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Deathloop Review (PS5)
#1        Deathloop Review (PS5)
key review info

    Game: Deathloop
    Platform: PC
    Show system requirements
    Reviewed on: September 19, 2021 21:13 GMT
    Written by: Cosmin Vasile

Deathloop key art

Arkane Studios had a couple of hits during their existence from the almost completely forgotten Dark Messiah of Might and Magic to the more recent Prey or Dishonored. Those familiar with the work of the studio will agree that their artistic style is as remarkable as their knack for level design. Both of these signature features have been employed to turn the PS5 exclusive Deathloop into a success story.

Especially Dishonored is a franchise that is close to my heart, and although the premise of Deathloop is not exactly something that tickles my fancy, I was curious about the game since its announcement. I wanted to see if Arkane manages to keep their ingenious level design and how much of an atmosphere they manage to conjure in a game that focuses on the bad day of a random hero.

Colt is the first hero of the story, and he does not have a bad day, he seems doomed to relive the worst day of his life again and again and again. Unless he manages to break the loop and escape the Blackreef Island. The problem is you are not sure how to do that since you start your struggle with no memory of who you are, where you are, how you got there and what is it you are supposed to do.

But exploring your surroundings and killing all the crazies painted in various pastel colours you will discover more details about what is going on and how you can escape the cruel joke that is being played on you. You will find out that you actually used to be the head of security of this weird place, and you will learn more about Julianna, your nemesis that just teases you to the edge of your sanity.

Information is your most important weapon and the only thing that cannot be taken from you in case you bit the dust. There is no actual game over in Deathloop, each death giving you a chance to restart the day without any weapons or equipment but keeping all the intel you have gathered. After several hours and a few failed attempts, you manage to figure out the basic rules: a day is composed by four cycles (morning, noon, afternoon and evening) which you have to manage to the best your abilities in order to eliminate eight Visionaries.

These can be considered the bosses of the game, and each one of them has a nasty trick up to its sleeve. It will not be a walk in the park to manage to kill all four them in just one loop, especially that the mysterious Julianna has the bad habit of hunting you from time to time. So, you will die again and again and again until you figure out the correct order to eliminate all the marks and each time you will lose all your hard earn equipment. Until you discover the secrets of Infuse, which lets you keep your favourite items, but you need to farm long and happy to afford to use it.
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The basic concept of Deathloop may be interesting, but at least for me raised some concerns. Unfortunately, some of them have been fully confirmed when reviewing the game and took away from the overall experience. First and foremost, the developers only included four locations in the game. Although they change somewhat depending on the moment of the day, their size is not exactly generous, and you will quickly learn them by the heart. This means that subsequent loops will feel more of the same and become right-down boring.

Also, these locations are not actually big. Even with hunting for hidden morsels of information you are able to cross them in a matter of a few minutes. Also, after a few loops you will learn the habits and placement of you opponents as well. Depending on the moment of day you will find the same mindless cannon fodders in the same place, doing the same routine. Just as in Dishonored you may choose your approach, but here you will have to go through the same motions, locations and enemies again and again. What works in Dishonored due to the fact that the story drives you to new locations, falls short in Deathloop, that is built on exploring the same limited places.

What still works is the ingenious level design that lets you play as you wish. You can avoid enemies, plan your moves, wait in the shadows and strike at the right moment with surgical precision. Or you can go Terminator on your opponent’s painted buts and kick them to Sunday come, blasting guns and cursing when they get jammed. We have to add that Colt is not most nimble hero and in each of the above cases you will rely on your special powers to compensate for the slow dodging or aiming of our hero.

Also, to be completely honest, stealth seems to be the most efficient way, the gunfight feeling a bit strange. You do not have much of a health bar, Colt feels heavy and slow, and generally the only problem with most of your opponents is just their sheer number. The Slabs that offer Colt his special power also seem to favour a more brainiac approach: next to the extra chances you get each time you start a loop, you can go for double jump, teleport or even clone yourself. Figuring out these is not very easy, because the developers decided to hide behind some entangled explanations.

Many of the story elements, background info and essential details are included as readable documents or even better hidden audio logs. They will offer not just clues about what you have to do, but also will help you understand what goes on in the game world and what is your actual role in it. Also, you will figure out what is Julianna’s problem with you, an interesting character that later on will become playable in an online mode. You can choose to either fulfil her original function and try to hunt down Cole or go the opposite and help other players. This puts an interesting twist on a game that otherwise feels quite stale.

Another sensible issue is the graphics, since Deathloop does not rise to the level of expectations risen by a PS5 exclusive title. The colours are faded, the details are scarce, the textures are blurry, and you feel like is a ‘60s television series. The art style is fresh and different, but the final looks is disappointing. Also, there is no real explanation for the load times, taking into account the size of the maps. The voice acting varies from adequate to over the top, Colt being sometimes a true drama queen.

The Good

    Ingenious level design
    Rich story, with many details
    Interesting and original special abilities

The Bad

    Small and easy to learn maps
    Outdated graphics
    Half-baked combat system

Deathloop is far from being the sum of my worst fears, but it went into a direction that does turn it into a mixed experience. There are some good ideas in the game, but repetition kills most of the fun. Still, it is not a bad game.

If you have the patience to put together the story you will find it quite appealing, the level design is as brilliant as ever, but on the other hand the maps are really small, and the combat system is half baked. Overall if you expect another Prey or Dishonored you will be disappointed, but if you are looking for an action game that is quirky and different you might have fun with it.

Review code provided by the publisher.

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