I wasn’t all that interested in Deathloop back when it was announced, so I didn’t pay as much attention to it as I should have. But somehow, I thought it was a competitive shooter with some stealth elements. That sounds okay, I guess, but I’m pretty burned out on competitive shooters — especially those of the first-person variety. In fact, I’m pretty burned out on first-person games in general.

But when I started reading reviews, I realized I’d gotten Deathloop all wrong. This isn’t a multiplayer game at all (though there is a multiplayer element to it). I think the best way to describe the game is that it’s Hitman meets Majora’s Mask, with a lot of the gameplay elements of Dishonored and maybe the humor of Portal 2. I want to toss in a BioShock nod as well, since the enemies have a little bit of a Splicer vibe to them, and the time-looping element has a roguelite feel to it (though this is very much not a roguelite).

Actually, the game Deathloop reminds me of the most is actually The Sexy Brutale, which I’ve for some reason not seen referenced in a single article about Deathloop (feel free to link articles in the comments section if you find any). But Deathloop is almost The Sexy Brutale in reverse, played with a first-person perspective.

The core premise of the game is that you play as Colt, a character stuck in a Groundhog Day-style time loop on an island filled with narcissistic rich folks. The only way to break the loop is to assassinate eight specific targets in a single day — easier said than done, as the targets move from place to place and there are security measures in place to prevent the exact thing you’re trying to do. Colt has an advantage, though, as he was once head of the island’s security, and he also remembers things from loop to loop (which isn’t true of most of the other people in this time loop, and it isn’t always true of Colt).

Deathloop - Break the Loop

There are four locations, and four time periods. In order to be successful, you’ll need to explore the island, discover its secrets, figure out where each “Visionary” will be at which specific time periods, then use your knowledge to goad them into a vulnerable position so you can kill them all. If you die, the loop starts over and you can try again.

A lot of people are saying the game’s biggest flaw is that it’s repetitive, and I’m going to have to hard disagree on that. Any time loop game is repetitive, because repetition is the game’s central gimmick. The responsibility of a time-loop game isn’t to avoid being repetition; it’s to make that repetition meaningful and interesting. Deathloop manages to do both with a surprising amount of grace.

Is it repetitive? Absolutely. But so is The Sexy Brutale. So is Majora’s Mask. In fact, so is Hades, which was one of last year’s best games. But repetition is the point, and it’s up to the player to break that monotony. And the game gives you a wealth of tools to prevent you from getting bored, from a robust selection of weapons and Trinkets to labyrinthine level design that rewards multiple playthroughs.

In fact, I almost want to compare this to Dark Souls on that front. If you’ve played the original Dark Souls, you might remember feeling like you’d hit the edge of an explorable area, only to have it revealed that a narrow path that’s barely in view will lead you to an entirely new area. Deathloop feels like this constantly. There’s a funhouse that’s only accessible at a certain time of day, for example, as well as military bunkers that, once unlocked, will open up into vast networks of tunnels. The party mansion, which was a big focus of the game’s marketing, is only open at night.


Deathloop is certainly not perfect, though. There were moments where I was shouting four-letter words at my TV screen because some puzzles require multiple visits to different locations in a single day. When you’re finally having a fantastic run, all of a sudden Julianna shows up — usually the result of some sadistic other player who just wants to see you bleed — to completely derail your best-laid plans.

See, Julianna is the game’s primary antagonist, and she can be inhabited by other players (this is the multiplayer element I mentioned earlier). Suddenly, another player will show up in your game, all kitted out and thirsty for action. They have to find you first, but that’s not difficult — whenever Julianna shows up, she’ll set up a jammer that locks you out of the tunnels (which are your exit points). In order to unlock them, you’ll need to hack the jammer. So all Julianna has to do is wait near the jammer, because you can’t complete the level until you un-jam your tunnels.

And there’s a rifle in the game that has explosive ammo. This seems to be extremely popular with Julianna trolls, and even the best runs — attempted with the best possible loadouts — can be completely borked by an explosion-happy antagonist.

But despite its flaws, Deathloop is perpetually surprising and almost intoxicating. It commits extremely hard to its 1960s aesthetic, and it oftentimes feels like a constantly unravelling ball of yarn. Every Visionary has a story and unique personality, and watching them interact with each other is delightful.

Deathloop - Hearts Beat Honest

I guess what I’m saying is that Deathloop isn’t a competitive shooter — it’s an innovative adventure game with a time-loop-puzzle twist. While it’s difficult to point to any of its individual pieces and say that a specific feature is unique, the way the game blends all of these pieces together feels fresh. And when it starts to seem like absolutely every creative idea has already been done, the only way to break the loop is to remix old ideas into a new recipe. Throw some buffalo sauce on those chicken nuggets, then mix them with mac and cheese… Or something.

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