It’s important for me to try and formulate my opinions on Deathloop in a calm and concise manner. Doing so will allow you to understand my feelings on it in a respectable way without a lack of professionalism. The problem is, that won’t be possible. I’ve got so many thoughts swimming around my brain that I don’t even know where to start. Fundamentally, playing Deathloop has been the most fun I’ve had all year. It’s ridiculous; front-to-back; over-the-top; chaotic. There is a formula, but it’s trapped inside the joyous beast that it is. Fuck it, here it goes.
Deathloop: what the hell is going on?
The island of Blackreef is caught in a timeloop, and for the main single-player campaign, you play as a Colt. A guy without a recollection of the day before. He’s the perfect mirror image of the player, both confused and unaware of what’s happening. You’re told that 8 visionaries need killing to break the timeloop. How you do that is up to you. It takes some time to understand how Deathloop works, but that moment it clicks – my god. Don’t feel stupid if all the menus and discoveries don’t automatically make sense. They didn’t for me. There’s a hell of a lot to get your head around, but the rewards for your patience more than make up for it.
Blackreef is split up into four semi-open world areas: The Complex, Updaam, Karl’s Bay, and Fristad Rock. You’re free to explore them as much as you want, at various times in the day. Depending on the time, be it morning, noon, afternoon, or evening, each area feels different. The visionaries you must kill are located across all the areas, and by journeying through them across the day, new clues can be found that’ll help the eventual demise of each one. Before each trip out, you can check Arsenal Leads and Visionary Leads to see what needs doing based on the progression you’ve made.
Feel the power
It is these leads where your objectives appear. There is somewhat of a campaign structure, however, the freedom is where the enjoyment lies. Freeing your mind of all that formulaic mission progression you’re used to allows you to enjoy Deathloop more. I found it uncomfortable not knowing what was next, or where I should be going after my current objective. All that matters is killing the visionaries multiple times, across different times of the day. Embrace how disjointed it is and I promise you you’ll have more fun than you’ve had in years.
Once killed, each of the Visionaries provide you with something very special. It could be a powerful weapon or a unique ability called a slab that will help you further down the line. Shift will let you teleport; Karnesis launches enemies in the air; Aether turns you invisible; Nexus links enemy brains together so by killing one will kill them all; and Havoc sends you in a rage. Each can be upgraded, too. For example, the more you kill a Visionary, the more times that particular ability can be improved. Upgrading Shift allows you to freeze mid-jump to teleport to the ground, and improving Karnesis holds enemies mid-air. They’re so cool, and drastically improve your whole approach every time.
Deathloop: a satisfying arsenal
You can also find items called trinkets. These buffs and skills fall under two categories: character and weapon. Character trinkets give you certain skills like longer sliding, double jumping, or improved damage up close. Weapon trinkets can improve the weapon they’re allocated to in a number of ways as well. They look like little disks that’ll fall from regular enemies and Visionaries, and come in different levels shown by their colour (grey, blue, green, and purple).
New weapons call also be unlocked. The Strelak 50-50 can be transformed from one quickfire pistol into an SMG, and the Tribunal feels like the spiritual successor to the Golden Gun from GoldenEye on the N64. Having a collection of great weapons compliment the superpowers and improve your chances of survival in each playthrough. You also get a Hackamajig that hacks turrets and security sensors, as well as creates distractions for you to slip past undetected. All of these powers and weapons are fantastic, but unless you learn to Infuse them, you’ll have to go through the rigmarole of finding them all over again.
Rinse and repeat
Deathloop isn’t just a cool title. During your run, you get three chances to kill a Visionary, find a cool weapon, or explore the location. If you die, you are sent back a few hundred yards and are allowed to continue. Die again, and this happens a final time. However, if you die for a third time, everything you’ve gained is lost until you do it all over again. If you survive and complete your own personal objectives, you can escape into the tunnels and exit to the menus. By doing so, the time jumps to the next part of the day. If you get to the end of the day, regardless of surviving the morning, noon, afternoon, and evening, you can still lose everything.
Infusing is a massive mechanic in Deathloop. After killing one of the Visionaries called Wenji, you are able to harvest something known as Residuum. Certain items located across Blackreef glow a pink and green colour (think petrol in water). Also, dead Visionaries provide a lot of Residuum, as do the corpses of Colt. Once you return to the planning menu, you can use this Residuum to Infuse slabs, weapons, character and weapon trinkets. By doing this, they’ll be available for every loop going forward. This means they won’t be lost, and you can equip them without the fear of losing them upon death.
Deathloop: Solid gameplay
With all the weapons, trinkets, and slabs, Deathloop becomes an awesome game to play, but the foundations are solid to begin with. Movement is smooth, with parkour elements easy to get to grips with. Shooting, reloading, and sliding all feel natural. Thanks to the basics being so good, all the fun stuff falls nicely into place. When you begin to feel like a god, the gameplay is magical. It shares a welcome resemblance to Dying Light, and I am all for that. Trying to break the loop as Colt is one of the best experiences I’ve had all year.
Along with the single-player stuff, there’s also a multiplayer element that lets you play as Julianna. Her role is to protect the loop, and by jumping into friend’s or stranger’s loops, you get a slightly different experience to what you’re used to. Seeing that fateful message pop up telling you Julianna is in your game puts you on edge. Sometimes you don’t mind it and are up for the challenge. Other times – particularly when you’re trying to get something specific done – it’s a pain in the ass. Obviously, you don’t have to play online, and this feature can be turned off. As Colt it can be annoying, but if you are playing as Julianna, it’s great.
Protect the loop
You earn Hunter points which turn into upgrades, new slabs, and weapons. Unless Colt destroys the satellites so he can escape, he’s trapped. This means you can set up watch close by the satellite and wait for him to arrive. Unless you have a decent loadout, Julianna will more often that not execute you sharpish. If you’re packing serious heat and abilities, it’ll be much more exciting. It has some serious legs for those that have done as much as they can or want to with Colt. One of the best features about her appearance is that if you kill her, you might be able to find a slab or one of its upgrades, meaning you don’t even have to kill the Visionary associated with it.
I feel as though I’ve rambled enough about how great Deathloop is. It never takes itself too seriously. The voice actors for Colt and Julianna are magnificent. So too are the weird and wonderful Visionaries. If I had one negative, it would be the AI is pretty dumb. Stealth is far too easy, and they’re not always aware of you, even if you’re in their peripheral. Other than that, Deathloop is easily one of the best games of 2021, and there’s a reason Bethesda has been promoting it as much as they have.
Tons of replayability
Great voice acting
Multiplayer mode is a neat add-on
Ai isn't great