How many of you have woken up on a beach nursing a hangover? I’m sure that some of you have. How many of you have woken up on a beach with no recollection of what happened before? I bet that answer also isn’t quite zero. Now, how many of you have woken up on a beach, with no recollection of how you got there and with everyone in the area out to kill you? Hopefully, none of you.
One man that has certainly woken up in that situation is Colt, the protagonist of Deathloop, and as the dawn greets him, it’s quickly clear that he’s going to have a very long and deadly day ahead of him. Again.
You see, Colt is trapped in a twisted version of Groundhog Day. Everytime Colt dies or reaches the end of a day, time loops back around and the day starts all over again. The only way to break out of this situation is to break the loop, and to do that Colt has to kill the Visionaries. These eight individuals all have power on the time locked island of Blackreef, and while they live, the loop will continue. The mission sounds simple enough, but the execution will take a lot of meticulous planning to pull off. As each day resets, the Visionaries will come back to life, so you have to work out how to get every one of them. This situation is made more difficult as two Visionaries could be reachable at just one time of day, but in different areas of the island.
Time is a factor as you explore the island, find clues and make observations to learn about the loop and how you can manipulate it, but it’s not constantly ticking. There’s no clock in the corner of the screen to worry about as you’re in an area, with time only passing as you move from one part of the island to another. You only have morning, noon, afternoon and evening to get the job done, keeping things nice and compact even if you survive to the end of a loop.
The island of Blackreef is split into four main districts – Updaam, Karl’s Bay, The Complex, and Fristad Rock – each with its own style, dangers, and discoveries. They also change depending on the time of day and feel the ripple effect of your actions up until that point in a given loop. The environmental design is outstanding with the world designed in such a way that you’ll easily notice alternative pathways to explore, helping you sneak into an area or set up a kill zone. Open windows can lead to whole other mysteries that do not have anything to do with the main quest, but you are enticed to find out what they lead to and story beats they hide. Exploring also nets valuable discoveries that can aid you later. A discovery you make early on may not initially make sense, but fall into place a few loops later.
Colt starts off armed with a small sub-machine gun that is prone to jamming, some grenades, and a machete, but also has a supernatural ability called Reprise that can bring him back from the dead twice in a single loop. You can expand his range of abilities by taking out the Visionaries and retrieving the Slab that gave them their own powers, while Trinkets can be used to boost Colt’s weapons or Colt himself.
Of course, all of the things Colt picks up only lasts until the end of a loop, after which all these items disappear. The way around this is earning the ability to infuse items so that they remain in his arsenal after time resets. This costs Residium, a resource found on Blackreef from items and from killing Visionaries. You have to balance your budget because it may be worth infusing a trinket, but overspend and you may not be able to keep a Slab you grabbed from a Visionary. Considering these Slabs unlock powers like shifting, going invisible, and linking enemies so they share the same fate – a Dishonored 2 classic – they are really worth holding on to. Additionally, losing a Slab means extra work to upgrade them as you can only upgrade the Slab by re-murdering a Visionary and taking the same Slab again on the next loop.
Weapons and Trinkets come in different rarities. The most basic weapons are prone to jamming, while the elite weapons are more refined and come with unique abilities. More advanced Trinkets can help Colt double jump or harvest a lot more Residium. Colt also has access to a device called a Hackamajig which, as the name suggests, lets you hack anything with a receiver. These could be alarm sensors or turrets as well as doors. There is a certain sense of accomplishment when you hack a few turrets, and then position them to create a trap that you can lure enemies to.
What really elevates Deathloop is Colt as a character and the main antagonist Julianna. Colt is really fun to play as and there’s always some kind of humorous observations while exploring Blackreef. The conversations he has with Julianna reveal a lot of information as well as conveying that the characters have a past. They rile each other up, argue, and just bounce really well off of each other. It really is one of the more memorable protagonist/antagonist relationships in recent memory, but Julianna is not just a voice on the radio. She is a hunter and she is coming for Colt. She’s not ever-present, but is sure to be the reason for the end of a few of your loops.
This is also where the multiplayer element of Deathloop comes in, as you unlock the Protect The Loop game mode. This casts you as Julianna, invading other players’ games and getting to put a stop to their attempts to break the loop by killing them. Julianna is able to disguise herself as anyone else on the map (including as Colt) to try and confuse the hunted player, as well as toy with the game world, moving traps around and alerting the Visionaries if you spot Colt and tag him. You can level up and unlock new equipment to use when playing as Julianna, as well as new costumes for Colt. This is all entirely optional, and you have the option to turn off invasions if you prefer not to have people coming in to disrupt your flow.