Deathloop


Deathloop is one of the most innovative games from a major publisher that I’ve ever played, using the time loop mechanic to fantastic effect. With lots of clever puzzles and engaging combat, as well as a genius multiplayer element, this is one of the best games of 2021 yet.

Pros

  • Uses the time loop concept to great effect
  • Supernatural abilities are a joy to use
  • Plenty to discover in each hub world
  • Multiplayer element adds some thrilling chaos

Cons

  • Can get repetitive towards the end
  • A small number of technical issues

Availability

  • UKRRP: £59.99

Key Features


  • Release date:Available on 14 September

  • Platforms:PS5 and PC

Introduction

Most AAA single-player games play it safe by sticking to a tried-and-tested blueprint, whether that’s an enormous open-world to explore or a linear story that could rival Hollywood. But Arkane Studios has ripped up the rulebook for Deathloop, creating one of the most innovative big-budget games I’ve ever played. 

By using a time loop mechanic plucked straight out of Groundhog Day, Deathloop sees leading character Colt trapped in a perpetual cycle. Whether he outlasts the 24 hours or is bludgeoned to death by the various hostile inhabitants on the island, Colt always wakes up on the same beach, on the same morning, with time reversing everything but his memory. 

Such a concept will inevitably invite comparisons to games from the roguelike genre such as Hades and Returnal, with death seeing you return right to the start. But in truth, Deathloop is more akin to the likes of Hitman, with its four small hub worlds feeling like creative playgrounds of mass destruction that demand repeated visits to uncover every secret. 

Each hub world can also be visited at various times of day – morning, noon, afternoon and evening – giving the player the opportunity to meddle with the timeline for some ‘butterfly effect’ shenanigans. Add some Dishonored-flavoured stealth, slick first-person shooter action and an optional multiplayer element that allows players to invade your game and thwart your progress, and you’ve got yourself one of the most unique AAA games ever made and among the best experiences that 2021 has to offer. 

Gameplay 

The main objective of Deathloop is to end the time loop by assassinating eight targets before the end of the day. Fail to eliminate even one of those characters before the clock strikes twelve, then time will be reset and resurrect everyone you previously slaughtered. 

This is made even more complex by the fact you can only visit one of the four locations at each time interval, making it impossible to assassinate two different characters during the evening if they’re not in the same hub world. This means you’ll need to alter your targets’ behaviour patterns, coercing them to converge in one area for a more time-efficient assisnation. It’s a smart way of utilizing the time loop mechanic, turning Deathloop into a rubix cube-style puzzle rather than just a straight-up shooter. 

Deathloop map

In order to influence your targets, you must first gather intel about them by snooping on emails, documents and voice messages. And since your memory is the one thing that isn’t reversed at the end of the day, you can carry on your detective work at the start of the next time loop, ensuring your progression is never really lost after death. 

I personally find the permadeath of roguelikes disheartening and frustrating, seeing all my hard work disappear after one fatal mistake, but Deathloop avoids this issue entirely. There’s still a consequence to death – as you’ll lose all of your in-game currency that enables you to retain weapons and upgrades once a new time loop begins – but such a punishment never felt unfair. Plus, once you’ve found a safe combination or a particularly useful piece of information about a target, that knowledge will stay with you until the very end and take you one step closer to the end goal. 

Some of the most enjoyable puzzles had me jotting down notes and taking photos of my TV screen, providing an incredibly satisfying feeling once I finally claimed my prize, whether it was a hyper-powerful weapon or some tantalizing gossip about one of my assasination targets. 

Deathloop combat

But while the time mechanic does allow for some clever puzzles, I was initially concerned that repeated visits of the same four locations would get repetitive quickly. Arkane Studios does a decent job of alleviating those concerns, with the time of day switching up enemy patrol patterns and opening up new areas. For example, Alexis will host a party at his mansion in the evening, making the majority of the guards all crowded together into one spot. This mechanic ensures that there are still plenty of secrets for me to uncover in Deathloop, even after hitting the credits after a 13-hour playthrough. 

There are also a large number of weapons and upgrades that you can unlock and add to your loadout, allowing you to choose your own playstyle. You can go storming in with a shotgun, silently sneak inside, or hack into the security system to take control of enemy turrets. I loved this freedom, with Deathloop guiding you to your next objective, but leaving it up to the player to decide how to execute their plan.

There are also multiple supernatural abilities you can unlock too, ranging from the Aether invisibility cloak to Karnesis that allows you to hurl enemies into the sky. These abilities really can be a game-changer, with the teleporting Shift ability in particular allowing me to reach previously inaccessible shortcuts that are invaluable for a stealthy approach. Some of these abilities have admittedly been copy and pasted from the Dishonored series, but they work seamlessly here and are a lot of fun to use. 

Nexus power up will allow you to kill multiple enemies with one shot

Despite Arkane Studio’s best efforts, the second half of my playthrough did start to feel a little repetitive, as I started to memorise all of the map’s shortcuts and enemy locations for the various time zones after repeat visits. Fortunately, the introduction of Julianna helps to keep things entertainingly chaotic in an otherwise predictable world, as online players can use her avatar to invade your game and hunt you down. 

I would always dread a Julianna invasion when things were going too smoothly, since online players can be far tricker to kill compared to AI-controlled foes. But on the plus side, taking her down will often reward you with a new weapon or supernatural skill, which can prove very useful for the rest of your playthrough. I do however appreciate the option of turning off online mode – Julianna will still randomly appear, but will instead be controlled by the AI, making her decidedly easier to defeat. 

However, when Julianna entered my game it would also increase the likelihood of encountering technical issues. My game crashed twice when fighting with Julianna, erasing the progress I had made in that hub world. The random nature of her appearances can be problematic too. She appeared four times in a row for one particular objective, which caused me a great deal of trouble. But when it came to the final time loop, I assassinated all of my targets on the first attempt with no sign of any Julianna invasions, which was a relief but also an anti-climax. 

Multiplayer 

Of course, it’s also possible for you to take on the role of Julianna and invade the game of other players. You’ll start off with pretty basic weapons and skills, but kill Colt enough times and you’ll gain enough experience points to unlock a more powerful loadout. 

But while this multiplayer feature can hype up the tension for those playing as Colt, I personally found playing as Julianna pretty boring. All of the henchmen and security systems are friendly to you, so your only threat is Colt. But if your rival player is skilled at stealth, tracking him down can be a tedious process of wandering from one corner of the map to the other, or just standing still and guarding a satellite dish until your opponent makes an appearance. 

Players can invade your game as Julianna

I definitely recommend giving this multiplayer mode a go, but I can see people growing bored of it pretty qui

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