September 16, 2021

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Deathloop review: a thrilling, slick adventure – and Arkane’s best game yet

At the heart of Deathloop in both narrative and video game terms is the titular loop. One might argue that Arkane Studios has embraced something of a loop itself, too. There’s a certain type of game they make, a certain feel that ties together Dishonored, Prey, and now Deathloop. Like this game’s lead, Arkane has forged a new path with a canny combination of repetition and experimentation; repeating and refining many of the mechanics and ideas that made their past games great, while introducing new concepts that serve to elevate the game as a whole.

Like I said, chief among those mechanics is the loop. The island of Blackreef has been trapped inside a repeating daily cycle – and so regardless of if you die or survive the course of the day, you’ll wake up back in the same spot on the same morning. In the single-player narrative, protagonist Colt Vahn’s mission is to break the loop – which can only be done by committing a specific set of murders. Your targets are often well-fortified and protected, and thus reaching them will require a bunch of knowledge that, at the game’s onset, Colt doesn’t have.

Deathloop is built around this basic conceit. You’ll have leads on intelligence, new weapons, and ways to assassinate your targets – and though it’s impossible to tackle every lead at once, Colt and his rival assassin, Juliana, keep their knowledge between loops, while everyone else forgets. In some ways the way you approach this is linear – you get a bunch of information throughout a day that’ll allow you to do something specific in the next loop. In other ways it’s more open-ended, where you’re basically unlocking shortcuts – a passcode to a door learned in one loop will be remembered and can be used next time, and so on.

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