Groundhog Day with Guns
I remember seeing the trailer for this at E3 (or State of Play, I can’t recall which) and being excited out of my mind. It looked like a heck of a lot of fun, with an interesting story to boot.
Deathloop is a bit polarising. Sometimes I loved it, other times I didn’t. Ultimately, it failed to live up to the hype, but has some solid foundations and all my criticisms could be fixed with an update or two. Maybe a DLC pack as well, but let’s focus on the updates first.
If you are unfamiliar with the concept, in Deathloop you play as Colt. You relive the same day over and over (like that Bill Murray movie), trying to figure out how to break the loop. Unfortunately for Colt, you are constantly hunted by Julianna, whose sole purpose is to protect the loop. Whether you kill her or she kills you, it doesn’t matter – you get to do it all again tomorrow.
If you’ve played Prey or Dishonoured, Deathloop will be very familiar to you. It comes from the same studio (Arkane) so it utilises very similar gameplay mechanics. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this game was Dishonoured 3 (or 4, which are we up to?).
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Dishonoured utilised a good combat and stealth system, seamlessly blending the two into a streamlined experience. Deathloop continues this tradition. You have the option to advance stealthily or to just shoot anything that moves. Or a combination of both. The choice is yours.
Unfortunately, it felt more of an illusion of choice, rather than actually having a choice. Ultimately, none of it mattered because it was just so darn easy. You could sneak through or you could shoot everyone. It didn’t matter. Neither way offered any real challenge or resistance.
For a while, this didn’t matter. I was content with exploring the island and learning the routine of the day as I lived it, over and over again. After about 10 hours or so, it all started to feel a bit mundane. I didn’t mind the repetitive nature of the game, after all it is a Groundhog Day style setup. If you are expecting it to not be repetitive, you are a fool.
What bothered was the complete lack of engagement. As I mentioned, the enemies posed no threat whatsoever. My only chance for any engagement was to solve the islands mysteries, but the game held my hand the whole time. Always telling me where to walk, where to think, how to solve the puzzles. I never got to think or explore without being told how to think and explore. By the time I finished the game, I was glad to see the rear end of it.
Another thing that really annoyed me was how linear it was. Particularly the final mission. To break the loop, I needed to kill a specific 8 people, all in one day. I was excited to be able to tackle this again and again, finding different ways to complete my mission. However, there was only one path to follow and I couldn’t deviate from it at all. This dashed away my hopes of the game being replay-able.
Although my time with the single player campaign had come to an abrupt (but welcome) end, I still had the online mode to check out. In the online mode, you play as Julianna and invade another players campaign. It’s a really cool concept, but unfortunately doesn’t really work.
Due to the fact that Julianna can only invade at certain times, and only then with the other players permission, there isn’t actually a lot of opportunity to play as her. This means a lot of time waiting around in the lobby. Boring!
Not only that, but if you do manage to get to play, it feels incredibly unbalanced. Julianna is supposed to be the hunter and Colt the hunted, but it felt the opposite. Colt is so strong and needs to die 3 times, whereas Julianna feels weaker and only has to die once for Colt to win. It felt stacked, but in the wrong direction.
Visually the game was very pretty, reminding me a lot of the 70’s Blaxploitation films. As a fan of such films, I was really digging it. I loved the character models and the voice acting, as bizarre and over the top it was. It felt like a perfect homage to the genre that I once adored. Who am I kidding, still adore.
In terms of the PS5 specific features, it did make good use of the haptic feedback, but nothing else. I don’t recall the adaptive triggers being utilised and I even remember having time to be annoyed at loading screens. Admittedly, I’m probably just spoiled by fast loading now, but it still bugged me a little bit.
I can recommend checking out Deathloop. It was a pretty cool game. Unfortunately, due to the lack of difficulty, it was an absolute breeze. Because of how easy it was, I found I never really utilised the load outs or skills, simply because I didn’t need to. I hope a future patch adds some difficulty options, so I have the need to use some of the games potentially cool features. It would also be nice to have an option to turn off the waypoints and let me think for myself.
Deathloop wins points for an interesting story, a cool concept, gorgeous visuals and the potential for a great campaign. It loses points because of how easy it was, how much it held my hand and it’s subpar online mode. I’d much prefer another single player campaign to play as Julianna that way. I’ll give it a 6 out of 10.