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Deathloop review: Is it really the best PS5 game yet?

Let's do the time warp again, and again, and again.

Deathloop review
5.0 out of 5 star rating

Arkane’s Deathloop has been taking the gaming world by storm this week – the developers behind Dishonored and Prey have done it again, delivering a deeply satisfying experience that many are pegging as a potential game of the year winner for 2021. Some are even saying that it’s the best PS5 game yet. But does it live up to the hype?

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Short answer: yes. Yes, it does. Deathloop is very, very good. Those early review scores weren’t being overzealous in the slightest, at least in this writer’s opinion, and you’ve really got to admire what Arkane has managed to pull off here. It’s a game that keeps you coming back for more, with a gripping single-player campaign as well as a highly enjoyable multiplayer experience.

Deathloop takes place on a mysterious island called Blackreef, where an amnesiac assassin called Colt wakes up hungover on the beach. Soon he learns that he’s trapped in a time loop, a scientific phenomenon that is maintained by eight Visionaries – these somewhat barmy people are lording it over the island, and Colt is determined to take them all out in one perfect day that will break the loop.

Here at RadioTimes.com, we’ve been playing Deathloop all week, and it’s been nothing short of a delight to gradually work our way through it. This is a game that plays with time in creative ways and allows you to live out a proper power fantasy – by the end, you have supernatural abilities and powerful guns in abundance, and you’ve also got a deep knowledge of Blackreef (which is almost like a weapon in of itself). It’s a treat, basically, and you can keep on reading for our full thoughts.

There are heaps of weapons to find in Deathloop.
There are heaps of weapons to find in Deathloop.
Arkane

When you first start Deathloop, you’re likely to be just as confused as Colt, because the game doesn’t hold back – after a brief introduction to the basic mechanics, you’ll have free rein to explore four distinct open-world areas, each of which can be visited at different times of the day. Morning, noon, afternoon and evening are the time periods on offer, and each time period comes with different challenges. Characters will be in different places, for instance, and other obstacles will get in your way depending on the time of day.

Before you even know what’s going on, you’re likely to be struck by the excellent guitar-driven score and the eye-popping visuals – these are big, beautiful areas that Colt is exploring, and the whole island is infused with a sort of science-fiction-meets-art-deco aesthetic, rich in colourful details and funky furniture.

Thankfully, though, things do start to make sense, with help from the incredibly handy ‘leads’ system that keeps track of your discoveries and guides you to the next clue. The overall structure of the game is like a giant puzzle – it’s very satisfying to see it all slotting into place, as you piece together a plan that will allow you to take out all eight Visionaries in a single loop.

Speaking of the time loop, it’s also worth stressing again that Deathloop is not a roguelike – you don’t lose every ounce of your progress every time you die, which makes Deathloop a lot more forgiving than Returnal. Although the day resets after each evening session, sending you back to the morning, there are systems in place that allow you to handle that wrinkle in time.

Plus, you essentially have three ‘lives’ in each time period – you can bounce back after your first two deaths, but the loop will reset if you die a third time. Plus, you’ll learn a skill that allows you to keep weapons and other items permanently. (Hint: follow the links relating to a scientist called Wenjie as soon as you can.)

Although you start off with a fairly basic gun, there are some really enjoyable weapons to be found on Blackreef – we particularly enjoyed using a shiny multipurpose shooter that could function as two side arms or one big assault rifle. (Another hint: if you’re looking for the best weapons possible, you’ll want to follow the ‘arsenal leads’.)

The supernatural powers that you acquire are very fun, as well – fans of Dishonored will recognise some of these abilities, but newcomers will also enjoy experiencing them for the first time. Going invisible is a particularly handy one, we found. Part of the joy here, though, is working out your own specific combination of skills and weapons that works for you. You can be stealthy if you want, or you can try your luck with brazen firepower instead. Either approach can work, which is part of what makes Deathloop so great.

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Colt and Julianna are the heart of Deathloop.
Colt and Julianna are the heart of Deathloop.
Arkane

The two core characters in Deathloop are also part of the appeal. Colt is played with charmingly goofy energy by voice actor Jason E. Kelley (a refreshing twist on your typical gruff, grumpy gaming protagonist), while his rival assassin Julianna is enigmatic but always quick with a quip (it’s a great voice performance by Ozioma Akagha).

Their banter is the heart of the game, and the sheer number of conversations they have is staggering – every loop will start with a new chat between the two, unless you do a seriously OTT number of loops. You’ve got to applaud the attention to detail in the writing there, even though some of the villainous characters seem a little thin by comparison.

Julianna is also at the heart of the game’s imaginative multiplayer mode – in this mode, you’re able to take control of Julianna and invade other players’ loops. Your goal here is to take out Colt and stop him from breaking the loop, and this fresh perspective allows you to see each area in a whole new way – for one thing, the Visionaries’ goons won’t try to attack Julianna, which means you can poke about in a lot more places. It’s a fun mode, especially when you’re invading the game of a friend rather than a random player, and it’s a nice way to give Deathloop even more replay-ability.

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From the sheer depth of the world to the winning variety of valid approaches, Deathloop is a truly impressive achievement from Arkane. It looks and sounds fantastic (Tom Salta’s musical score really is something to behold), and the game does a wonderful job of teaching you how to progress whilst also giving you freedom to do your own thing.

The combat feels just right, too, as does the game’s approach to trapping you in a loop but also allowing you to build up your arsenal. Everything feels perfectly balanced, and it’s easy to imagine players coming back to Deathloop time and time again.

Is Deathloop the best PS5 game yet? For our money, it is. We haven’t played a game with this level of depth on Sony’s PlayStation 5 before, and we’ve rarely had as much fun as this either. There is good news for players on other platforms, though – because Arkane was recently bought by Microsoft, it’s probably only a matter of time before a Deathloop Xbox release date is announced. Until then, PS5 and PC players should enjoy the privilege of getting to play this masterpiece.

Deathloop is out now on PS5 and PC. We reviewed the PS5 version.

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