Deathloop Review: Dead to rights, this weird, clever, murder puzzle is much more than a typical shooter

By James Ide

Deathloop is a time-bending, first-person shooter, murder puzzle. In Deathloop you are about to repeatedly live through a very bad, never-ending day.

Developed by Arkane Studios who are best known for their smash hit supernatural, assassin shooter, Dishonoured. Deathloop takes the stealth, assassinations, approach on Dishonoured but cracks it all the way up.

You play as Colt Vahn, a skilled assassin who wakes up on the strange Island of Blackreef, on a beach with no memory of how he got there or even who he is or what is happening.

Things are about to get worse, the whole Island somehow knows you and wants to kill you. And to make things even worse, a happy psychopath called Julianna has taken to playing cat and mouse with you and wants to kill you for fun but there are also deeper reasons.

While Deathloop supports multiple playstyles, stealth certainly allows you hear more clues (Bethesda)


Thankfully no one seems to stay dead here as the next day they just return as if nothing ever happened, making them all immortal, including our hero giving you infinite chances to end the loop once and for all.

Killing all eight of the visionaries, dangerous eccentric rulers of the island may yield the key to breaking the loop and making sure they stay dead.

Black Reef is a gorgeous place rendered in the Void engine created by Arkane and based on an id Software engine, it was first used in Dishonoured 2 but has obviously received some serious development.


The 1970s retro-futuristic look made me feel like I was running around in an episode of the Venture Bros but is similar to the style of other Bethesda games like Wolfenstein and Fallout.

Deathloop features stunning detail and backgrounds and dramatic use of colour with character design looking the strongest and highly stylized models that looks brilliant much like their previous games.

But if you want Deathloop to look is best, be warned, ultra-settings on PC have some demanding specifications requiring an Nvidia RTX 3080 or AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT which aren’t exactly cheap or easy to get hold of.

Blackreef sports some striking environments for you to traverse while talking the Visionaries (Bethesda)



Searching Blackreef you find, notes, riddles and messages appearing as surreal floating words appearing in front of Colt’s vision offering information, but where do they come from?

Knowledge is the most powerful weapon in Deathloop, knowing where a Visionary will be, their weaknesses and how to gain access to their hideaways.

Due to this stealth is often the preferred approach at least for a while allowing you to snoop and gather information as well and learning the locations.

The character design of visionaries is excellent, each with a unique look and character it’s a shame the standard eternalists are less interesting and disposable.

Combat can be challenging but is generally forgiving, with plenty of health pickups around and eternalists are only really dangerous when they swarm you or when combined with another Visionary.

Enemies seemed easy to slip past too even without some of the more powerful slabs I was often killed when I walked into a trap or was taken by surprise.

The game often forces you to adapt to things going wrong and to adjust plans on the fly (Bethesda)



The Eternalists AI could easily be led into a corridor or kill zone where you could execute most of them at once.

There are several types of weapons to choose from that can support several play styles, from quiet stealthy weapons like the PT-6 ‘Spiker’ nail gun or sneaking up behind a foe and implanting Machete in their back.

When the grit hits the fan, you can resort to loud weapons like the ‘Vopat Trencher’ shotgun or devastating ‘Fourpounder’ hand cannon.

You can even carry two handguns at the same time for increased firepower, but you lose the ability to aim down sights, which can be vital when Julianna turns up.

However, you can only hold 5 weapons so you'll have to make some tough decisions.

The gunplay felt satisfyingly powerful and meaty if a little slow and clunky

You can also upgrade these weapons to some extent using trinkets with some combinations of weapons and weapons trinkets proving devastating.

Even if you kill Julianna, you need to still be very careful as she is always ready to ambush you (Bethesda)

Character Trinkets give Colt all sorts of useful buffs that will help you on your journey. For example, double jump or Increased health/power bar just to name a few.

Weapons and Trinkets also have varying levels of quality indicated by their colours grey, blue, and purple, which determines their effectiveness.

Slabs

Gun and bullets can only get you so far sometimes you need something more to give you an edge.

Slabs are strange items linked to the anomaly and give you access to powerful supernatural abilities like being able to turn invisible, teleport or my favourite ‘Nexus’, which links the fate of your enemies and once one is killed, they’ll all die.

Each visionary you kill will drop Slabs with a unique and useful power that’ll help you take down the next on your kill list.

Between missions, you can check your equipment and swap out your loadout to ensure you don't go up against Julianna and the visionaries unprepared.

Strange writing appears in front of Colt at certain locations giving clues or tips (Bethesda)

When you leave an area, it gives you a recap of knowledge discovered to remind you where you've been and where to go next.

Another power you collect in the beginning lets you respawn twice on death without resetting your loop so you don't have to be too cautious and this can forgive silly mistakes.

One of the biggest disadvantages to dying is losing all your weapons, trinkets, and slabs. It’s incredibly frustrating but early on you unlock the ability to carry items between loops, so you don't lose them.

You do this by harvesting Residuum, a strange element that appears on items, Visionaries and even in the place of your last death, you can also collect it by scrapping gear. It's vital to collect because it allows you to keep items in each loop.

One important thing some players may struggle with is this isn’t your typical shooter.

While you can go in all guns blazing you won’t necessarily learn much about how to access areas or the locations of your targets, the visionaries.

While planning is useful it's far more important to be ready to adapt in case plans change (Bethesda)

You need to listen for clues when henchmen talk to each other. After the first 4 targets, you need to investigate and track down the remaining visionaries, with Julianna trying to kill you.

No matter how much of a Badass Colt is, Julianna is always just one step behind you. Julianna can invade any level with a visionary to protect them from you.

Other than being more challenging than the other visionaries and dangerous she can also be assumed by a real human player. That’s right you can join other people’s loops as her to kill them.

Playing as Julianna adds a whole other layer of gameplay that keeps deathloop exciting (Bethesda)

When you load up the game you are met with two simple choices, “protect the loop” or "break the Loop" With the former having you play as Julianna and the latter as Colt.

But it’s not a simple different story mode. Death loop’s stand out feature is its PvP mode multiplayer.

The reason Julianna is so deadly is that she can be controlled by other human players online and can invade your single-player game, providing much more of a challenge for Colt.


You can also join games as Julianna and invade other players' loops to hunt them down and send them to the beginning of their loop, with a bullet.

Verdict

With an intriguing story and compelling gameplay, Deathloop is one of the most original and gripping games to come out in the past few years.

One of the best parts of Deathloop is after you solve one mystery, often several more take their place, requiring you to keep digging.

With multiple weapons, slags and trinkets to experiment with the games offer a huger number of variables to help mix up the game and For a game about repetition, these elements make it incredibly fresh.

With Julianna waiting in the wings to finish you off, adding an element of delicious, unpredictable danger to an already gripping game.

Deathloop launches as a timed exclusive for consoles on PlayStation 5 on September 14 for £59.99 as well as on PC for £49.99


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