by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Imagine waking up without memory of the previous night…and it not being alcohol related. But then imagine reliving that over and over again. Deathloop has players taking on the role of Colt, a man who has woken up on the shores of Blackreef with just that scenario. As you make your way up the cliff, a few memories begin to return, and it is clearly not a hangover that has caused his temporary amnesia. Floating messages appear before him supplying Colt with a glimpse of how he has arrived in this predicament.
We soon discover that the floating messages have been left by Colt himself as a warning for what is to come. Between these floating warnings, shimmering objects that litter the landscape, and the conversations that occur in you head with a woman named Julianna, there is certainly a sense that something is not right. And the moment that you die for the first time and then re-appear on that same stretch of coastline, you’ll realise that there is a time loop occurring, with the inhabitants of Blackreef living the same day repeatedly.
Although Blackreef looks gorgeous, particularly once the sun begins to set, the beauty of Deathloop comes in the form of a wonderful narrative. The game makes players feel that they are Colt and that they must piece together all the missing fragments of his past. We soon learn that there are eight visionaries who have created the time loop, and all have a reason to keep the continue the loop. But, of course, Colt wants to end the loop and so has become enemy number one for the Visionaries and their followers – known as Eternalists.
The Isle of Blackreef has a whole 1960’s vibe, from the Neon lighting to the decor within the buildings, to the laid-back attitude and tie-dyed colours of the Eternalists outfits. And Colt himself could well be a 1960’s version of Jason Bourne. Armed initially (once he has headed up the cliff to his base) with a gun and a device known as a Hackamajig - which he has designed to hack various electronics - Colt will set out with the aim of killing all eight visionaries within one time loop.
Solving the mystery of Blackreef
The mystery of Blackreef, the Visionaries and Colt’s involvement is gradually uncovered as Colt infiltrates the four areas of Updaam, Fristad Rock, Karl’s Bay, and the Complex. Because of the time loop, the day is split into four time periods and Colt will need to visit each location on multiple occasions, as certain areas will be off-limits and unavailable at certain times during the day.
As with most shooters, Colt will be able to pick up a small variety of weapons throughout his daily activities as well as something know as Trinkets. These trinkets are primarily buffs that he can apply to himself or affix to his firearms. Unfortunately, anything Colt collects will be reset once the daily time loop is completed – either from the day ending or Colt dying. Luckily, the first of the Visionaries the Colt will encounter has knowledge of the shimmering objects Colt has been noticing everywhere. These objects have a material known as Residuum – which once harvested can be used to infuse weapons and trinkets so that Colt can use them again in future time loops.
Just as important as weapons to Colt, are the Slab skills that he can harvest when killing the Visionaries. Each of them has developed a specific Slab skill, and it can be fun to play around with each of them once you collect them. Players can only equip a couple of Slabs at a time, but each allow for varying strategies One slab - Aether - can turn Colt invisible for a short period of time, Shift allows Colt to teleport a short distance, Nexus can link enemies together owing for one shot multiple kills, Havoc grants Colt super strength and Karnesis gives Colt the power of Telekinesis allowing him to throw enemies around. Players will be able to combine these Slab skills to their own game style.
Stealthy or Guns Blazing
The range of weapons and Slab skills available to Colt allows players to play with a range of game styles. Going for a stealthy option is a more than viable option for the bulk of the game, with players able to sneak up behind Eternalists to perform a silent melee kill. Environmental dangers can also come into play, with a well-placed boot to the back resulting in enemies plummeting to their death from rooftops or cliffs. Using Colt’s Hackamajig device is another way to cunningly take care of Eternalists. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed hacking a turret and then luring multiple enemies into its line of fire.
The enemy AI is reasonably proficient though. If they hear loud gunshots, a group of them will investigate. If they stumble upon a fallen comrade, they will be startled and cautiously look around. And if they think they see Colt, they will call out to their closest friends and go in search for him. Of course, this can often lead to their demise, but it is nice to see they’re looking out for each other. The Visionaries too, with their special residuum-powered skills can be killed in a range of ways, each of which ends with Colt being able to acquire their skill Slab. The game of cat and mouse between Colt and Julianna, as well as their back-and-forth conversations do set the tone throughout the entire game. The voice acting throughout is superb, with each of the Visionaries having their own unique personalities.
Although Colt may not regain all his equipment or trinkets when he begins a new day, he will retain all the knowledge he has collected about the daily movements of the eight Visionaries and the secrets that Blackreef holds. As Colt slowly collects this valuable information, it will allow players to determine the optimal time and place for killing each of the Visionaries. Given that there are eight to kill within the four time periods, it means that players are required to knock off more than one Visionary at a time to finally close the loop. Information can be obtained from a variety of sources, and at times you’ll feel like Varys from Game of Thrones and his little birds as you find little titbits about your adversaries via notes lying around or from eavesdropping on Eternalists.
Break the loop
With a game that has players re-living the day on multiple occasions, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it would become stale. But each day plays differently as you learn clues to the visionaries and their daily patterns. And even though the Eternalists inhabit the same locations when you visit at the same time period, the skills and weapons you have acquired and imbued with Residuum allows gamers to play each section in a completely different manner. Whether you want to play a stealthy style game and methodically take out your enemies as you uncover the island’s mysteries, or blast you way through groups of Eternalists, Deathloop allows you to do so. But no matter which style you choose, it is so satisfying once you finally close the loop.
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Wonderfully told story, competent enemy AI