Arkane fans, and in general all players who like good level design and worlds that allow them to complete their objectives in multiple ways, are in luck. Deathloop, the new title from Arkane Lyon that arrives on PS5 and PC on September 14, is an original title, hilarious, that immerses us in its universe, and that does not take the player for a fool. It might seem that the creators of Dishonored had changed the genre, that they had bet everything on current trends, shooting and weapons with different rarities, but for nothing: what they have done is give a handful of twists to their formula.
A time loop to solve as researchers
This first-person shooter game is mixed with an immersive simulator in a weird and science fiction world with a time loop structure. As Colt, the objective is to end that day of the groundhog, for which you have to kill in a single day the eight Visionaries who protect the loop. Thus, progress is configured as if we were a reverse detective: instead of collecting information (which is structured in the menus as if it were the notebook and the wall full of threads of an investigator) to solve a crime, we do it to commit eight murders efficiently.
We don’t want to tell you much about the plot because the published trailers have already told you too much. Still, if you like mysteries and the most fantastic sci-fi, its development will catch you just like us despite its unsatisfactory conclusion. Like the game itself, the story is a puzzle that we gradually form through various means: Colt’s internal monologues, his radio conversations with Julianna (main antagonist and a Visionary), the recordings, the notes, the narrative environment, the speeches of the Visionaries through the island’s public address system, the dialogues that we can hear exploring the world if we remain attentive…
Since Colt wakes up hungover on a beach until we see the credits of the game after about 20 hours (doing a lot of secondary things, but not all) going through, I don’t know how many loops, we are collecting the pieces that draw who Colt is; who are those eccentric and egotistical scientists, artists, designers and rich people that make up the Visionaries; we discover parallel plots with importance in the plot context or simply hilarious within the acid humour of Deathloop; we get an idea of why the loop happens, and we dive into the history of Blackreef.
Blackreef: a fascinating universe with an exquisite design
We found the Blackreef universe even more attractive than the Dunwall and Karnaca of the Dishonored. It is an island confined to the outside world made up of four large areas where it is repeated over and over again on the same day, which some take advantage of to do scientific experiments … and most to have the party of their life knowing that there will be no consequences. . No hangover. It is full of crazy people that will make us laugh the odd laugh. It is varied because its four areas have personality. There are mysteries and puzzles to solve every few steps, all its inhabitants want to hunt us down, and most importantly, the level design is exquisite.
There are so many ways to deal with situations, and we’re not just talking about stealth or gun first. The maps have many ways to get to the same place, either by gambling our lives on cliffs, jumping off rooftops, sneaking through tunnels, going inside buildings or bare chest through the streets crowded with eternalists (most of them drunk, that is). Yes) and security systems that we can hack. But in addition, it is that each of the four zones has four variables: depending on whether we visit them during the day, at noon, in the afternoon or at night, both their setting and the open roads, the accessible buildings, the placement of the enemies, the clues that we can collect, the secondary missions to complete is different. And the presence or not of one or more Visionaries.
The game’s structure makes us visit the four phases at different times of the day several times to collect the necessary knowledge and take specific actions to get the Visionaries to be where we want them to be to end the eight in a single loop. We have absolute freedom to select which area to go to; once inside it, we can explore without worries since it does not happen, for example, from afternoon to night until we do not leave the phase. This repetition achieves something similar to what Souls and the best Metroidvania achieve: that we know each area like the back of our hand in the end.
Of course, we want to make it clear that we are not facing a roguelike. Whenever we return to a level, we do it to enter a new area, to get an item that we did not have, to kill a Visionary (and get his power) that we have not yet killed, to do something that we could not do with the knowledge we had the last time we visited the place … Perhaps there are a (very few) more complicated situations in which Colt dies. The protagonist has three lives. When dying on a level, he can return to his body to collect the residue obtained so far. As you move from one level to the next, lives are reset if he dies three times on the same level, game over the loop restarts.
But Colt and Julianna, unlike the rest of the inhabitants of Blackreef, remember everything that has happened in previous loops: either the code of a safe or a clue that he has found. Therefore, if you die doing something in one of the phases in the afternoon, you do not have to repeat the entire loop until the afternoon: we can advance the time to that moment and go directly to the level where we have died. Also, sometimes you want to go back to a level even if the story does not ask you because you want to solve a puzzle to get a powerful weapon, discover one of the many secondary mysteries that Blackreef hides or improve a specific power by killing a Visionary again with it that you have already finished.
A hilarious shooter that can be made too easy
The few problems with Deathloop are not in that dreaded repetitiveness but in a loosely adjusted balance that can translate into a lack of difficulty. If you come from Dishonored, it is easy for you to make the same mistake that we had at the beginning: play in the same way as in that one, always hiding and trying not to kill the enemies, without taking advantage of the much more comprehensive range of options that this title gives us.
At first, due to Colt’s lack of weapons and powers, it is customary to play like this. Still, the protagonist soon becomes a killing machine that adapts to each player’s style of play thanks to the many resources we acquire: from powers like teleporting ourselves, making us invisible, throwing enemies or uniting their minds so that if we kill one, they all die; to a wide range of skills such as a double jump, have more speed, hack faster, make enemies take time to recover life or resist headshots. And of course, the weapons and their wits: there are not many archetypes, but they are original, varied in their effects and a delight in design.
The problem with balance comes from three sides. Some powers, especially teleportation, are much more helpful than others and almost essential for us to unfold all the possibilities when dealing with a situation. The artificial intelligence is sometimes disappointing: yes, if you call too much attention, we will be involved in frantic battles against a mob for those who perhaps are not prepared, but the enemies are slow to react, and sometimes we killed sneak in the back two they were next to each other without realizing it.
But the main problem, the one that makes it all too easy, is silenced weapons. With patience, good positioning and knowing the level well, a gun that does not make noise allows you to go around indoors like a thief. There is no easy solution: those who prefer to play sack more would have it too complicated if the ammunition were more restrictive. If they reduced the effectiveness of the silencer, it would be of no use. In the end, it is up to the player, for sheer fun, to choose other combinations of weapons and powers that don’t break the masterful level design.
Also, depending on how you approach the investigation, it will take more or less to find one of these weapons. After all, based on gathering clues from each of the eight Visionaries, the main story can be tackled in any order you like. This does not mean that we have to be very attentive to everything that surrounds us, marking all the enemies we see and being aware of the escape routes in case the situation turns upside down. Due to the density of enemies, it is pretty standard. And there is the key: that despite those design flaws, we have had a great time with Deathloop; it has offered us very tense and other frantic situations, and it has made us feel smart with each puzzle, with each clue, with each secondary case that required turning the coconut.
A multiplayer that needs a twist
Perhaps the most severe design problem is in multiplayer. Unlike the rest of the visionaries, who always have a specific place of appearance, Julianna can arrive at almost any moment with the sole objective of killing Colt; He also places an antenna that prevents the protagonist from fleeing the level until he deactivates it. The antagonist can be controlled by artificial intelligence and usually appears in the most challenging moments. Still, it can also be someone from our friend’s list or any player in the world if we select it in the options. The idea, playing as Colt, is excellent.
But playing as Julianna… The primary motivation is simply the fun of teasing another player through the loop, and on a secondary level, getting outfits for both Colt and Julianna and very powerful weapons and other upgrades for the antagonist. The problem is, when we invade, we won’t know where Colt is. So it can be the situation that we hang around the massive stages for a long time until we find it, or that we stay protecting the antenna for long minutes until Colt decides that it is time to deactivate it.
Colt is indeed motivated to find Julianna because he restarts their lives and can get powerful weapons and upgrades if he kills her. But you have to align the stars (basically, quickly find Colt) to make playing as Julianna fun. And when it happens, that’s the way it is, in part because of his unique powers: alerting enemies to Colt’s close presence and the ability to swap his body for that of any other enemy on stage, allowing him to ambush the opponent when he gets confused by killing. To Julianna, that is not.
A waste of artistic originality
Deathloop is one of those games that has its style: in the settings, in the characters, in the weapons and even in its menus. It has so much personality that a simple screenshot allows you to identify what game it is. Its aesthetics never cease to amaze, which mixes a decaying setting with seventies technology, all surrounded by a lively and baroque colourful style that represents the personalities of the Visionaries and the party spirit of the inhabitants of Blackreef. A curious mix as curious as to the musical: we listen to quiet jazz that disco music. It also surprises the almost constant presence of diegetic music that perfectly sets each section.
Technically, as you can see on the screens, it is not the best exponent of the not-so-new generation, but without a doubt, the details of the effects and other elements are closer to the next-gen than to the consoles came out. 2013; Perhaps what squeaks a bit more are the load times that we had almost forgotten when entering a phase, although the culprit here seems to be the connection to the Bethesda servers. The fluidity in performance mode is impeccable: 60 FPS, in which we have hardly seen drops to dynamic 4K. There is also a graphics mode (native 4K and unstable 60 FPS) that convinces us less, and a ray-tracing mode at 30 FPS. We do not recommend that the ray tracing is not too noticeable, and playing this title at that fluidity is quite hard, especially if you have tried any other modes.
Deathloop is one of those games that does not leave you indifferent. The new from Arkane is a very original title in its structure. In the world, it builds and even in its gameplay: although it undoubtedly collects many things from Dishonored, it shakes them up so that the moment by moment of the game is perceived quite differently. It’s a hilarious work, both when it makes us move our neurons and when it makes us move through brilliantly designed levels that are traversed with incredible agility and satisfaction thanks to the powers of Colt.
But he is also funny and funny because of the characterization of his characters and the consequences of the concept of the endless party. If it does not reach brilliance, it is due to some balance problem, artificial intelligence that is not fine enough, and a multiplayer that needs a few more turns on the design table. Despite all this, I wish we were in a time loop and could forget that we have played it to enjoy it again without knowing the great road ahead.
We prepared this review with a digital review key for the PS5 version provided by Bethesda.