Deathloop took me on an incredible rollercoaster ride from beginning to end.
In truth, I wasn’t sure I was even enjoying myself an hour or two in. I felt a bit aimless, wondering what really sets this game apart and found the plot just a tad confusing.
But with every mission – successful or otherwise – I got to know Cole. I got to learn more about Julianna. I picked up more and more clues about the Visionaries and really started to understand what the Deathloop is.
I hadn’t even realised it but Arkane had slowly and subtly got their hooks into me all over again and when I looked up after ten hours of straight playing, I knew that I was all in.
Now let’s put it this way – it’s going to take a lot to unseat Deathloop as my Game of the Year!
The game is so multi-layered even though you are essentially playing through the same four levels again and again, revisiting them at different times of day.
There are two ways to play. The main way is as Cole, an assassin intent on breaking an infinite timeloop created by his arch enemy Juliana. As Juliana, however, you can choose to protect the loop by invading other players’ games online.
The main campaign through Cole teaches you all the tricks of the trade. How to spend Residuum, which gear to use, what to infuse, which slabs to equip and how to plan your days.
As Julianna, you get to slow down Cole’s progress and earn additional weapons in the process. It is a fascinating dynamic that keeps the pressure on the solo player and ensures the game has replayability beyond the initial campaign.
There is a real tension here as each loop gives you three lives in which to accomplish your mission. In true Arkane fashion, stealth is also going to stand you in better stead than running in headfirst, but then if a random player jumps into the fray to take you down, then, well, you get the picture.
Deathloop gradually teaches you how to be a more efficient assassin. It’ll start out with you killing one, maybe two of the visionaries. You might even do it by accident, stumbling across a solution or perhaps you’ve taken your time to learn as much about your scenario as possible before making your approach.
The ultimate aim is to defeat the eight visionaries in a single day but it’s not just a simple case of running up and killing them, which means sometimes a run might not see you kill anyone and instead go on a fact-gathering mission to better prepare you for tomorrow.
There’s clues everywhere. On computers, scribbled on notes, overhearing snippets of conversation. Where games have previously boasted about you having to pay attention to your surroundings, that’s genuinely the case in Deathloop because eventually you’ll piece together a full and complete lead which will give you a tactical advantage.
For example, rather than fighting a Visionaire head-on, you might find out they go off the beaten path, sneaking off to do something they enjoy or they argue with another NPC at a certain place and time. Perhaps they do something which you can use against them.
You’ll start the game, ham-fisted and uneven but finish it being able to slip into the shadows at will. That’s what I love most about the game. You can see and feel the progress, you know when you’re doing something right and understand quite clearly when you’re playing the game as intended.
This comes from using Slabs which you loot from the Visionaires corpses. What’s more, you can equip two additional trinkets on these slabs, rewarding multiple kills for the same Visionaire. Each slab offers unique powers to help you in your quest. Like Dishonored before it, there’s a blink-like ability that lets you hop between rooftops but there’s also a link slab which hurts several enemies in range and even a slab that tosses Eternalists aside.
Days will eventually reset, though, which means you won’t carry everything over with you, such as your guns. Infusements and Slabs will always stay with you at least, but you’ll need to tactically decide what to boost and what to sacrifice before moving onto the next day.
This can be as much to the game’s benefit as its detriment, though. Depending on your progress, there’s a period in the game where things start to feel a tad repetitive, going over the same places again and again, doing the same things. It’s rewarding when you figure out new ways to kill people, of course, but random interruptions from Juliana and some brutal firefights can really set you back and border on the frustrating.
Visually, I wouldn’t say Deathloop is PS5’s finest hour. I found myself much more wow’ed by the likes of Ratchet & Clank and Demon’s Souls in true 4K. In Raytracing mode, the game also suffers from some harsh frame rate drops from time to time, but looking out across the beach when you first start, gazing out from the top of rooftops in Updaam, Deathloop shines time and time again.
And the ongoing conversations Cole has with Juliana throughout are a real highlight for the game with the voice acting flowing together wonderfully The way characters can talk over each other provides another layer of emotion with Juliana’s voice coming out of the controller speaker while Cole chats through the TV. The character development here is top notch as you try to figure out what’s happening and indeed who’s on the right side of all this.
This is a dynamic you won’t be able to find on any other system which really lends itself to the DualSense’s unique capabilities. Speaking of, the sensation of walking pulsing through your hands with haptics, feeling the heaviness of Cole’s footsteps and the tightening of triggers really adds something to the game, immersing you further without feeling too gimmicky or unncessary.
Deathloop just works on every level and will be a game I’ll revisit time and time again. It may be one of the final Bethesda games PlayStation owners will be able to get their hands on, but it’s undoubtedly one of the very best they’ve ever published.
To no one’s surprise whatsoever, Arkane have smashed it once again!
+ A really compelling and enjoyable gameplay loop
+ Fantastic, well-written cast of characters
+ Amazing voice acting and soundtrack
+ Good range of abilities
– Some monotony and frustration can rear its head
– Visuals experience some frame rate drops on highest settings
Deathloop is now available on PC and PS5
Played on PS5
Code kindly provided by Bethesda