexes, luxury villas, dance clubs and a game hall (with cool arcade lockers – do you recognize all the Easter eggs?). There is a kind of open air exhibition where it is a surprise with every building located behind the front door, the castle has been turned into a real shooting game. Blackreef is kind of a chaotic theme park and Arkane Studios knows how to convincingly create each attraction.
Arkane manages to convey the feel of each weapon through the DualSense Controller’s adaptive triggers. For example, with the aptly named Pepper Mil submachine gun, you feel the recoil in the trigger with each individual shot. Combined with the really cute and funny voiceover, this is yet another example of the carefully considered detail with which Arkane Studios itself goes above and beyond.
Unfortunately, on the PlayStation 5, you have to choose between a steady 60 fps, ray tracing at 30 fps, or kind of in the middle with nicer graphics without ray tracing and an unstable frame rate.
However, we feel that the game world could have been more beautiful. Unfortunately, on the PlayStation 5, you have to choose between a steady 60 fps, ray tracing at 30 fps, or kind of in the middle with nicer graphics without ray tracing and an unstable frame rate. With timing and reaction so essential to a silent killer, performance mode is in our opinion the only serious option, but then you miss out on some of the graphical bells and whistles.
The only other point of criticism is the rather salty finish, which we can’t say much about without spoiling it. So we won’t go into that any further. You could say that the journey there is more exciting than the destination. But, by the time you get to that destination, you’ll find more than enough reasons to include Deathloop on your Games of the Year shortlist.
Deathloop is now available for PlayStation 5 and PC. In this review, we played the game on PlayStation 5.
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