Deathloop devs on having fun and letting players push its boundaries with its Golden Loop update

(Image credit: Arkane)

As Deathloop finally lands on Xbox Series X and S, so too does the time-manipulating first-person shooter's 'Golden Loop' update – bringing with it a wealth of new abilities, Deathloop weapons, enemies, and, at the request of existing players, a new ending. Not that Deathloop has ever taken itself too seriously since last year's release on PS5 and PC, but with its new additions, there's a tangible sense that developer Arkane has really let its hair down; that with these nips and tucks the studio is having fun. And, as we've come to expect from a team who rarely puts a foot wrong, choice once more underpins everything that it's thrusting into the hands of its players. 

Fugue, for example, is a new Deathloop power that slows and confuses targets, momentarily rendering them harmless. It can be upgraded to turn enemies hostile against one another, and, should said enemy die while infected with Fugue, a further upgrade will cause that enemy to inflict Fugue on their nearby allies too. The Halps Prototype, on the other hand, is an energy cannon whose laser beams are ripe for ricochets and bank shots, in turn adding a new layer of depth to cover and combat. 

"Choice and having fun are such important parts of all the new features we've added," explains Jonathan Foudral, Deathloop senior producer and creative lead on the Golden Loop update. "We're always considering how we support different kinds of playthroughs, and when we add new systems and features, we always need to make sure they work with all the existing ones. With Fugue, it confuses enemies, so you might use it to sneak in behind them, or you might use it in the middle of combat to make them vulnerable. You can choose stealth or create chaos, but we always want it to be fun."

Paint the town red


(Image credit: Arkane )

In motion, combining Fugue's myriad traits to overcome packs of enemies is, indeed, very entertaining – so much so, that I can't think of an ability that highlights the fun in Deathloop's incidental moments better than this one. This is true in most of Arkane's games over the last 10 years, but there are some proper laugh-out-loud moments to be had here, while watching baddies stumbling around drunk, picking fights and watching the Fugue state spread like a virus. Using Fugue in tandem with Nexus – an existing ability that links enemies by body and mind – creates even more carnage, again underscoring the joy derived from your choices and decision-making on the fly.  

Another new feature that plays into Deathloop's scope for experimentation is its 'Paint-Bomber' enemies. Strapped with paint-filled explosives, combat with these guys is a colorful affair, wherein nailing the first hit is essential lest you paint the walls of Blackreef with their paint and your blood. "This enemy type was born from a combination of player feedback, and from some early ideas that didn't make it into the base game," explains senior gameplay programmer, Francesco Venco. "People asked for more variety in encounters, so these enemies definitely change the face of combat quite a bit. I was amazed by the work of the artists here, these enemies are just so gorgeous to see in-game."

Foudral adds: "What's great about the Paint-Bombers is that we sometimes make features that don't work out as good as we expected. Other times, however, it works way, way better than expected. And that's the case here. They can make combat situations so different from before – you're going to want to prioritize killing them as they run towards you; you might use them to hurt other enemies; you can even kill them before they've set up their bombs, meaning you can pick up the bombs and throw them at other enemies. You get these guys in tight spaces, and… wow! In terms of the immersive sim elements of Deathloop, and that degree of open choice, they have some really cool interactions worth exploiting."

Smiles ahead 


(Image credit: Arkane)

"Things like the Paint-Bombers, like Fugue – Deathloop is definitely the right game for us in terms of letting our fantasy ideas run wild."

Again, Deathloop was hardly rainbows and smiles before the Golden Loop update, but with the likes of  its new Fugue ability, its pinballing Halps Prototype laser cannon, and, of course, its Paint-Bomber baddies, there's a degree of free expression  on the developer's side that would probably have felt out of place in the likes of Dishonored, its sequel, and 2017's Prey. Foudral is pleased that this sense of fun and enjoyment is felt by players, and says the stresses of the pandemic helped bring things into focus for  the team. Speaking specifically to the Paint-Bomber enemy type, he says that while other games have explosive red barrels, Deathloop now has its own mobile version of this. 

Venco adds: "Things like the Paint-Bombers, like Fugue – Deathloop is definitely the right game for us in terms of letting our fantasy ideas run wild. Especially for the artists, I think, but even on the gameplayer programming team, being able to get creative has been great for us, especially during what's been a difficult period for everyone."

Foundral circles back to offering players as many choices in Deathloop's moment-to-moment action as possible, saying that despite having been part of Arkane Lyon's journey since its Dishonored days a decade ago, seeing players push the boundaries of their games in new and exciting ways never ceases to amaze. Laughing, he says: "Seeing players come up with their own ways of playing our games is never not amazing. But, I must say, it's also frustrating simply because we work for years on these games, and we still find players discovering stuff that we haven't. We try to think of every situation and, clearly, we can't. Let's just say that we're always surprised – but we're not surprised by being surprised anymore!"

If you fancy pushing Deathloop to new limits, its Golden Loop update is out now for PS5, Xbox Series X and PC. 

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Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.