Deathloop Review

Four things I like about this game, and one I don't


By Paul Hunter

We’ve all likely experienced déjà vu at some point (or know someone who has) but imagine having that feeling every day for eternity. That’s the life Deathloop’s protagonist Colt is forced to endure, waking up on the same beach on the same day every single morning.

Deathloop is the new first-person action-adventure game from Arkane Studios, makers of the award-winning Dishonored and Prey series. This PS5 timed console exclusive sets you in an immersive ‘60s-inspired world called Blackreef that’s trapped in a mysterious Returnal-esque time loop doomed to repeat itself over and over again. To escape this nightmare, your only hope is to take down eight key targets before midnight when everything resets.

Let's dive in and see what Deathloop is all about, here are four things I liked about the game...and one I didn't.

Liked: Julianna PvP Combat

Surviving the 24 hours in Blackreef won’t be an easy task because hunting you the whole time is your rival assassin Julianna, who’s armed to the teeth with an arsenal of weapons and powerful BioShock-y super powers. She can be controlled by the game’s A.I. in single-player mode or for a greater challenge, you can allow your friends or random players around the world to become Julianna for some intense player-vs-player hunting action.

When Julianna arrives at your location things escalate pretty quickly—especially if you've opted in for PvP combat. She immediately locks the escape tunnels giving you no chance to flee and forcing you to confront her in an epic showdown of assassin vs. assassin. But the good news is if you take her down you'll gain a plethora of powerful weapons, including a random special ability that can significantly enhance your capabilities. Julianna is such a cool character and concept, I hope this isn't the last time Bethesda injects this PvP intensity into their games.

Liked: Planning the Perfect Assassination

Over Deathloop’s roughly 20 hours of gameplay required to beat the main story you’ll need to use every tool at your disposal—from stealth to gunplay to puzzle solving—in order to track down and eliminate the eight targets, called Visionaries, which control the time loop. Your goal is to piece together clues that will help you discover and enact the perfect assassination within a single 24-hour period, and it’s way more fun than you might imagine.

Through your Visionary investigations (that could involve stealth or all-out combat chaos), you’ll come to know their personalities and daily clockwork routines, and eventually find moments when the Visionaries meet up—giving you the perfect chance to complete a glorious two-for-one takedown. You can even discover creative ways to manipulate individual targets so that they travel to certain locations around Blackreef at specific times, then setup elaborate traps to eliminate multiple enemies at once. As for the Visionaries themselves, they’re a hilarious bunch of characters ranging from a mad scientist to an aloof artist to a cutthroat businessman.

Liked: Gear Infusion

For the first little while, you’ll begin every loop at the same starting location with all your items and weapons gone, but retain the intel gathered from previous attempts. A couple of hours into the game though and you’ll learn how to infuse your gear, allowing you to permanently keep your stuff across loops. This is done by first collecting Residium, which is obtained by siphoning random glowing objects around Blackreef or by killing a Visionary, then spending the resource to infuse the items you want to keep.

Once you get the hang of infusion that’s when the real magic of Deathloop begins. Your arsenal of pistols, SMGs, rifles and snipers will get better with each loop as you find powerful new versions of higher rarity, plus amass a collection of Trinkets that provides game-changing passive upgrades. As well, if you manage to take down one of your key targets you might obtain an all-powerful magical Slab that gives you super powers reminiscent of Dishonored. These include the Shift ability that lets you warp across short distances, the Aether slab that turns you temporarily invisible, and the Karnesis power that lets you raise up enemies and fling them away. Slabs can also be infused to carry them across loops—awesome!

Liked: The PS5 and DualSense Features

Looking on the more technical side, Deathloop takes full advantage of the PS5 console and controller. For one, the load time between Blackreef districts is incredibly fast thanks to the PS5’s ultra-high speed SSD.
Julianna is such a cool character and concept, I hope this isn't the last time Bethesda injects this PvP intensity into their games.
More impactful though is the outstanding use of the PS5 DualSense that brings the sounds and sensations of Blackreef to your fingertips. Each weapon has a unique feel specific to its reload, shot power and recoil, but even cooler, your trigger button can lock up mid-firefight indicating a weapon jam. For even more immersion, the DualSense speaker will emit quiet beeps when there’s a mine nearby, forewarning you of imminent danger. These are just some of the many exciting uses of the DualSense that draw you deeper into the game experience.

Didn't Like: The Technical Issues

Ugh. Deathloop is such an incredible game but unfortunately it's plagued with numerous bugs that really interfere with the overall experience. The most egregious is the constant crashing—I had five hard crashes that required me to close the game and reboot it—that amounted to over two hours of wasted progress.

Compounding the crashing issue is when you realize a good chunk of them happen when you access the menu, and the menu is so crucial because it keeps track of all the intel you've gathered. Because of the crashing, for about 3/4 of my playthrough I decided to only check my intel at the beginning of missions and that's it. I got so frustrated by this since I love reviewing my intel, trying to piece together clues or refreshing myself on the game's lore, but I barely did any of that to avoid another crash. I really hope Arkane addresses and fixes the bugs because I'm itching for another complete playthrough.

The Verdict

Deathloop is a superb adventure that rivals the best from Arkane Studios. If you’re a fan of their games or action-adventure titles in general, don’t miss your chance to break the loop and end the cycle for good. While the bugs were frustrating, I still had an amazing time playing the game and I'm already looking forward to my next attempt to plan the perfect assassination. Deathloop is available now on PS5 and PC.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great

Deathloop details

Platform: PS5, PC
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: First-person shooter
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A key was provided by the publisher.