One day, eight targets, a day that repeats over and over until you get it right… From the very beginning, Arkane Studios’ pitch of Deathloop sounded like something far out of the ordinary from anything it had put together before. From the mix of grindhouse grit and ‘70s spy flick in the game’s art style and sound to the addictive mix of aggressive and silent combat and the intense weapons and tools provided, Deathloop is culmination of everything Arkane has learned. And it’s distilled into one pulse-pounding effort to break this damn loop.
The biggest stars of this show are Colt Vahn and Julianna Blake, played incredibly well by Jason E. Kelley and Ozioma Akagha respectively. Their banter is a constant companion and it provides excellent exposition without giving too much away as they constantly and enjoyably bounce snide remarks and one-upsmanship off of each other throughout the game. They’re joined by a colorful cast of Visionaries that Colt has to kill if he’s going to break the loop and end the cycle that keeps the island of Blackreef strapped to the same day.
Deathloop is an incredibly elaborate murder puzzle and between loops, more powerful than any weapon, is the information you gather to solve it. There are four locations and a day is split into four time periods you can explore as much as you want, but each of the locations is drastically different depending on what time you arrive. Understanding everyone’s schedules, the quirks in each area, when a special opportunity might provide you with new gear or a special chance at one of your targets is all part of the fun.
Of course, even if information is the deadliest weapon in this game, it doesn’t make the actual weapons any less cool. Deathloop is the most allowing Arkane has ever been in terms of allowing you to go as silent or loud as you want without much consequence. A bevy of typical Arkane powers are here, like shifting place to place or linking enemies together so if you pop one melon, you kill them all. However, the game also contains a grisly array of firearms that handle with delightful impact. It has one of the best-feeling shotguns around and the silenced nail gun was the entire core of an argument that won this game another award. Simply put, Deathloop has the most satisfying first-person shooter feel Arkane has ever packed into its games.
If all of this wasn’t enough to put Deathloop apart, its visual style certainly does too. Deathloop’s characters, environments, and the isle of Blackreef itself contain a fascinating mix of styles that elicit thoughts of 007 movies right alongside grindhouse schlock and further colorful inspirations. We Happy Few and No One Lives Forever come to mind in the thematics found in Deathloops characters and masked henchmen. Accompanying it well is an adaptive soundtrack. There’s a definite core theme to Deathloop and it’s remixed and reworked with great variety throughout many of the areas in the game. What’s more, it plays to you, going soft and suspenseful when you’re running stealthy and getting aggressive and burly when you do the same.
Deathloop was a top contender in a lot of our Shacknews Awards conversations this year and for good reason. It was great at a lot of things where many other games where just a bit more exemplary in their individual categories. What that led to at the end of the day was a game that consistently voted high among all involved. It’s a great action, adventure, stealth, and FPS game with a fantastic art style, amazing music, and engaging characters. It is Arkane at their absolute tip-top best so far, and that absolute best has earned it the Shacknews Game of the Year 2021 award.