Every new generation of consoles, I find myself waiting for a game that truly feels like that next step up in quality. Deathloop is that game. While the game is gorgeous and graphically impressive, what makes the title feel “next-gen” is the complex game world and how the narrative elegantly intertwines with the gameplay. The performances and character design are as talented as any in the industry and raise the bar for all titles coming in 2021 and beyond.
So before diving into the specifics of gameplay or Deathloop’s story, I must first discuss the loop. Deathloop takes place over the course of a single day, broken into four separate periods of time. The catch is that every evening the day restarts itself in an endless 24-hour loop. This cycle of rinse and repeat is at the centre of the story and gameplay in Deathloop. Even death itself does not stop the narrative and instead simply resets the loop. Understanding how to use the loop and uncovering the secrets of the game world is the core of Deathloop’s experience.
In Deathloop, you will play as Cole, an assassin – for lack of a better term – who is cursed/blessed with being one of two people who retain memories after each loop. The other person whose memories pertain across cycles is Juliana, a fierce rival assassin with one goal, to kill Cole. This is also where the game’s multiplayer aspect comes into play, as Juliana will actually be controlled by other players. However, the feature can be turned off.
The banter between the two assassins is often comedic but does an excellent job of delving deeper into the game’s story and hitting on more serious plot points. By piecing together clues loop after loop, Cole must enact his plan to break the loop and escape the island of Blackreef by killing eight specific targets in one cycle. To say there is more to the story would be the understatement of the year, but part of what makes Deathloop so enjoyable is unravelling the story for yourself. So much more can’t be said without spoiling plot points.
One of my favorite things about Deathloop is how the gameplay flawlessly intertwines with the narrative. Each day Cole will have four chances to go out into Blackreef and learn more about the island and its inhabitants. Every time something new is learned, it will get added to a discoveries log that slowly pieces together more of the story of Blackreef. Through a process called Infusion, Cole can make certain items, abilities, or upgrades persist into the following day. Using new information and items to uncover further secrets about the loop is how the narrative progresses and feels like the best kind of mystery or detective movie.
Deathloop is not rogue-like but has does have a rogue-ish feeling to it. Whenever Cole goes out into Blackreef, he will need to escape via a set of locked tunnels only he can access throughout the island. No matter what time of day Cole is exploring, Juliana will ultimately seal off his escape and go hunting.
Dying as Cole will reset the loop and cause any loot that is not Infused to be lost, which at times makes for some stressful runs to an exit. The maps are on the smaller side but are insanely fleshed out and drastically change in the four different periods of time. The smaller size makes learning the maps easier to understand but challenging to master. After some hours in-game, Cole can feel like a mix between Solid Snake and Masterchief, bouncing from rooftop to rooftop while no scoping enemies and sliding through hidden passages silently killing others.
The gunplay in Deathloop feels great, the combat itself is not groundbreaking, but the plethora of abilities and near unlimited available playstyles make every day on Blackreef exciting and enjoyable to experience. Slabs are magic-like items of great power that give Cole new abilities ranging from turning invisible to throwing enemies around with telekinesis. There is also a stealth mechanic to the game, which functions like most but shines by working with the Slab abilities and numerous silent weapons to make it a viable and sometimes necessary play style.
Health in Deathloop is not limited, but gun damage is heavy, and if not careful, a few clean shots can kill Cole, Juliana, or any NPC. The heavyweight of damage works perfectly to add tension to the game and make combat feel intense vs. one or twenty enemies.
One of the most exciting and unique aspects of Deathloop is multiplayer. The main game feels very much like a story-rich single-player experience but is really a delightful new take on player versus player multiplayer in games. Working as two separate game modes complete with unique items and progression systems, players can either chose to “Break the Loop” as Cole or “Protect the Loop” as Juliana.
When selecting the ladder, players will drop into either a random or friends game (you can choose) and begin hunting down the many Coles trying to break the loop. Each run as Juliana will net some form of progress and unlock more skills, abilities, and weapons for the rival assassin. I could easily see this becoming a form of endgame content for Deathloop. I will absolutely be tormenting and hunting down my friends in-game every chance I get.
To say the graphics were the least impressive part of Deathloop would sound more negative than it should and be far too reductive. The rest of the game is just that damn good. The visuals were honestly the last thing I noticed because I was so busy being blown away by everything else. That being said, the graphics are still gorgeous and highly detailed. NPC and character designs were so diverse and unique I never felt like I was killing a bunch of the same AI.
Snow and lighting effects also stuck out to me and worked well to show off the power of new hardware and make the same maps feel unique at the four different times of the day. It is also worth mentioning that the James Bond-like aesthetic of the game is fantastic, and the cutscenes and dedication to detail in the interface really nail down that 70s retro style without feeling dated.
The overall aesthetic of Deathloop is funky in the best ways, and the music is a major part of that. Multiple original songs bring Blackreef to life and take that extra step to make the game feel as immersive as possible. The building crescendo of battle music perfectly fades in and out with Deathloop’s stealth mechanics and only adds to the experience.
Consistently throughout cutscenes and standard gameplay, the audio is of the highest quality, and multiple times I said out loud to myself, “Whoa, this music is good.”
- GAMEPLAY - 99%99%
- GRAPHICS - 99%99%
- AUDIO - 99%99%
Deathloop is a tremendous outing for developer Arkane Studios and is easily one of the most impressive titles on PlayStation 5 or out this year. Narrative and gameplay perfectly intertwine to deliver one of the most immersive and stylized experiences in modern gaming.
The detail-rich game world is packed to the brim with secrets, shortcuts, and hidden areas to explore that, when combined with the many skills and weapons available, ensure no two playthroughs are the same.
Deathloop is a first glance at what’s possible for the next generation of gaming not in graphical fidelity but in artistic expression and player experience as a whole. The game sets an incredibly high bar for any AAA title releasing in the future. If you have the means to play Deathloop on PS5 or PC, it would be a crime to skip this game. If I was a betting man, I’d be putting the house on Deathloop to take multiple game of the year awards. I’d even go so far as to call it an instant classic.
DEATHLOOP Review – For more on DEATHLOOP check out our previous coverage.