Review: Deathloop

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Deathloop had such an advertisement blitz that it turned a lot of people off to the game. And then when mainstream reviewers were all giving it perfect scores, it didn't help those already puking their guts out over their 5th YouTube ad during a 10 minute video. With all this said and done, I was fortunate enough to miss these ads completely and picked it up rather quickly after release on the PlayStation 5. I'm not sure what the ads were showing that was turning people off but my experience with Arkane's newest title was really enjoyable.

Deathloop is about a drunk guy named Cole who wakes up on the same beach and relives the same day over and over again like he's Bill Murray from Groundhog's Day. The slight alteration to this formula is that Cole also has no idea how he got here and why he's hearing voices of a woman named Julianna. His entire existence rests on escaping this weird island known as Blackreef and also murdering Julianna for reasons he's not sure of.

The story concept alone is terrific and works really well. Every day is split into four different sections of the island at four different times of the day: morning, noon, afternoon and evening. As the day progresses, certain events and battles are unobtainable until you restart the day and try again. The world builds itself throughout the day each day so certain paths will open or close based on the time of day you choose to go. This makes a lot of sense pretty quickly in the game as you find clues hidden around the island that give you a path on where to go next. The more clues you uncover, the more successful a loop will be. This concept is really amazing and well executed however it has a downfall which we'll cover in detail later. But it really begins to affect the challenge of the game before long.

After a while, Julianna will be introduced into the gameplay as she tries to hunt you down and close down pathways to escape a map. The unique thing about her is she's either a bot or a real life player depending on how you have your options set up for her. Her ability to blend into the map using stealth or wearing a disguise is great. Playing as Julianna is a blast for someone like me. You just wait for your prey to fall into your traps and unload on Cole. If Cole dies three times, he's out of there and you win. It's a really simple addition and not entirely unique to gaming but it fits the flow of this game really well.

I love guns, real guns and fake guns. Deathloop has some really fun guns to play around with and trinkets to find to make them even better. One of the guns you'll get is a dual welding pistol that can be converted into a machine gun for it's alt fire by putting both guns together. Unique weapons are specific to certain quests or locations and they're all really fun to use. The game has silenced pistols, loud shotguns, heavy machine guns, and rifles that make the enemy fly across the map. All of them are useless when you master the power of the boot. Cole can kick butt and chew bubble gum.

When you get through a few loops with a few good items, the difficulty takes a nose dive. They really should have put in a difficulty mode to make the game more challenging because being able to walk up to everyone and just kick them to death made the game too easy. A quick way to kill almost everyone is to kick them down and then stomp on their head. That will kill everyone, including the bosses. Even during Julianna fights, I just ended up kicking her down and kicking her to death. But even without that, Cole is vastly over powered compared to anyone in the game. The stealth is way too easy. You don't need to even hide in shadows to hide. One mission you need to assassinate a Visionary at his party and I was standing on a box about a foot above his vision. He didn't see me. You'll always feel like you're playing the game on easy with cheats on and that's one of the few problems Deathloop has.

Abilities don't really help the difficulty too. One of the most difficult achievements/trophies has you finish an entire day loop killing only the Visionaries and not being seen by the enemy. In another game, this would be a very frustrating task but in Deathloop you have so many over powering abilities it makes it a cake walk. You can indefinitely turn into a stealth object and lure enemies away or just transport yourself around the map. These abilities are actually a lot of fun to play with but they almost make the game almost too easy.

If that doesn't make it sound overly easy, the AI is really bad. It's probably the worst AI I've seen in a video game as of late. The AI can lose trace of you rather quickly and if they're not losing you, they utterly suck and hunting you down. When they hit you, you take a lot of damage and can die quickly but they're slow to draw and slow to react. In my entire run with bosses and all, I may have only died a dozen times and that was learning mechanics and running through a map to get through it.

When you die or reset the day, all of the weapons, abilities and trinkets you've collected die along with you which would really suck if they didn't introduce a way to infuse your inventory before you decide to wake up drunk on the beach again. Infusions are introduced fairly early in the game but you'll need to make some tough choices at the end of each loop. Do you want to keep all the character upgrades you found or weapons? You'll be limited by the number of Residuum that you've obtained during a loop. You get this by killing Visionaries (the in-game bosses you'll assassinate), finding them on glowing objects around the map, or by sacrificing the items you don't need.

Now that we know some mechanics, what exactly is the game all about? It's essentially Hitman meets Dishonored. You're main objective is to assassinate all of the Visionaries in one day and escape the island. You can't do this on your first run through so the clue process is where you piece together exactly the way you can accomplish this. The maps are decently sized and packed with stuff to explore but overall the game is incredibly linear. You're going to checkpoints and knocking out missions for each map until a pathway opens up in the menu for you to do this. This isn't a knock on the game. When it clicks exactly how you're going to do everything, it's a heck of a good time running through it. You can knock the game out in about 8 hours and the issue with that is that when the game is over, it's over. There's not a lot of side stuff to do unless you just want to try for all the achievements or trophies. And after so many runs during the end game, the radio chatter between Cole and Julianna ends so it's just a lonesome game.

Playing on the PlayStation 5, I didn't run into graphic hiccups or audio issues. The options menu lets you choose between performance or graphic fidelity with and without ray tracing. I tried them all and I prefer the performance. You're not missing out on too much in the graphic department going with performance. The game doesn't have pop in textures, graphical errors or any frame rate issues. It has a nice mix of a dystopia 60s with the feel of a No One Lives Forever vibe. Even better is the sound. The 3D audio is really good and held me in place at a few locations just listening to the sounds. One particular time of day has a rock concert where a bunch of enemies are focused on the stage. I stealthed through this area and enjoyed the looping music myself. Voice acting is great but be ready to be bombarded by f-bombs right out of the gate. It's odd that it hammers them home for the first couple of hours but lets up after that.

As of writing this, the game still has some technical issues. I've had it crash more than a handful of times in the 20 hours I've invested into it. One time was during a boss run where I spent a good 20 minutes sneaking around to get a weapon only to have it crash when trying to enter the escape area. It's amazing that launch day reviews could hand out perfect reviews when there's some pretty big issues with the game. It's a fun, short game but that's about it. When it's over, it's over and it's hard to be excited about doing everyone over and over again when the game is so easy to play. Do I recommend it? Absolutely but I'd wait until a sales price for a game you'll finish over a weekend.

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The best thing about running your own website is that no one can tell you what to do. Also, video games are awesome.
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