Deathloop is the most unique and unusual game Arkane and Bethesda have ever made. Released in 2021 for the PlayStation 5 and PC, Deathloop then received an Xbox Series X/S release a year later.
What makes this game unique? Or, what doesn’t? From themes to gameplay to how it breaks one of Arkane Studios‘ hallmarks, Deathloop stands out as a highly original game.
Arkane has been well known for making games like the Dishonored series, Prey 2017, and Arx Fatalis. They excel at making games with tense situations that burst into powerful legacies. For example, their Dishonored series earned its reputation thanks to its morality side, where killing people negatively affects your ending.
What Deathloop tries to do is combines elements from both Dishonored and Prey. This results in a wacky and unique first-person shooter romp.
Waking Up Confused
The story begins with a character named Colt. He’s having a bad day; see, a girl name Julianna kills him. He then somehow wakes up on a beach with a bad hangover. Next, Colt finds out that he’s trapped on an island called Blackreef, where everyone’s stuck in a time loop.
Every time the day ends, everything resets back to the first day. Colt discovers that the only way to stop the time loop is to kill eight people, called Visionaries, who have some effect and influence on the Loop.
As if that wasn’t complicated enough, other versions of Colt are trying to do the same thing. He’s even warned by one that killing all eight Visionaries in one day is impossible without careful planning.
Deathloop’s Groovy Setting
Deathloop has a very retro, 1960s style going on. Between the bright colors, funky music, and disco-inspired hair and clothing styles, it’s a blast from the past. To be fair, Arkane games have always had a very unique artistic approach to their games and Deathloop is no exception.
Even the weapons maintain this feel, with pretty interesting designs and reload animations. Hence, trying every single weapon is a lot of fun. The music captures the ’60s aesthetic well often hearing some guitar riffs, keyboards, and snare drums. The only thing missing is some disco balls!
You then see the sci-fi part of the game, noticing technology has significantly advanced. There are security cameras and automated turrets that have target recognition. There are computer monitors and tape recorders that contain messages, much like the tape recorders in Bioshock.
Colt Vs The World of Deathloop
The main gameplay of Deathloop centers on Colt in a single-player experience. You have to navigate through four areas of Blackreef. This involves a lot of investigating how to take out the Visionaries, finding clues, obtaining new weapons and even some magic powers. Rinse and repeat as you try to complete all of this in just one day.
Interestingly enough, killing the Visionaries and Julianna gives you cool powers. Shift allows you to teleport, Nexus links enemies to kill more than one, Havoc gives you a brief moment of invisibility, Aether turns you invisible, and Fugue stuns enemies in place.
The charm of Deathloop is that they let you play the game any way you want. You are given a large arsenal of pistols, shotguns, rifles, and sub-machine guns as well as a machete, grenades, and hacking tools. You can either be stealthy and kill in the shadows, go loud and out guns blazing, or anything in between. Your only limit is your imagination and how much ammo you got.
Multiplayer… Kind Of
If playing as Colt isn’t enough, an online mode lets players play as Julianna. This mode allows players to invade random game sessions to try and kill Colt. It’s basically like the invasions in Dark Souls, except with assault rifles instead of swords.
After each mission, you level up, which gives you access to better powers and weapons. There’s even the added incentive to unlock new costumes for both her and Colt. Even if you somehow die, take heart: you are still getting points to level up.
The online mode is optional for those playing Colt’s storyline, but Juliana’s mode is strictly online. Keep that in mind, if you’re on the fence about online gaming. It’s also Peer 2 Peer online gaming, which means there are going to be latency issues should one have an unstable connection.
There’s also the option to go into a friend’s game, which turns the game into a co-op game. If you want Julianna to help Colt instead of kill him, that’s an option to make the game that much easier!
Deathloop: Wake Up, Die, Repeat
While Deathloop has some interesting mechanics and a fun amount of weapons to mess around with, it is a game that will test players’ patience. The main goal is to find a way to kill all eight Visionaries, but the answers aren’t always given to you. The main loop of the gameplay is having the morning till night to investigate how to take out the Visionaries while dealing with the locals, then repeat the day over and over.
Mercifully, you won’t lose all your progress when you die. You have an ability called Reprise that allows you to be killed up to three times before the loop repeats. You also get the chance to infuse your weapons and abilities with this material called residuum to keep them.
However, Deathloop is not a game that can be sprinted even by the most veteran of gamers. Instead, it is a game that pushes players out of their comfort zone to explore different parts of the island at different parts of the day to find the weapons, clues, and trinkets needed to make the next run flawless. When it all clicks together, it’s pretty satisfying.
Amazing, But Not Perfect
Deathloop has a lot of great ideas and is a really interesting experiment from other FPS games. The whole point of the game is playing through the same areas over and over till you find what you need to kill all eight Visionaries. Still, when you make a repetitive game ironic by design, you’re still, well, making a repetitive game.
The enemy AI is also very strange. Even after a recent update that added new gear and enemies, it seems like they can either barely see you when you sneak up on them. Yet other times, they can end up spotting you from a mile away before you even had a chance to get the drop on them. It’s very inconsistent and that also goes for the AI for Julianna.
The other issue is that outside of the console ports, the PC version is a very poor port. Sometimes you will encounter studdering and the animations can feel choppy. Deathloop supposedly uses Denuvo, which has always had gamers a bit on the edge for how it affects the performance. Even if your PC somehow has even more than recommended requirements to run the game, it may still not run well. With that said, the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions are the better choice.
Characters: They Need More Character
The most underbaked part of Deathloop is the characters outside of Colt. Colt, understandably, is the most fleshed out, especially after you learn more about his past. However, we barely know anything about the Visionaries that we’re hunting. Aside from a few voice lines and text from notes, there isn’t much interaction with them.
Julianna is the only one Colt interacts with directly. However, the only time you meet her is when she invades you. When she talks to you, it’s via the radio and it’s just to berate him. She feels like she should be a very intimidating antagonist but she’s often just going around in circles.
We find out who she is to Colt in the late parts of the game. For reasons that won’t be spoiled, Julianna’s reasoning for attacking Colt is more personal than what was let on. Yet the only time we ever see any exposition from her is toward the end of the game, when it has less thematic impact.
In other words, the game has substance to it, but the writers don’t always know what to do with it.
Deathloop’s Gaming Chemistry
As mentioned before, Deathloop has a strange combination of elements from the Dishonored series and Prey 2017. Throughout the game, you will often find these arcade cabinets that reference Arkane or Bethesda games like Doom or Arx Fatalis.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Many of Colt’s obtained powers copy of the powers Corvo used in Dishonored. In fact, the first power you come across is literally Blink. Corvo uses a sword and pistol, Colt uses a machete and revolver. Corvo has to assassinate or remove key political targets while Colt takes out the visionaries. You’re seeing a pattern, right? Even the turrets that you encounter look like the security turrets from Prey.
Prey also had a ’60s-inspired look, with the futuristic setting on the moon, yet with an alternative ending for the Cold War. Most of the game took place in a single space station with sections broken apart. In fact, Prey and Deathloop share some map layouts and themes.
Is Deathloop Worth It?
Right now, you might ask if Deathloop is worth the price. Well, that depends on how you can look at it. Deathloop is definitely not for everyone. It’s a very repetitive FPS that requires you to go through the same areas over and over looking for clues and upgrading Colt to survive.
Still, it can be rewarding after a little experimentation and getting all the clues you need to nail every Visionary. Deathloop is not forgiving and still pretty buggy. When it all clicks, though, the shooting can be fun and the feeling like your work actually leads up to a great end goal makes it all worth it.
The game currently has three possible endings, so there is plenty of re-playability. You also won’t have to worry about morality choices like Dishonored was known for. Just keep in mind, it might be a bumpy ride.