To put it simply, Deathloop could easily be the secret love child of 12 Minutes and Dishonored. That is, a FPS, time-looping, mystery murder spree. Except the mystery is not who the murderer is. (Hint, it’s you) It’s “how are you going to kill all these people?”
While this review is predominantly spoiler free, if you’re looking for the 30 seconds sales pitch so you can make your mind up, here it is below.
Deathloop is a game set in the 60’s on the mysterious island of Blackreef. You play as Colt, who wakes up on a beach after being murdered by someone called Julianna. It turns out, Blackreef is pretty special. The people of Blackreef live the same day over and over again and for some reason (even Colt himself doesn’t know why), Colt decides to break the loop. To do this he must hunt down the eight people that call themselves ‘Visionaries’ and if he can’t do it by midnight, the day starts again.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into a little more detail. First up, lets cover the gameplay. If you’re a fan of Dishonored, you’ll feel right at home. Arkane has effectively copied and pasted the Dishonored FPS elements: gun in your right hand, special power in your left.
For me, I’ve always felt the Dishonored FPS mode to feel a little off. I don’t know how else to describe it aside from the fact it feels like I’m playing as Corvo. For newcomers to the series it might take some getting used to and maybe some adjustments in the options.
The classic ‘play your own way’ also makes a comeback. While on the island of Blackreef it’s entirely up to you how you play each area. Guns blazing? Or just like a ghost? The choice is yours. Thankfully, whichever you choose, unlike Dishonored, Deathloop doesn’t have an ‘honor’ system because while on Blackreef, death isn’t permanent anyway!
So where will you be doing all this murdering? The island of Blackreef is broken down into four distinct areas. The Complex, Updaam, Karl’s Bay, and Fristad Rock. Each of these areas can be explored at four different times of day. Morning, noon, afternoon and evening. While exploring these areas you’ll start piecing together how the events of the one day you’re looping through, play out.
If you head to Updaam in the morning, you’ll start to see all the preparations for some massive celebration. Return in the evening and the party is in full swing with fireworks to boot. As I mentioned before, at its core, Deathloop is a mystery game where you have to piece all these puzzle pieces together.
Throughout each level you’ll find radio logs, bits of paper and even messages between people. Unlike 12 Minutes where you have to remember everything yourself each loop, Deathloop will always break down each bit of information into the key thing you need to know and chuck it into your virtual ‘corkboard with red string’.
Between each level, you’re given the chance to go over your Visionary and Arsenal leads. Each of these boards will show you your progress of discoveries, as you’ll eventually find out, knowledge is power. Maybe you’ll find a building has burst into flames that contains some critical information. What if you could come back to the building earlier in the day and prevent that from happening? Oh wait, you can, you’re literally stuck in a time loop. This is a gameplay loop (pun intended) that you’ll find yourself going through a lot to uncover everything on Blackreef. Thankfully the leads board will show you where you need to be and at what time. This helps you plan out your day and what to be on the lookout for.
Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan, and this is where Julianna and the multiplayer aspect of Deathloop come into play. After a couple of hours of gameplay you eventually unlock a new mode and if you head back to the main menu you’re now given a choice. ‘Break the Loop’ (Play as Colt and play the main story) or ‘Protect the Loop’. In the latter mode, you take on the role as Julianna and can now invade other players’ games and hunt their version of Colt down. This is something that gets the blood pumping and puts me on the edge of my seat every time I boot up the game.
Let me set the scene. You’re playing as Colt, you’re on the last part of your loop, a bunch of things have been put into motion and now the game informs you that Julianna is now in your world. When Julianna spawns, as Colt, your escape routes are now blocked and you have two choices. Get your escape routes unblocked or tackle Julianna head on. There’s one thing to note though. If you die, that’s back to the start of the day for you! To add a little bit more spice to the mix, Julianna can disguise herself as an NPC!
If you’ve played Dark Souls you know all about invaders, however if you die, you only go back to your last checkpoint. Deathloop says ‘hold my beer’ and takes you all the way back to the start! This invasion event will no doubt send a couple of controllers towards some walls. Thankfully the team at Arkane aren’t completely cold hearted. It is possible to switch your game to a “Single Player” mode, however you can still be invaded by an AI Julianna and the death rules still apply. I really enjoyed both sides of this mode. It’s a great little game of cat and mouse.
My only real gripe with the game are two things: stability and the background music. Throughout my playthrough I’ve had the game crash on me a couple of times. This can be pretty frustrating after I have just explored every nook and cranny of an area only for the game to crash and force me to repeat all my progress. Obviously, this is something that can be patched out in the future and it wasn’t happening so often that I wanted to throw a controller. The only other minor annoyance is the monotonous background music that plays throughout each level, alongside the humming noise of the massive array that towers over Blackreef. The music does spice up when you’re spotted or get into a gun fight, but through my playthrough, it didn’t happen all too often.
I think I’ve covered the need-to-know for Deathloop without going into spoilers. Deathloop is a great time travel game that keeps you on your toes throughout. If you’re a fan of either Dishonored or any time travel mysteries like 12 Minutes or The Sexy Brutale you’ll find yourself right at home. It’s worth noting that Deathloop is a puzzle game first, shooter second. This might be slightly off-putting to some, including those who can get overwhelmed with trying to keep track of lots of moving pieces. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and I cannot wait to hunt you all down as Julianna and PROTECT THE LOOP!