Of the many fantasies humanity has harbored, conquering time has been paramount, whether through time machines, freezing, or reversal. If time is the big consumer, then those who control time control the universe. No wonder, then, that the villains of Deathloop They have decided to use the time for themselves.
Arkane Lyon’s latest sandbox adventure features a timing mechanic like no other game. The studio has created the equivalent of a finely tuned watch. And it truly is one of the most incredible video game experiences of my life.
Deathloop is a first person time looping puzzle / murder game where time has become meaningless and all. The player character Colt wakes up, without memory, on the beach of a strange island. The island is experiencing a repeat day, with everyone except Colt (and one other character) performing the same actions. Colt wants to break this cycle and escape.
The island is controlled by eight rich assassins and murderers called Visionaries. Colt must murder all eight before the end of the day to break the circle. The Visionaries are spread across four different sandbox districts and four time periods. Moving from one district to another moves the day forward. However, while Colt is in a district, time stands still. I can take as long as I want to explore, which is essential to the deeply fascinating, complex, and carefully crafted level design that Arkane is known for.
Added to this is Julianna, a young woman determined to mock and murder and also encourage Colt. Like Colt, remember previous loops. And it can show up at almost any time to ruin Colt’s plans. The most important part is that it can be controlled by other players, who can also upgrade it along a completely separate progression path. I was not able to fully test this, given how few people were playing during the review period (and I also had severe lag while playing on PlayStation 5). But the few moments in which it worked were incredible. Playing as essentially the villain transforms the entire experience, and it’s a cool design. I hope to fully experience it now that there are more people playing.
The relationship between Colt and Julianna is at the heart of this game, and the performances of Jason E. Kelley and Ozioma Akagha, respectively, are astonishing. It’s also important to note that both playable characters are black, which is cause for celebration when there is a shortage of black people depicted as protagonists in big-budget media (and, in particular, the lack of black characters who don’t are gang members). or criminals). Also, Colt is a bit weird and a surprising protagonist: sometimes he starts to sing, he likes to murder and he is terrible at telling jokes. He’s your friend’s weird father. Even when Julianna threatens him, he doesn’t have the heart to be mean to her.
It is surprising and delicious that most of Deathloop is intelligence gathering, no murder. After all, when there are still four Visionaries left at the end of the day, Colt hasn’t broken the circle. In other words: Deathloop it is The era of El Mañana meet Hitman.
Colt gains access to multiple upgradeable weapons. While some of these are standard fare (pistols, submachine guns, rifles), some legendary variants are notable. My favorite is a pair of pistols that can be stacked like two giant Lego bricks to make a rifle.
As is tradition in Arkane games, Colt also has access to otherworldly powers. Shift allows Colt to instantly break through a huge gap (it’s basically Dishonored’s Blink ability); another allows Colt to link multiple enemies so that killing one kills them all (similar to Domino in Dishonored 2). The combination of powers and weapons often leads to incredible moments. For example, after locating two Visionaries surrounded by their minions, I used my link ability to tie both targets to an isolated guard. Killing him meant I took both of them down instantly.
With available hacking tools and multiple entrances to each building, Deathloop it is more than welcoming for the stealthiest players. But this is Arkane’s first game that also feels wonderful as an all-out action shooter. In fact, an Arkane game has never felt so good. I didn’t feel punished for breaking a stealth approach, and some magical powers even encourage it. Colt can throw people into the air; he can go insane and become supernaturally strong.
Part of what makes the game feel so fluid is that the studio has also fully embraced the PS5’s DualSense controller. Each weapon feels unique; each power has its own feel. Colt’s footsteps are perfectly in sync with the thunder from both sides. It’s an incredibly tactile experience.
In terms of aesthetics, Deathloop It has a quirky, if neglected, sixties spy theme. To think Nobody lives forever, but covered in decay. One district is essentially an amusement park, while another is adorned with snow and a giant, pulsing satellite array. None of this is to mention how the premises change throughout the day: a car that was idle in the morning crashed into some windows in the afternoon; a boat can be reached in open water later, when ice has formed. Despite being a repeat game, no indoor or outdoor location feels recycled.
One would expect to smoothly transition from level to level on a next-gen console, but unfortunately, the game has to log into their servers every time. It only takes a few seconds, but it’s certainly a hit for slippery momentum elsewhere. That’s the price for a groundbreaking multiplayer mode, I guess.
Another issue is the game’s strange reluctance to allow me to track information correctly or on my own. Colt has a kill board, but it only gives me step-by-step tasks, not general information that Colt obviously knows about. Pre-mission planning menus are clunky, making it difficult to know where specific information is or even if it can be traced. It was easier for me to make my own notes.
What’s more, I had imagined that the game would force me to plan the eventual perfect kill day (that is, kill all targets before the end of the day). But Deathloop in itself it gathers all the information and leads the way. I understand how this could avoid the frustration of players who are not diligent in taking notes. But it dampened my sense of satisfaction after paying attention every step of the way.
Deathloop it is a strange but wonderful beast. It’s a time management game where I built a precision killing machine to cause a carefully planned rampage. It is also the story of a man who discovers who he is and why he is being pursued by a young woman who knows everything about him. Time is Colt’s prison, but also the source of his power.
But it felt liberating to be completely free, to have executed such silent devastation. In the end, I was in awe of the accuracy of DeathloopThe focus, freedom, and respect given to me as a player, and the minimization, though not the complete elimination, of frustration in a completely replay-focused game. The success with which Arkane accomplished all of this is a testament to the incredible talent and intelligence of the studio. No other studio makes you feel this smart, and no game of his has made it better.
Deathloop It was released on September 14 on Windows PC and PlayStation 5. The game was reviewed on PS5 using a pre-launch download code provided by Bethesda Softworks. Vox Media has affiliate associations. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.