Deathloop review - A truly unique murder puzzle that's begging to be solved - Dexerto
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Deathloop review – A truly unique murder puzzle that’s begging to be solved

Published: 13/Sep/2021 13:02 Updated: 13/Sep/2021 13:13

by Daniel Megarry

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Deathloop is Arkane’s most ambitious project yet, bringing together classic FPS action with a huge murder puzzle, a unique time-loop concept, and seamlessly integrated multiplayer assassination face-offs – and it somehow pulls it all off.

In Deathloop, you’re stuck in an endless cycle where each day is the same. To escape it, you have just 24 hours to find clues, solve puzzles, and defeat eight powerful Visionaries who are keeping you locked in the loop. Fail, and you’ll start the day over again – but you’ll become a little smarter each time you do.

If you’re on the hunt for something truly unique, look no further: Deathloop is one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had in gaming this year, and it feels destined to become a cult classic.

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Deathloop – Key Details

  • Price: $59.99
  • Developer: Arkane Lyon
  • Release Date: September 14, 2021
  • Platforms: PS5 and PC

Deathloop trailer


Dying is the key to success

You’re going to die a lot in Deathloop, and that’s okay: It’s kind of the point of the game. Just moments into playing, you’ll witness Colt – that’s you, the player – being brutally murdered with a machete, only to wake up seconds later on a freezing cold beach. This opening scene is your warm welcome to Blackreef, an unforgiving island shrouded in mystery and caught in a seemingly endless time loop. It’s a bit like Groundhog Day, but with a lot more violence and some stylish, 60s-inspired decor. Colt doesn’t remember why he’s here, or even who he is, so it’s your job to help him piece together clues about his past, defeat the people who keep him trapped on Blackreef, and, ultimately, figure out how to escape the constant cycle of death.

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This endless ‘loop’ is the core concept of Deathloop, and it works incredibly well. Each time you die or make it through to midnight, you’ll start the same day again and lose any equipment you’ve collected. One thing you won’t lose, though, is the knowledge you gained. Whether that’s a lead about a new location to explore, a password that lets you open a previously locked vault, or simply realizing that there’s a better – and safer – approach that won’t get you killed next time, you’ll quickly realize that Deathloop is more about putting your detective hat on than mowing down enemies (although there’s plenty of that, if you want it).

Deathloop
Arkane Lyon
Fight if you wish, but stealth will often be the best way forward in Deathloop.

There are two major features to make these loops a little easier. Early on, you’ll also get access to Reprise, a must-have ability that gives you two chances to rewind a little time rather than starting an entirely new loop. Die a third time, though, and it’s right back to the start. Later, you’ll unlock Residuum, a mysterious substance that can be absorbed from glowing objects and dead enemies. With this, you can infuse weapons or abilities and carry them between loops, but you’ll need to choose wisely, as the best stuff is expensive.

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Your primary goal on Blackreef is to locate and defeat eight Visionaries, who are Deathloop’s equivalent of boss fights, within 24 hours. Each has unique abilities, like Egor Serling’s invisibility or Frank Spicer’s deadly aim, and although they’re not the most memorable villains, they serve their purpose well. To find them, you’ll need to explore the various Districts of Blackreef island, from the industrial complex, which is home to the heavily-guarded Loop Control Center, to the icy Fristad Rock. Each location changes depending on the time of day you visit – Updaam is relatively tame in the day, for example, but at night it becomes a deadly party destination – and some opportunities or encounters are only available at specific times. We won’t share spoilers, but learning each Visionary’s schedule (and their relationships to one another) is key to taking them all down in a single day. This goal can feel overwhelming at first, but slowly piecing everything together is incredibly satisfying.

Deathloop
Arkane Lyon
Piecing clues together is the key to defeating each Visionary and escaping the loop.

One of the smaller joys of Deathloop is watching how things change each time you restart Colt’s loop. Vague floating hints that appear throughout Blackreef change and become more clear as you progress, warning you that a specific route may be dangerous or simply instructing you to “kill everything”. See a hint more than once, and Colt will vocally dismiss it. Pick up an item you looked at in a previous loop, and he’ll spend a little less time examining it. The back-and-forth between Colt and rival assassin Julianna, which is fluid and, at times, morbidly funny, also grows alongside your discoveries.

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These may seem like small details, but it’s this attention to detail that gives Deathloop its premium quality. It also makes repeating similar actions in each loop a little less tedious. One concern we had when starting our Deathloop journey was that constantly replaying the same day could quickly become tiresome, but fortunately, it never gets to that stage. There’s always something new to discover.

Stealth or all-out war? That’s up to you

Deathloop encourages you to follow your own playstyle early on, whether that’s laying low or killing everything in sight. When letting Colt die has real consequences, though, you’ll likely spend most of your time sneaking around enemies instead of going in guns blazing. The usual rules apply: Throw bottles to distract them, sneak up to take them out silently, or climb up high to avoid their gaze. Make too much noise or get spotted, and you risk your enemies calling for reinforcements, which poses a serious risk. Even stealth kills come at a cost, as they’ll leave behind a ‘smear of shadow’ that puts the rest of your enemies on high alert when discovered. The threat of a complete loop reset gives Deathloop a real sense of danger that’s often lacking in video games. It forces you to think every move through, rather than using brute force and hoping it pays off. While this can slow things down, the feeling of completing a risky mission or successfully navigating through a huge pack of enemies is very rewarding.

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You won’t always be able to rely on stealth, though, and the further you progress into the game, the more competent you’ll become at taking the reckless approach. There’s a solid range of weapons in different levels of rarity to discover around Blackreef’s Districts, from the silent PT-6 Spiker that specializes in nail-to-the-head eliminations to the huge MG-1 Peppermill that can shred through groups of enemies. Guns can also be upgraded with collectible Trinkets that offer benefits like reduced recoil, and higher rarities come pre-loaded with perks. It’s not just traditional weapons, either: The throwable Strelak Sapper Charge is an explosive that can take on three different forms – Grenade, Proximity Charge, or Trip Mine – and Portable Turrets can be hacked to turn on your enemies. Trying out every option is fun, but it can be a little too easy to fall back on the game’s shotguns, which pretty much always deal one-shot kills to your enemies.

Deathloop
Arkane Lyon
While not essential, Slabs will help you out in combat, and they’re a lot of fun.

That’s not to say that Deathloop is easy, though. In the most difficult areas, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed with enemies – and you’re only ever a few bullets away from death. That’s where Slabs come into play. These are rare objects that infuse Colt with otherworldly powers, and the only way to get them is to kill off Visionaries. Shift lets you teleport a small distance to help mobility, Aether turns you (almost) invisible for extra stealth, while Karnesis allows you to throw your enemies around. We did find that Nexus, a Slab that allows you to connect enemies to kill them off at once, didn’t always work as well as we wanted it to, but for the most part, they’re very fun to use and elevate combat beyond typical FPS fare.

Seamless multiplayer provides a real thrill

Although the majority of your Deathloop experience will be spent helping Colt escape, Arkane has also implemented a multiplayer element to the game. Here, you’ll take on the role of Blackreef assassin Julianna and enter another player’s game to sabotage their attempts to break the loop. There are sets of challenges to complete too, such as scoring headshots or staying alive for a certain amount of time, and the ability to unlock new costumes for Colt and Julianna. On the flip side, if you’re playing as Colt and you enter a District where a Visionary is based, you risk another player invading your game as Julianna, and the pressure of completing a difficult mission while also avoiding being assassinated is a real thrill.

Like the loop itself, this is a feature that feels uniquely ‘Deathloop’ and is another example of Arkane going above and beyond to make the game truly stand out. The whole thing is seamless, with no waiting around when an Invasion takes place, and it’s also entirely optional – so those who want to focus on making it through Colt’s story (or just want an easier ride) can simply turn it off to avoid the distraction with a much less deadly AI-controlled Julianna instead.

Arkane Lyon
Arkane Lyon
There are multiple paths through each District, and finding the best one is part of the fun.

A brilliant showcase for the DualSense controller

Another thing Deathloop does incredibly well is DualSense integration. Each weapon feels slightly different in the hand, and when a low-rarity weapon jams, your trigger will jam, too. Sound from the DualSense is also very immersive, from the clink of a glass bottle when you pick it up to the satisfying bleeps when unlocking a door with your Hackamajig. When Julianna calls you, her voice will emit from the controller as if you were holding a phone in your hands. As most PS5 owners will attest, these features aren’t essential by any means, but it’s a really nice touch when a game utilizes them as well as Deathloop does, and it never feels gimmicky for the sake of it.

What’s really impressive about Deathloop is how successfully it pulls off all of the different things it tried to achieve: Arkane set its sights incredibly high, and it paid off. With an engaging murder-mystery plot that begs to be solved, an effortlessly likable pair of lead characters, and the ability to play in a style that suits you, it’s easy to recommend Deathloop. This is the kind of game the PS5 deserves.

Rating: 9/10

Deathloop expertly blends genres for a truly unique experience that delivers on its brilliant premise. Whether you’re sneaking around enemies, battling other players in surprise PvP shoot-outs, solving environmental puzzles, or uncovering clues to solve the mysteries of Blackreef island, it’s almost impossible to avoid Deathloop’s charm.

Reviewed on PS5