Monday 10 January 2022

Game Review: Deathloop


A trigger-happy shooter with a timeloop twist; Arkane Studios' Deathloop is fun and frothy first-person action that doesn't take itself too seriously. 

In Deathloop, you play as Colt – a gruff, gun-toting amnesiac who is stuck in a torturous time loop on an island called Blackreef. You can't remember how you got here or how to escape – and the only person talking to you is Julianna, a women hellbent on killing you and sending you right back to the start of the loop. There's some secret science stuff somehow anchoring everyone to Blackreef, so Colt sets off to untangle it.

It turns out, the only way to break free is to kill seven targets in the same day, severing their connection to the loop. To do so, Colt must learn their habits and schedules, lure them into a series of traps and track down their weaknesses – and learn the truth about who he is along the way.

Deathloop's gameplay loop takes a while to settle into a rhythm, but once it does, there's a nice groove to proceedings. After a rather lengthy intro, Arkane takes off the training wheels and unleashes Colt on the unwitting inhabitants of Blackreef – which is a welcome relief because that initial phase of the game, where you get walked through the various mechanics, is a little cumbersome. 

Basically you get loaded up with information early on. There's a lot to wrap your head around, and you don't get to 'play around' and suss it out – Deathloop will hold your hand and walk you through it, one step at a time. 

Eventually, you're let loose – which is great, because there's a lot to see and do in Blackreef. The time loop mechanic – each day is split into four segments (morning, noon, afternoon and evening) is cool and soon becomes second nature, as you chase down leads, piece together the puzzle and unlock new items.

There's a cool 'infusion' mechanic too, which lets you hold onto gear between each loop. It's integral to your overall success through the story – you're not getting very far if you don't learn how to find and keep rare guns and abilities (which here are called 'slabs').

Deathloop's story is nice and tight, clocking in at about 15 to 20 hours, depending on how you fare through some of the trickier levels. Colt feels a little vulnerable and mortal at the start, but once you get over the initial hump and find some decent gear, Deathloop becomes more fun and punchy. Sooner rather than later, Colt is kicking ass and taking names all over the gaff. Deathloop's enemy AI isn't the cleverest, so it doesn't take long before Colt is running circles around the villains. 

The design aesthetic and soundtrack are heavily inspired by the Swinging Sixties; the world is awash with cool motifs and colours which feel like the developers tipping their hat to classic Connery-era Bond movies.

There's plenty of little secrets to uncover in the four intricate maps; a lot of which will only be accessible at a certain time of day or with a certain ability, meaning you'll be looking to revisit each section again and again. Personally, I dip in and out of this sort of thing – I'm not the kind of person to plumb every nook and cranny looking for every trinket or treasure. Deathloop was no different, in that I did a bit of extracurricular exploration, but didn't feel compelled to keep going once the main story was resolved. 

The story is good but not great; I'm not sure how it would hang together second time around, since so much of the narrative relies on Colt being in the dark on certain things. The dialogue – mostly between Colt and Julianna – flirts with witty irreverence and cringe-inducing. There's also only one route through the final chapter, so you can forget doing it 'your way'. Arkane has mapped out all the pieces of the puzzle, it's just your job to put them together.

The Verdict: 8.5/10

With a distinctive art style, quirky characters and punchy shoot'em up action, Deathloop is a fun time that doesn't overstay its welcome with a bloated runtime. 

Deathloop was reviewed on PlayStation 5.

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