‘We knew it’ we proudly advocate, now that Deathloop is official on the Xbox Series consoles as well as in the Game Pass, a year after its release on Playstation, thus ending its temporary exclusivity signed with Sony before the acquisition of Bethesda and its studios by Microsoft. But remember, we were less clever earlier this month when Microsoft announced Game Pass games for September and Arkane Studios’ latest baby wasn’t on the list. Worry rightly as the critics were unanimous last year when it was released, rewarding it with a splendid 88 on Metacritic. No more panic, it is accompanied by an update entitled Golden Loop that it arrives through the front door. Let’s go back together on what makes it such a beloved title.
Just a loop
Difficult to explain the very principle of Deathloop. Not that it’s hard to understand, just that it’s full of so many good ideas that it becomes a jumble of genres resulting in a unique experience. The game therefore offers a loop (hence its name, ‘loop’ in English meaning loop) which is repeated constantly, like the film ‘un day without end’. Colt, our protagonist, wakes up amnesiac on an unknown beach and he quickly understands that he is stranded on an island, with no possible escape.
As the only guide, handwritten messages (very stylized, by the way) appear on our screen at the same time as they appear in the eyes of our character, whispering in his ear what to do. At sunset, the day begins again. Again and again and again. Same when Colt passes from life to death, he undoubtedly wakes up at dawn, lying on this beach, a place that we will have the opportunity to see countless times. Only Julianna, a mysterious assassin, seems to be aware of this loop and the ordeal that Colt is going through. Although a certain complicity mixed with a rivalry settles between them, the latter is above all there to stop our progress and prevent us from breaking this famous time loop. Certainly, Julianna is one of our most formidable enemies.
To get out of there, we must successfully cool down 8 unique characters present on the island. 8 special targets across 4 levels, divided into 4 different periods of the day. Less complicated than it seems, our objective slowly takes shape after a few hours of play. Just remember that each level comes in 4 variations, morning, noon, evening and night.
Depending on the moment chosen, certain areas open (or close) to us, the doors unlock, the NPCs travel, in short several subtleties that we will have to assimilate in order to succeed in the perfect loop, that is to say assassinate all our targets before the day ends and therefore starts again, canceling all our progress. Time only progresses between levels and not when we are in them, allowing us to freely explore these huge game areas, in order to discover the many shortcuts and hiding places.
Succeed in ‘closing’ the adventure
We spoke to you a little earlier about the ‘perfect loop’, let me clarify this for you. Although it reveals a freedom of approach as to the choice of our targets and the order in which we choose our level, the progression in Deathloop is actually very scripted. There are not many ways to end the game, it is up to us to find the unique order of eliminations that will make it possible to reach the end of the game.
We are therefore, in the end, far from a Hitman, at least on the screenplay level. The scenario is also one of the great strengths of the game, this very ‘sandbox’ and yet linear vision allows for exemplary staging and narration, giving it a unique identity. A common thread is present, our ‘missions’ are explained through our menu and it is even possible to display on our map where and when to go to a place, thus avoiding getting lost in this universe which can be turn out to be dense (even opaque, in its first hours). Although one of the great pleasures of the game is precisely its exploration and the discovery of clues, we advise you as much as possible to avoid these aids in order to take full advantage of the incredible level design of the game.
Full of areas to explore, hidden places, doors to unlock, the four locations are the work of a goldsmith as great care has been given to them.
We still discover secret places after more than twenty hours of play, rewarding each time the exploration and the curiosity of the player, whether by unique weapons or by well-felt dialogues, always teaching us more about Colt and Julianna’s past.
A locked door is rarely synonymous with a dead end, many progression options are available to us, such as being able to bypass it via a hidden tunnel, or by teleporting from roof to roof. The game also plays with verticality, enhancing the creativity of the player, allowing many different approaches.
Corvo X Doomslayer
This loop principle does not only have a screenplay aspect, it directly impacts the gameplay. Colt finds himself at the starting point at each loop, which is also the case for us as a player. Goodbye weapons and powers, upgrades and our progress, we start all over again. This could confuse at first, or even perhaps discourage some.
But don’t worry, we very quickly unlock the possibility of infusing our weapons and our powers, thus allowing us to keep more and more after each death. Same for the shortcuts, once unlocked they will remain so for the loops after. There is clearly a margin of personal progression, as in all good ‘die and retry’, the experience of the player and the knowledge of the levels will facilitate the following loops enormously.
To help us eliminate our targets, as well as the swarms of enemies that stand in our way, a more or less complex arsenal is available to us. Several types of more or less classic weapons, ranging from pistols to rifles that shoot nails, themselves available in several levels of rarity. We will also be able to modify them, by adding bonuses or accessories, in order to personalize our way of playing as much as possible. Added to this are our powers, few in number but very useful, which themselves improve in several ways.
In short, imagine the gameplay of a Dishonored, less discretion and all boosted with amphetamines. One of the powers allows us to teleport a short distance, thus favoring short-range weapons, or allowing us to cross a precipice. Another power, visually impressive, binds the fate of our enemies to each other. All you have to do is headshot one of them to finish off all the others. And if our confrontations begin timidly, our rise in power will be rapid, to the point of knocking out hordes of enemies by rushing head first. Enemies that will eventually serve mainly as cannon fodder. With some exceptions.
Our 8 special targets bear the sweet name of Visionaries and are all entitled to a very stylized presentation. We can relate them to mini-bosses, since they are often well surrounded and also have special powers and weapons, which we will quickly steal from them once they have cooled down. They also have a background that often turns out to be captivating. 8 targets that we will learn to know by heart, both by their habits and by their movements, and whose each interaction gives way to well-felt dialogues.
We will avoid going into too much detail and we will leave you the pleasure of the surprise, these are colorful and contribute to the crazy atmosphere of the game.
Speaking of atmosphere, it’s hard to miss the retro 60’s, based on velcro, jazzy music and kitsch decor in which we evolve. Blackreef is a relic of the past, where its inhabitants experience the same day over and over again, sprinkled with lust and party nights. The crossover settings vary greatly, ranging from a secret military base reminiscent of a James Bond villain to a scientific encampment in the middle of a glacier. Until an end in apotheosis from a scriptwriting point of view, although the last hours prove to be slightly repetitive joystick in hand, the time to redo the loop one last time.
If you have followed the communication around the game, you have probably noticed that a multiplayer component is also there. Julianna, our nemesis who chases us through the levels, can be played by an opposing player. This option can be deactivated and does not, in the end, add much to the adventure. Unless you want to invade the universe of another Colt yourself in order to put a spoke in the wheel.
What’s new in this Golden Loop version? A new weapon, a new type of enemy, skins and several new improvements are waiting for you. Some weapons have different upgrades, giving the player the choice to adapt their equipment even more according to their way of playing. Far from drastically changing the gaming experience, these small changes bring a breath of fresh air that fleshes out an already dense game, without distorting the basic proposal.
As for this Xbox Series adaptation, no surprise from a technical point of view, the game runs perfectly and its gestation period of an additional year will have eliminated the few bugs that slightly marred the title when it was released. There’s even a cross-platform option for matchmaking. The only noticeable absence is that of the features specific to the DualSense, such as the adaptive triggers and the speaker integrated into the controller, used for dialogues with Julianna. Not enough to upset the gaming experience, but we would have liked an alternative.
Test conducted on Xbox Series X.