Deathloop review: Groundhog Day, but with bloodthirsty killers

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“Am I supposed to do this everyday for the rest of my life? F— that! I’m breaking this loop!” said Colt, Deathloop’s protagonist who’s stuck inside a bizarre, time-loop realm filled with blood-thirsty murderers.

“Ha, good luck with that, a**hole!” Julianna Blake, a name that doesn’t ring a bell to Colt, would often respond. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! And Colt doesn’t have one stinking clue why this snarky Julianna chick — and a whole gang of murderous nutcases — are out to get him.

Deathloop is like a chaotic, violent melange of Groundhog Day, a dash of My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and favorite game of all time, Dishonored. In fact, Arkane Studios is the talented team that brought us the latter and they’re the same folks who worked on Deathloop — and the similarities are striking. Deathloop delivers all the beloved aspects of Dishonored: supernatural abilities, dual-wielding fighting styles, gritty, explorable worlds, and merciless, annoying enemies who call the whole damn town for backup.

However, Deathloop offers a more modern twist, ditching stuffy ol’ 19th century royal protector Corvo for au courant Colt who’s got a colorful, snide personality à la Samuel L. Jackson and hilarious quips that make you chuckle. With Colt’s on-edge temperament and affinity for cursing, he’s one step away from yelling, “Enough is enough! I’ve had it with these [expletive] time loops on this [expletive] island!”

As you step into Colt’s shoes for the first time, you’re just as clueless as he is. You, too, are trying to collect all pieces of the puzzle to create the big picture of what the hell is going on here and how you’re going to put a stop to this maddening time loop. Deathloop is certainly a contender for one of the best PS5 games of the year, but that doesn’t mean it comes without flaws. Read on to find out the ways Deathloop excels and falters.

Deathloop story

Deathloop kicks off with a brutal, vicious scene of Colt getting savagely stabbed to death by an enraged woman. The game plays from a first-person perspective, so although Colt is on the bad side of a sword-wielding lunatic, it feels like you’re a part of the drama, too. I damn-near clutched my pearls as I watched blood spurt everywhere as Colt begged for mercy. The barbarous woman shoved a final, piercing cut into Colt’s body, and suddenly, the screen went black.

Colt then finds himself waking up on a beach — and it’s not the seashore one dreams about while planning their next vacation. The onyx sand is gritty, and save for massive craggy boulders, the beach is barren. Despite being unfamiliar with his surroundings, Colt is relieved. He’s alive, assumes that he simply had a bad dream and carries on.

Unfortunately for Colt, he’s suffering from amnesia and missing a lot of pieces to the puzzle. The most harrowing of those pieces is that he’s stuck on a strange island called Blackreef, which suffered a cataclysmic event that caused a temporal anomaly in the time realm. As such, Colt is doomed to relive the same day over and over again for eternity. Dun, dun, dun! Unless, of course, Colt figures out how to put a stop to it — and that’s your main mission. It won’t be easy, though. As it turns out, there are Blackleaf cultists who are determined to protect the time loop.

What makes Deathloop interesting are the scribbly notes that appear in the air that give you hints, tips and even warnings about what’s up ahead. At first, I thought this was just some sort of helpful feature the developers implemented, but as you progress in the game, you’ll get the inkling that these notes are sourced from a character in the game. I mean, if you were stuck in a time loop, wouldn’t you find a way to leave notes for yourself so that you’re one step ahead of enemies?

Deathloop enemies

Julianna is one of the first enemies you’ll encounter in Blackreef. She’s so ruthless, you’ll often wonder, “Geez! What on earth did Colt do to deserve such vitriol and violence?” You’ll learn that she’s a Visionary. It isn’t immediately obvious what, exactly, a Visionary is in the beginning of the game, but as you progress through Deathloop, you’ll realize there are eight of them and they don’t have your best interests at heart. Colt has to figure out a way to kill all of them in one time loop.

You’ll also encounter Eternalists, masked minions who are determined to “protect the loop” and will stop at nothing to hunt you down and kill you.

Strangely enough, another “enemy” you’ll come across is water. Do not go swimming. Don’t even dip your toe in a puddle of water. Colt is water intolerant, and if you find yourself submerged in water, you will die.

Deathloop gameplay

One question I often found myself asking while playing Deathloop is, “Is going there worth the risk?” You see, I typically love exploring every nook and cranny, and Deathloop makes this especially tempting with its sprawling, explorable towns with abandoned libraries, underground tunnels and deserted shops.

But there’s only one problem — you’re in a time loop, so if you’re killed before you complete your mission, you have to start the level all over again from the beginning. You’ll lose all the weapons you’ve collected, as well as any supernatural abilities and other upgrades. Fortunately, you’re given two lives per level (you’ll respawn to a reasonable checkpoint), but once you’ve used them up, you’re toast.

That being said, there are often side missions that you’re prompted to explore, like checking out a mysterious door or picking up a cool otherworldly ability. However, if they’re placed in hostile areas with too many enemies, I have to think twice about retrieving them because I only have two lives (and sometimes, I only have one), and I must ultimately decide whether I should risk one of my precious lives or focus on the main mission. Trust me! Nothing is worse than getting far into a level and having to do it all over again because you miscalculated a jump.

Be stealthy or be a gun-wielding maniac

The funnest aspect of Deathloop is that you can run through the game guns a’blazin’ or you can take more of a stealthy route. I prefer the latter because, truth be told, my aim stinks and I end up wasting more ammo than actually killing my enemies. The game encourages you to be strategic and observe your enemies’ patrol path. It’s satisfying to creep up behind an Eternalist and snap the heads off. Be careful, though! Tags appear above the heads of your enemies.

If they turn yellow, they’re suspicious of your presence, but once they turn red, you  better run ‘cause they’re coming for you! Fortunately, Colt is a fast sprinter, so he can bolt out of a hostile area and hide. The tags also tell you what type of weapon your enemy is holding, so that you can be more strategic about how you want to take ‘em down.

Should you need to load up on health, you can find Fiz Pops, which are drinks populated across Blackreef to help you regain some strength. On rare occasions, you can find health stations that let you restore your body to full health.

The Deathloop world is your playground where you can roam freely. You can accomplish kills any way you wish, whether it’s using a machete to pierce their chests or relying on supernatural abilities to eliminate pesky Eternalists.

Deathloop weapons and tools

I fire my gun sparingly in Deathloop. Why? To accomplish quiet kills, I have no choice but to sneak up behind my enemy and stab them with my machete. Firing my gun alerts the whole area of your presence, and trust me, you don’t want to fight 12 Eternalists at once when you can just kill one or two who are in your way. However, if you want the challenge of blasting your enemies’ heads off, there are plenty of weapons you can find in Deathloop — each one serves a different purpose.

My go-to gun is the PT-6 ‘Spiker.” It’s a nail gun that lets me accomplish silent kills from a distance. Sometimes, it’s just too dangerous to sneak up behind my target, so it’s better to simply whip out my trusty PT-6 Spiker and knock ‘em off their feet.

Some other weapons you can find are submachine guns, shotguns, semi-automatic pistols, hand cannons, snipers, grenades and more. It’s also worth noting that you can also engage in dual-wielding gun fights if you have the dexterity to manage two weapons at once.

The hackamajig

Man, I love the hackamajig! It’s one of the first tools you’ll be equipped with when you play Deathloop. There are no keys in Blackreef. If you want to unlock doors and other barred entries, you can use the hackamajig to open them. However, my favorite aspect of the hackamajig is that you can hack killer security systems to switch their allegiance to your side and kill any hostile passerby who is not you.

For instance, if there is a group of Eternalists hanging out in a courtyard, don’t bother trying to kill them all yourself. See if you can find something called a “ballistic turret,” which are security systems that can be hacked to shoot and kill enemies if they come into contact with its lasers. It does all the work for you!

You can also use the hackamajig to distract Eternalists. For example, you can trigger an alarm to go off to attract an Eternalist to a new area so that you can sneak by without confronting one. I’m telling you — that hackamajig is useful AF.

Deathloop supernatural abilities

As you get closer to solving the enigmatic time-loop mystery, the game becomes increasingly challenging and difficult. However, it balances out because you can collect supernatural abilities to make the game much easier. In Deathloop, you can use slabs and/or trinkets to enhance your gameplay.

Slabs

Slabs give you otherworldly powers and you can find them on Visionaries. For example, the Aether Slab can be found on a Visionary called Egor, and it grants you the power of invisibility.

You can find the Shift Slab on Charlie, which lets you teleport over short distances. One of my favorite Slabs is Nexus; it lets you “kill two birds with one stone.” Like highlighting a group of words in a paragraph and hitting the Delete button, you can select a group of enemies you’d like to kill and execute them with one elimination tactic. Win!

Trinkets

Trinkets are supernatural artifacts you can find in Deathloop to upgrade your weapons or skill set. For example, there are trinkets that can increase your gun’s magazine size, bump up the damage output, reduce recoil and quicken reload times. You can also find Trinkets that grant you increased health, double jump and the ability to speedily hack turrets.

Deathloop game modes

When you launch Deathloop, you’ll have two game modes to choose from: Break the Loop and Protect the Loop. The former is single-player mode and lets you play as Colt. If it’s your cup of tea, you can enable a mode that lets a stranger or a friend (as opposed to an AI) play as Julianna to challenge you throughout the game.

When you select multiplayer, you can play as sassy Julianna to thwart a random player (or a friend) playing Colt. Sure, you can simply jump into the game and shoot Colt at point-blank range, but where’s the fun in that? You can get creative with strategically placed traps and wreak havoc on his psyche. For example, you can use the Masquerade Slab to exchange physical appearances with other characters and throw Colt off his feet.

Deathloop’s striking similarities to Dishonored

When the Deathloop trailer first hit the scene last June during the PS5 games event, gamers pointed out that it’s reminiscent of Dishonored. They were totally spot on. I was disappointed when Arkane revealed that they weren’t working on a third installment of Dishonored, but now that Deathloop’s out, I don’t need it. Deathloop, as the young folks say, “gave what it said it’s supposed to give” for Dishonored fans who’ve been itching for a sequel.

Here are some similarities I’ve spotted throughout my time with Deathloop

Magical abilities.  Magical abilities. In Dishonored, Corvo used supernatural powers such as Blink (teleportation), Dark Vision (seeing enemies behind solid matter) and Shadow Walk (zipping through enemies undetected). Hell, you could even possess enemies and kill them by committing suicide. In the same way, Deathloop grants you invisibility powers, teleportation abilities and more. Tinkering with killer machines to switch their allegiance. Deathloop lets you hack security systems to make your enemies — not you — their new target. Dishonored also allowed gamers to rewire security systems and aim their fire at adversaries. Erratic enemies that can teleport. Taking down Visionaries, who keep teleporting like zig-zagging flies, was similar to fighting the annoying Brigmore Witches in Dishonored 2. Two handfuls. Like Corvo, Colt always has both of his hands full, whether he’s dual-wielding weapons, or holding his hackamajig in one hand and a machete in another. Stealth. Although you can win both games by attacking enemies head on, it’s not encouraged. It’s a lot easier to play Deathloop and Dishonored with a light-footed strategy. Striking worldbuilding. The Dishonored series has stunning, explorable towns, cities and interiors that will take your breath away. I can say the same for Deathloop.

How Deathloop can improve

I had to think long and hard about how Deathloop could improve because it gets so many things right. However, I did manage to find a flaw. Enemies’ discovery of my presence seemed inconsistent and confusing. For example, there are times I’d be crouching right next to an Eternalist and they would not see me, but in a real-life scenario, I would have appeared in their peripheral vision and startled them. I often asked myself, “How could he not see me?!”

Another time, I was crouching inside a wooden shack, and for some illogical reason, an NPC managed to spot me — even though their back was turned and there’s no way they could see me through the wooden planks.

It’s hard to complain about the times that NPCs don’t see me because it benefits my game, but of course, the wonky AI gets under my skin when I’m spotted in a position where I shouldn’t be seen.

Deathloop PC performance

Deathloop is available on PS5 and PC. I haven’t been able to secure a PS5, but I’m so impressed with Deathloop’s smooth and seamless PC performance. Even the Steam download was much faster than I expected. According to my FPS counter, I was able to consistently get 96 to 102 frames per second.

I played Deathloop on the Lenovo Legion 7, which comes with an Intel Core i7-10750H CPU, 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM, and a 15.6-inch, 1080p display with a 240Hz refresh rate.

Deathloop PC requirements

The minimum system requirements to run Deathloop on your PC include Windows 10, an Intel Core i5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 5 1600 CPU, 12GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD RX 580 GPU, and 30GB of available space.

However, the recommended PC requirements for Deathloop are Windows 10, an Intel Core i7-9700K or AMD Ryzen 7 2700X CPU, 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 or AMD RX 5700 GPU and 30GB of available space.

Bottom line

Here I was fuming at Bethesda for shelving the Dishonored series, but little did I know that Arkane Studios was working on a bigger, badder, sexier version of Dishonored with a modern, sassy twist. I always found Dishonored to be too stuffy, anyway, with its serious, vengeful protagonist who goes to bat for troubled, uppity royal family during the Victorian era.

With that being said, if the Dishonored series has come to an end, I can finally accept it without protest. Arkane Studios has a fresh, new game in town, and it’s more relatable with its à la mode vernacular, applaudable voice acting, visually striking worlds and exhilarating stealth-action gameplay. Watch out upcoming PS5 games! Deathloop is out to snatch your “best game of the year” throne.

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