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Deathloop is out now for PC and PlayStation 5, and the reception to Arkane's latest game has been nothing short of uproarious. Its deliciously moreish gameplay finds its home on the fictional island of Blackreef, where a group of stifled yet arrogant Visionaries have arrived to while away the hours. Thanks to the time loop, they've got forever to cause chaos, torture their accomplices, experiment without ethics, and be bone idle if the feeling takes them.
Colt Vahn, our playable protagonist, has had enough. Awakening for the umpteenth time with a face full of sand, he takes it upon himself to break the loop. That will involve the assassination of its eight principal Visionaries - after all, you can't make an omelette without smashing a few eggs.
The remnants of a scientific research project on the island is the fascination of his archenemies, and some of them possess a supernatural power, aka a Slab, that gives them the edge over you. Fortunately, this Slab can also be yours for the low, low price of murder and looting their corpse, along with the enormous number of guns and shooty-bang accessories strewn about the locales.
I'll be transparent - there was a point in my playthrough (read our review, here) where I was unsure of what I wanted to take out in my loadout or how the game's loop affected my choice of ability and weapons. If you've got the game or you're planning to pick it up, then we've got just the guide for you from one of the key members of the Arkane team!
Recently, we had the chance to chat to director Dinga Bakaba about the game and how it provokes the player to think outside the box and try out new personas. Extremely violent personas that whip through the streets of Blackreef like a force of nature. Yeah.
Check out some gameplay of Deathloop here, flaunting a slick and stylish '60s aesthetic and the most brutal of assassinations with a range of weapons!
Bakaba explained that your proficiency with the abilities and weapons that Colt will acquire isn't intended to be a smooth and straightforward learning curve. "It's more about, 'select two powers and three weapons and a couple of upgrades, and go,'" said the director, who emphasised that the risks are what ensures Deathloop is entertaining on the fourth loop and on the 14th.
"Some people will go to the most effective thing and just tweak it, depending on the new gear they acquire. Whereas some people have a goal in mind that they will try to build out this fantasy - 'I will be the super fast guy, I will be the character that no one ever sees and manipulates machines,' you know, a gremlin or something."
I'm certainly guilty of being a gremlin in Dishonored 2, preferring to take to the shadows, remove my obstacles non-lethally and without any alerts, and reload if it all goes to hell in a handbasket. It's how I started Deathloop, too, until the lure of being able to share cool clips of me raining havoc upon Eternalists became too tempting. I'll bet that the more purposeful players among us will undergo this transformation as more and more guns and abilities unlock, yet you've got to be ready to make mistakes in this game. A lot of them.
Here, there isn't the luxury of returning a previous quicksave, rewinding the latest submission to Blackreef's Been Framed!. Though hedonistic and swaying in the sea breeze, the enemies hit hard and if even a handful are able to surround Colt, then it's curtains. Fortunately, the Reprise ability offers the player two second chances upon death and the opportunity to find their fallen body to take back the Residuum that you've gathered. NPCs will even comment on the fact that they have killed you before, which makes your vengeful return all the more satisfying.
You'll recall the fact that some of the Visionaries have a power that lets them evade or best Colt in combat. Charlie has Shift, which is snappy teleportation; Fia has Havoc, increasing damage done and decreasing damage sustained; Egor has Aether, which cloaks the player from watchful eyes; Harriet has Nexus, linking individuals together to suffer the same fate; and Alexis has Karnesis; which flings enemies about with telekinetic force.
Of the Slabs available, I've enjoyed Aether very much as it is ideal for sneaking past security, offing a few Eternalists, and eavesdropping on crucial conversations. Indeed, Deathloop is a game that will see you gesturing wildly, cigarette ash scattering as you pace from corner to corner, tape and string tying together the innumerable clues that the Visionaries betray in order to break the loop for good. Mentally, of course. Smoking is bad for you.
"It's more about what is an interesting set of abilities to take with you into the mission that adds a theme to your play style," continued Bakaba. And while you might give anything to undo the mistake that made you misjudge where the ice ended and the freezing sea started (weirdly specific isn't it), Arkane isn't interested in perfection in Deathloop.
"In a game that is a time loop, death and failure and even seeing my failure, like I want it to be unseen," he elaborated. "And now I'm detected and five people are running after me. And this one is calling the radio and turrets are coming online around me... and I'm not dead, I can survive this. But, whatever happens, it will be part of my story.
"So we are kind of forcing the players to be creative here by making sure that, again, their missteps are part of the story of Colt and their story through the game getting to this goal of breaking the loop."
Deathloop is as anarchic, chaotic and terrifying as it is sharp, satisfying and stylish, and I've relished my experiences with the game so far. There really are a lot of different ways to play and some things you'll only stumble upon once you've put the considerable arsenal of guns and abilities through their paces. Plus, there's the absurdly powerful kick that Colt's got on him. Honestly. Try it once and trust me, you'll never reach for your sniper rifle again.