Deathloop - Colt vs Julianna

Deathloop is a curious game. The promotion leading up to its release made it difficult to really wrap one’s head around. Once it finally released into the wild, though, it became a lot clearer that this was in fact another Arkane Studios title much like their previous offerings, albeit one with a time-loop conceit and fewer stealth options. And there was a lot of buzz about the game, more so than I anticipated based on those early trailers. Surprisingly, the term masterpiece was bandied about, and some were saying it was a Game of the Year contender. A bit hyperbolic? Maybe.

Although I originally balked at the idea of ever playing — let alone ever owning — this game, I saw it was on sale a couple weeks back so I bit the bullet and purchased a copy, along with a heaping helping of crow in the eventuality I might have to eat a little.

That’s when I ran into a new and unexpected problem. I mean, I guess I should’ve seen it coming, since I had in fact watched every trailer and gameplay video that was a part of the prelaunch marketing. I had every advantage of foresight. But perhaps I just didn’t notice it until I had unfortunately already plunked down $40 for a digital copy that I am now stuck with.

So what’s my freakin’ problem? Well, Colt’s voice strikes me as offensive — but more than that, I find him incredibly annoying.

I get it, Deathloop is meant to be some sort of a throwback to 1960s and 1970s American Blaxploitation flicks. And I do mostly think the overall aesthetic works just fine, from what little I’ve experienced. But Colt’s dialogue is so infinitely cringey, and he talks so relentlessly — at least in the opening portion of the game — that it weighs heavy on my soul.

Deathloop - Colt

I just don’t get why video games specifically still tend to represent black men with these stereotypical husky, raspy, baritone, bad-MF voices. It’s so insulting. And yes, I’m also squarely looking at you, Barret and Lincoln Clay. Enough is enough.

I don’t know how diverse these development studios are, but I’m failing to see why anyone would think perpetuating this image is cool and rad and right-on or whatever. Yes, this sort of thing was a staple trope of the era and genre of films Deathloop in particular is emulating, but does that make it right?

From the moment Colt wakes up on the beach after the incredibly brief and seemingly out-of-place intro where you watch Julianna stab you to death, it’s just one gruff black-dude line after another, with plenty of high-pitched incredulity to spare. And there’s this bizarre discrepancy between Colt’s inner narrative voice level and the voice he uses when he tells himself he can’t pick up any more ammo. He goes from lamenting internally at a normal clip, only to sound distant and obviously recorded separately from the main dialogue. It’s surprisingly sloppy for a studio that’s otherwise known for endlessly obsessing over every aspect of their games.

And hey, maybe this is just me. I haven’t really heard other people mentioning this, and I certainly haven’t seen it in any of the gushing reviews that I read before purchasing Deathloop myself. So maybe this is just a weird, personal “me” problem. One side effect of being a minority in America post-Donald Trump is that your race-dar can be overly sensitive.

At the end of the day, I guess I will either need to play the game on mute or just let this one fade into the background, which is a shame considering the core gameplay is so interesting. Shoot, maybe I’ll just play Prey again; I hear the Mooncrash expansion is a better take on the Deathloop formula anyways…

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