From the moment I first saw Deathloop, I was excited to try it. Arkane studios has always created such captivating and replayable games, each being so unique and full of immersion, they never fail to impress me, and I highly recommend giving all their games a go. Deathloop, however, I BEYOND recommend giving a go.
For me, it takes a lot of interesting concepts to keep me engaged in a game, ESPECIALLY a first person shooter. It seems like every FPS game coming out these days just feels the same, and in the end they all end up on the shelf, forgotten, and without any reason or desire to ever play again. The thing about Deathloop is that it has seemingly perfected what it wants to, the gameplay, the GUNplay, the mechanics, abilities, everything is so well thought out and crafted to the point where it’s just pure fun and exploration in every sense. If that makes any sense whatsoever.
Deathloop has some of the most engaging gameplay I think I’ve ever experience in a FPS, and 20+ hours went by without me even realizing. Not only is the main campaign incredibly compelling and interesting, so is EVERY little other detail in the entire game, and I’ll get to that in a minute here. This isn’t just a game where you progress in an orderly and organized fashion, you literally carve out the trail, and although it DOES hold your hand every now and again to remind you:
“Remember THIS event is happening RIGHT now”
You never feel pressured to do anything, you’re just able to roam and explore as you please… and there’s a LOT to explore.
Deathloop (quick description) is a game set on the island of Blackreef, a place that seems to never move past one very specific day, and you, Colt, are stuck right in the thick of it. The only contact you have is a woman named Julianna, who seems to interrogate (and INSTIGATE) you more than help you figure out what’s going on. All you know is that you’re stuck in a time loop, and a bunch of mad geniuses on the island have something to do with it.
This is probably one of the first games I’ve ever experienced that creates such an interesting concept around a certain set of events that actually continues to engage me with every step. The game doesn’t just drone on for 15 hours and then stop, there’s so much progression, learning, and adapting to understand how to approach every bit of the island, and even though you are exploring the same areas, they change every time you go back, and that’s usually because YOU had something to do with it. There’s never a dull moment because learning even the slightest details can change the entirety of the outcome… which is crazy how reading bits of journals can be so enticing.
Deathloop has 4 rather large areas to explore, each ENTIRELY changing depending on the time of day you choose to explore them, and the weather that overtakes them. Even at 20 hours in I still feel like I have so much to explore, I still am finding secrets and codes to areas that I was just discovering at the start of my playthrough, and now that I’m so much further in I get to enjoy the spoils of my exploration.
You have the four main times of day, and with each a different weather pattern, completely changing the layout of the map… not that it’s a NEW map, but rather certain buildings are now open, or areas are now connected. This honestly makes the game feel fresh and new every time you travel to a location at a certain time of day, even if you just need to hop into that area to quickly complete a simple objective.
The maps themselves are all set within the island, and each contains (once again depending on time of day you explore them) enemies, traps, buildings, and secrets that give them so much life. The more you explore and read (READ ALL THE BOOKS AND LISTEN TO ALL THE TRACKS), the more side quests and “clues” you’ll get to unlocking or finding certain locations, sometimes on entirely different maps. Honestly, the mechanic of growing your quest roster from reading manuscripts, diary logs, and journal entries from heaps of random characters is an interesting system. It’s one that, for once in a game, keeps you wanting to read up on everything, because there’s tons of secret things hidden in them.
The game is also gorgeous. The locations aren’t these massive open Skyrim worlds, but they’re still quite large and PACKED with detail. Arkane is a master at creating lively locations, and Deathloop absolutely has some of the best I’ve seen. No matter the time of day you travel to them, you feel like there’s so much to do and explore, and you start to carve out pathways to carry out objectives efficiently. Which brings me to my next point of interest, the gameplay and difficulty.
This game insanely fun, and for once (FINALLY) very challenging, even with a bunch of high end abilities and upgraded weaponry. At first I felt like I was tearing through enemies, and then I got to that cocky point where I would rush in and expect my absolute gamer talent to carry me through missions. Well it didn’t. You get three deaths during a mission, and then it’s a TOTAL restart from morning (there are 4 cycles in a day, and if you die before a day is up, you restart and lose everything you didn’t “infuse”). I was starting to die constantly throughout missions because traps ACTUALLY catch you off guard, the enemy AI is actually smart and understands the way you approach things. I had enemies shooting explosive barrels next to me when they couldn’t hit me behind cover, JUST to scare me out. If you have multiple enemies gang up on you, they can kill you within seconds. The snipers ACTUALLY hit their shots, and each enemy has different levels of aggression and ability. It’s tough, but in a great way.
Not only that, but the WAYS you can attack enemies is so imaginative and clever. I made a bunch of people rush into a room where I put gumballs all over the floor, and they all ran in creating just this massive pile of losers on the floor, right into my trip mine. Every time you play, you learn more and more about how to approach each mission, and soon you start knowing where enemies will be and how to quickly zip into places without causing a scene… or doing just that exactly.
The more I played, the more I understood how to fight them, but at the same time it felt like they began to understand how I played. It always kept things interesting, that’s for sure.
But let me talk about one thing that is severely lacking and/or usually done terrible that Deathloop did SO WELL.
I feel like most games that recommend using stealth end up having completely useless or garbage stealth systems that make you wonder why you leveled up that way. Deathloop, however, brings stealth to a good place, where you CAN go in guns blazing, but you can also die to heaps of different things very quickly, OR you can use stealth in a crazy amount of ways to deter enemies from realizing it’s you. I built Colt in a way that makes him a master hacker, and I just went around hacking ballistic turrets and security cameras, turning them all in my favor, and then letting them deal with the enemies, instead of me being in constant peril, risking all my good loot. Typically I don’t play the stealthy way, but Deathloop has made it so well rounded that it’s both fun AND practical. Just really well done.
But then you’ve got those abilities. This reminded me a LOT of dishonored, just the warp jumping and the tossing enemies around. It felt a bit copy-paste in some areas, but for the most part it just adds a lot of variety to the gameplay, and although I pretty much only used two abilities (one that made me invisible, and one that let me toss enemies like ragdolls), it’s fun to have those kinds of options in games like this, in some cases it feels VITAL to have abilities at the ready.
Finally, I really just want to talk about how fantastic the world, and everything that makes it so dang good.
The world feels perfectly designed to fit what this game is going for, and even with a day cycle and changing weathers, there’s not a moment that feels out of place. Each location catered so specifically to weave the story together, and the ambience and music that brings it alive. The music adds so much to the game, like every Bethesda title it seems, and there were moments where I would just stop and listen to it playing in the background. Every moment is captured brilliantly by music that fits perfect, whether you’re just wandering around, in a secret facility, or in an intense gunfight, it’s always there to positively compliment the gameplay.
But the characters… we need to talk about them, because I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed such witty banter in a game before. The main character, Colt, and his arch-nemesis Julianna, are absolutely some of the most well scripted (and voiced!) characters I’ve seen in a game. Since the premise has you constantly dying and resetting, there’s always some joke or conversation that happens at random moments throughout your missions. These characters feel like real people, they have so much life and personality breathed into them, and man is that so important in games these days. A game that’s enticing by itself, complimented by characters that you could listen to rant and joke about all day, it makes the game all the more interesting and fun to play.
Each of the main enemy characters are different from one to the next. They are a bunch of genius and mad people that all fight different, think different, and interact with each other in various ways, which also depends on how YOU influence the way they think. It’s a genius game that gets you thinking your enemies are one sided, but as you play and manipulate their lives, you start to discover new sides to them, you learn more about their intentions and relationships with others, with Blackreef itself, sometimes even with Julianna. It’s a concept that I’ve never seen done before, and sets the bar pretty high for any type of game that comes along with the same idea.
From the characters, to the world, to the INSANE amount of weapon and build variety, Deathloop had me interested within the first 10 minutes, and has held my attention non-stop since… and I’m 20+ hours in with mostly just messing around and exploration. The dialogue is so well done, every character and area serves an important purpose, and there’s not a moment where you feel like the game is just dragging along, every single thing you do has such a massive impact on the story, and builds out your plan on how to stop the loop.
It’s a fantastic game, one that I know folks are going to enjoy. A solid 10/10 in my books.