Deathloop PS5 hands-on: Whatever you think this game is, you're wrong

(Image credit: Bethesda)

If I'm being totally honest, I have no idea what the fuck is going on in Deathloop. There's eight targets and time to kill, but after sinking no fewer than eight hours into cycling back around through the Isle of Blackreef I don't feel like I'm any closer to breaking the loop. Truth be told, I still don't know where all of my targets reside, how to reach them, and how I can get out of the compounds I have found without catching a cavalcade of bullets in my chest. Then again, I do know that I'm having a great time with Deathloop, so what does it matter? 

GamesRadar's Leon Hurley recently noted that Deathloop sounds like Hitman 2 if all its levels were running on top of one another. And that's partly true, only Arkane's latest is first-person, more aggressive, vibrant, and complicated. Eight assassinations need to be carried out in a single day, with targets residing in – and moving between – four distinct areas, across four world-state-altering periods of the day. Figuring out how to break routines is key to breaking the timeloop... You know what, maybe 'complicated' isn't the correct descriptive – I'd rather we went with 'complex'. Deathloop can feel so complex that it'll make your brain ache. Yeah, that works.

Stick to the cycle

I'll always cherish the moment that Deathloop clicked into place. I couldn't tell you how many cycles it took, but as Colt awoke to see that damned sunrise again something felt different. Equipped with three rare weapons, a couple of Trinkets, and two upgraded reality-altering powers that I quite liked – retained even in death after Infusing them with enough of a collected resource named Residuum in previous cycles – I decided to stop obsessing over the day resetting in death (or the evening, whichever should come first) and the assassination targets I knew I could easily reach, and just started exploring. 

Because, initially, it seems like your only real mechanism for interacting with the world is through the ironsights of whatever weapon you can get your hands on. It's an easy trap to fall into, given how much fun it is to cruise through The Complex, Updaam, Karl's Bay, and Fristad Rock at all times of the day, pumping bullets into everything that moves. The weapon handling is snappy and deliberate, with Arkane demonstrating real growth across its time developing Dishonored, Prey, and collaborating with MachineGames on Wolfenstein: Youngblood. Whether you're holding a two-handed shotgun or rifle or sliding around dual-wielding a hand cannon and SMG, there's real joy to be had in squeezing the (tension-filled DualSense) trigger in Deathloop.   

As architecturally diverse as Deathloop's locations are, I did begin to fear that some of the magic of Dishonored and Prey had been lost – games that excel at presenting layered spaces, the tools to conquer them, and no hint as to how best you should progress to reach the final destination. When you're running and gunning in Deathloop, using stealth to get an advantageous starting position against groups of Eternalists, or linking up the otherworldly powers – each carries less utility than their Dishonored counterparts, but are no less entertaining to wield – to create carnage,  it's easy to forget about the verticality of the spaces and the secrets that could be contained therein. 

It was only when I accidentally stumbled into a basement complex that started to slowly fill with poisonous gas, a locked prison that I couldn't escape by simply hacking a remote entry point or by rifling through enough abandoned paperwork to find a relevant lock combination, that I realised I had been going about Deathloop all wrong. That loop ended prematurely, but it was a teaching moment: Arkane games are about the journey, and I had become needlessly obsessed with reaching the destination. 

Exploration is everything


(Image credit: Bethesda)

"Arkane games are about the journey, and I had become needlessly obsessed with reaching the destination"

With that in mind, Deathloop began to transform into something else entirely. I started combing over areas meticulously and it felt like I couldn't go more than a few minutes without discovering some new piece to the puzzle. I was stumbling onto hidden passageways and walkways that could lead me past groups of enemies and automated defenses, into the path of Visionaries at different points in their routines, and across areas that were too deadly to access in the present but could be in the future should the correct conditions be met. 

I found an underground hideaway with a complicated manual lock affixed to a thick slab of concrete that requires a three-letter, six-number combination to open. I spent an hour looking for it before giving up. I'm pretty sure I stumbled across Deathloop's version of the Dishonored 2 Jindosh Lock, which requires a multitude of multiple-choice trivia questions be answered before it will give up an unknown prize – an impossible ask that pushed me to keep a pen and paper by my side, just in case I should stumble across a solution while out in the world. Oh, and then there's the cycle of suicide that… you know what, no, I don't want to say anything else. The mysteries of Deathloop deserve to be discovered.

Deathloop is developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It's set to release on September 14, 2021, for PC and as a timed-exclusive for PS5, before launching on Xbox Series X in 2022.

Josh West
Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar+. He has over 15 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.