Bethesda and Arkane Studios Lyon dive into a new IP with their “Groundhog Day” style game Deathloop which is available now for consoles and PC. The game’s story focuses on amnesia as lead character Colt can’t remember much but is stuck in a time loop where he relives the same day over-and-over. It’s a first person stealth-action game but is it any good, and is the looping nature a novel idea or a gimmick? Take a look at our Deathloop review for the full low-down.
Today we’re taking a look at Bethesda/Arkane Studios new IP Deathloop which is available now on consoles and PC. We’re specifically looking at the PC version running at max settings in 4K. The game focuses on two assassin characters, Colt and Julianna. From the main menu, you can select the story featuring Colt as the main protagonist, and once you reach further into the story you can then play Julianna which is an optional PVP mode. Those who desire disabling this feature can easily do so.
Looking at Colt’s story then, where basically he resides in a never-ending time loop on the island of Blackreef. The game features a retro-future, 60s-inspired environment which adds a unique spin on visuals and audio. Colt relives the same 24 hours over-and-over, but where the player joins the game in the story, he has no recollection of his past. What players need to accomplish then is replaying the same 24 hour period whilst gaining valuable knowledge of how to break the loop. From the offset, the ultimate goal is to kill 8 visionaries who reside on the island within a single 24 hour period or one loop. However, to do this requires plentiful investigation to not only track their whereabouts, but discover their vulnerabilities. And so it begins…
Deathloop’s novel approach to “death in video games” appears quite sound. You’re always going to die and in this game it’s part of its systematic progression. As you begin your journey, it becomes clear the intel you gather opens up more of the game. Whilst it is entirely possible to avoid the traditional being killed, the loop means at the end of the night segment (which you can actually skip) means you always commence your daily ritual from a moody beach location after being reset…or killed.
Deathloop offers just four main areas to explore which seems light on locations, however you visit them during the morning, noon, afternoon, and night. The time of day of your visits changes each location, and if you start snooping around you’ll also discover lots of hidden areas that aren’t available during all time periods within the loop. Colt follows various clues, marked by objectives for each of the targets and then revisits the same locations over-and-over completing tasks. This approach might be divisive amongst gamers, but we found it quite refreshing and never really felt like it was a cheap way to add longevity to the story. In short, each time we ventured out into the same four locations, we had new objectives to strive for or there was always something to gain from the revisit. Time freezes when in the field, so once players select an area they are free to take their time and explore before deciding to return to the exit point and back to the menu.
Coming from Arkane’s Dishonored games there are some similarities, such as special powers which aid the player in their stealth or combative moments. The classic teleport (shift) and invisibility powers are a must for infiltration and sneaking around enemies, whereas the “karnesis” and “havoc” powers are great for those who wish to go gung-ho. The balance of stealth or action comes across very well. Players can use a variety of weapons that aid either approach. Players can simply ignore all of these and use a machete or stealth attacks to complete tasks. There are even options to hack cameras and turrets to turn those on enemies. In-fact, mastery of these is a must as Colt delves deeper into Blackreef’s secrets. It’s a nice touch being able to manually carry turrets and place them before hiding and then setting them to kill mode! The only thing that’s really questionable about the gameplay is the poor AI which can either act clueless or ultra sensitive. Sometimes they might get stuck too which the game can kind of explain away as a feature, but we’re going to lean on the side of sloppy programming.
Deathloop’s concept might come across as original, but contained within its parameters are many familiar tropes including secret weapons, upgrades to weapons, abilities and character. Interestingly, the use of these make the game easier or harder depending, and of course, they are entirely optional. You can find these littered across the maps or gain them from enemy kills of which you’re never punished. Colt is an assassin, and therefore no morality to be mindful of. The loop brazenly takes care of that aspect because kill one person or all of them, and they return in the next loop none-the-wiser. It’s a license to kill then, so eat your heart out double-oh-seven (the game actually nods to the James Bond character by offering Colt a tuxedo).
Visually, Deathloop looks fantastic running at max settings in 4K. Each area has a unique visual style and with the sheer numbers of props makes for detailed locations to explore. Enemy designs are quite unique looking with most if not all wearing masks; giving the enemies a deliberate faceless look to make the main 8 stand out more. Detailed textures and neat pre-baked lighting give it an animated, but realistic look throughout which seems to be Arkane’s style. The game ran smoothly using our top end GPU 4K60fps. However, disappointingly – and this is weeks after game launch – we encountered some horrible crashes to desktop. In some games, this just happens and might be a problem with one’s PC, however in this instance and looking at the Steam discussions it’s a known bug for some players which should have been fixed by now. The nature of Deathloop’s autosaving means you might lose quite a lot of progress depending on where you are in the story and requires a restart from the beginning of the level.
Audio is perhaps one of the best features of the game aside from the gameplay that is. Colt is just a perfect protagonist oozing with personality which slowly grows as you get closer to your goals. Mad props then to actor Jason E. Kelly for providing such a likable character through his delivery. Not taking anything away from the other voice actors though, because through recordings Colt finds and conversations with his antagonist Julianna, the voice acting is top-quality and entertaining throughout. The banter between Colt and Julianna especially stand-out. Then there is the music. With a 60s vibe think Batman TV series and the like. Some thumping tunes here which ramp-up depending on the action or stealth. One of the coolest soundtracks for a long time and fitting the theme perfectly. So again, big thumbs-up to composer Tom Salta and the many others who provide such an awesome audio assault!
Deathloop’s groove wasn’t with us initially, but once the penny dropped we became totally involved and understanding of the requirements. It all seems a little too surreal to begin with especially with the bombardment of tutorials. Our Steam page suggests it took us just under 27 hours to sneak our way through the game. However, it was probably less than that in actual real time. Once you beat the story you can replay again and discover more secrets, alternatively you can reset your progress and start from scratch. Your knowledge of events from a previous play might mean a quicker turnaround. Alternatively, players can scan the online community and play as Julianna invading other players games to take out Colt. As mentioned, this is a feature players can disable where an AI will enter offline players games. Cue additional difficulties, some unlockable outfits and the opportunity to speed-run the final chapter for bragging rights players can sink more time into the game. Interestingly, some modifiers Colt collects can change the final chapter such as high or low damage to Colt and enemies. It’s a shame these aren’t options for a new game.
To conclude then. Deathloop is a great concept that knows its own boundaries and sticks to it with a sensible aplomb. Colt is a lovable rogue, against a backdrop of some accomplished gameplay Arkane have honed from their other games. There is not much to dislike about this game aside from a few niggles such as no in-level checkpoints for those crashing to desktop moments. Odd AI behaviour that doesn’t feel out-of-place, but comes across somewhat sloppy. However, niggles become outweighed greatly by an awesome soundtrack and voice acting, alongside great visuals making this a must-play title as we near the end of 2021. Hopefully, Bethesda/Arkane look to develop the IP further.