[REVIEW] Deathloop – Seek, Kill, Die, Repeat

Time loops have certainly been a hot topic in gaming this year. Returnal had us endlessly blasting aliens over and over again until you snuffed it. Twelve Minutes gave us roughly that amount of time to break the cycle and uncover a mystery. The latest in the time loop gimmick is Deathloop, which kinda meets in the middle. Arkane Lyon‘s ability-based first-person shooter gives us 24 hours to break the titular death loop, all while figuring out who you are and why everyone wants you dead. And I’d be “Lyon” if I said that it didn’t have Arkane’s signature written all over it.

Meet Colt Vahn, a washed-up guy with no memory of who he is and why he woke up at the beach of Blackreef. Colt is experiencing a problem: everybody has a score to settle with him. One Julianna Blake in particular. Why? No fucking clue. You just guess you did something wrong at some point. But as time progresses, things start to get clearer, if only a little bit. There’s a 24-hour time loop on Blackreef and somehow, you’re playing a major role in that. You want nothing more than to stop this loop, Julianna doesn’t. And believe me, she doesn’t shy away from lethal force to prevent you from succeeding.

But Julianna isn’t the only threat you’re facing. In order to break the loop, a total of eight Slab-wielding Visionaries need to be eradicated, since they’re the ones responsible for the tech behind it. And that’s where things get dicey. You see, these Visionaries live this everlasting day on a tight schedule. If you want to get to them, you gotta know where they are and when. Soon enough you’ll figure out that some of ’em pop up at the same time, just at different locations. And that’s rather inconvenient since you only get four timeslots and your day will restart after nightfall. Eight targets in four timeslots spread over four arrays. If only you could get some of them in the same room at the same time…

Turns out that you can, but only by rearranging their schedules. Every Visionary is where he or she is for a reason. If you nullify that reason, you might just get a chance at popping two at the same time. But that takes a lot of prepping, and that’s exactly why Deathloop is more than your standard run-of-the-mill shooter. Colt needs to find clues regarding all Visionaries. What makes them tick? What are their vulnerabilities and how do you exploit these? Most of these questions are answered after a lethal tete-a-tete with your target. This means you’ll have to kill them at least once before you get to kill them again. And again. Aaaaand again…

This might sound awfully repetitive, but I assure you, it isn’t. It’s actually addictive as fuck. In Deathloop, connecting the dots requires a lot of perseverance and tenacity. But if you manage to survive the day, after killing one or two Visionaries and acquiring some new intel, you just want to do it again. Why? Because Deathloop’s gameplay feels amazing. Those familiar with Arkane’s repertoire will notice that Deathloop’s gameplay shares a lot of similarities with their other titles. Just like Prey and Dishonored, Deathloop leans heavily on special powers – slabs in Deathloop’s case – and stealth, without forcing you to utilize them. If you feel like going guns blazing, you can. You’re just gonna have a harder time.

The big difference here is that when the day resets, so does your inventory. The only thing that you take with you, are your memories of previous loops. Unless you infuse your collected gear by using Residuum, a weird matter found throughout Blackreef. After every timeslot, Residuum can be spent on your weapons, slabs, and weapon- or character trinkets (think of those as perks). You sink some Residuum in them and kablam, you’ll wake up the next day with your Residuum infused gear. But if you die before you reach the end of your timeslot – because Julianna shot your face off, for instance – all of that Residuum is gone forever.

Deathloop Colt and Julianna

Because that’s what’s bound to happen sooner or later. Julianna isn’t only a sarcastic chatterbox – provoking you through your DualSense speaker – she’s also a crack shot who’s constantly on the hunt for you. If there’s a Visionary in the area, Julianna could just pop up out of the blue and blast your head off. The interesting part here is that Julianna could be A.I., but she might as well be another player online. Deathloop offers players the choice of playing good ol’ Colt, but playing as Julianna is also a possibility. In that case, you’ll be invading somebody else’s game to score some big points. If you don’t feel like dealing with another player online, you can always set your game to single-player only, so don’t worry if you’re horrible at multiplayer like me.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter how you play Deathloop. Whether you go solo or take on somebody else online, Deathloop is an absolute delight to play. Even though everything aspect of the game could spell mind-numbing repetition, Arkane has found a way to make an everlasting time loop feel exciting with every reset. Maybe it’s the thrill of possibly losing your loop when you feel like you have it all figured out. Maybe it’s the hilarious dialogue between Colt and Julianna. Maybe it’s just the sheer fun blasting your way through a horde of Eternalists that roam Blackreef while 70s music blasts through your audio system. It just all comes together. Just like the story, eventually. But first, you’ll have to get there, one same day at a time.

Worth coming back to
The Yays
Gameplay is an abolute joy
Hilarious dialogue between Colt and Julianna
Connecting the dots feels super satisfying
The fear of losing the loop keeps you on your toes
The ability of invading someone else's game as Julianna gives it a nice touch
That 70s music...
The Nays
Some enemies have hawk eye vision and a dead shot, others get stuck in the scenery