Deathloop Review – All You Need Is Kill

Time loop games have now come in fashion as of recently, and it’s interesting to see the immersive sim specialists at Arkane Studios have a new game just as this new theme comes in fashion.

Arkane Austin toyed with the idea of time loops and roguelikes with Prey (2017) and its underrated Mooncrasher DLC. But what if they doubled down on those gameplay hooks? And have Arkane Lyon, the other Arkane team that did Dishonored 1 and 2, develop it?

The result is Deathloop, a time-looping action game that branches significantly from its old immersive sim roots, but is it for the better?

One thing’s for sure, it’s a really good time, over and over again.


An Arkane game used to have this distinct water paintery stylised aesthetic, but with Deathloop that art style has become more realistic. It’s not to say it becomes generic. If anything, the switch to the swinging 60s, Cold War-era styling has made the art style more pronounced. It can be drab and dark as well as bright and fluorescent, depending on which part of the island of Blackreef we’re talking about.

The artstyle is paired with a period-appropriate soundtrack. The spy thriller-ish music that escalates into a spy movie action music of the era during combat makes for a perfect complement to the exhilarating shootouts you’ll be doing a lot. And I love that the dynamic music de-escalates by just having a drum and bass solo when enemies are on alert but can’t see you.

The main cast provided some very nice performances giving life to this eclectic group of successful people. I can hear the main characters, Colt and Julianna, banter for hours and not get sick of it. And I like that Colt is exceptionally verbose. He has a large vocabulary of random words, but also knows a lot of different ways to say the F word.

The handful of Visionaries that are the focus of Deathloop are all peculiar characters you’ll remember, and have benefitted from the strong voice performance. Though don’t expect period-appropriate lingo, these folks speak and banter feel like how people from 2021 speak, which helps make it sound natural.

Deathloop is powered by Arkane’s Void Engine (their own proprietary game engine based on Id Software’s Id Tech) similar to Dishonored 2, but with the game being a next-gen exclusive on console (it’s only out on PS5 for now), the PC specs required to run the game is beefy.

It’s a bit rough performance-wise on PC, and other players have reported similar issues (which also plagued Dishonored 2’s launch). Hopefully, that would be ironed out in due time, but it’s worth noting that Prey and Dishonored suffered the same performance issues on launch, and disappointingly so is Deathloop.


In Deathloop, Colt gets up in the morning amnesiac, not knowing who he is, where he is, nothing. With some help from your adversary Julianna and ominous floating words that you (and Colt) sees, you figured what’s happening and what to do. Everyone on Blackreef is in a time loop, and there’s only one way to break the loop- kill all the VIPs on the island, the Visionaries, including Julianna.

Sounds simple enough.

But there are layers to it, which you will be walked through in the first loop and a bit where the places you go are all pre-determined. Deathloop takes a while to really sink in with its long tutorial, but it also doesn’t waste time where you just sit around watching a scene either. A lot of time is spent on the controls, doing the objectives to further the story and introduce the many mechanics of the game.

You’ll know exactly when you’re done, and with full control at hand, you can explore Blackreef however you want.

To figure how to break the loop, you will need to follow leads. These serve as your main objectives to help you get started to piece together this “murder puzzle”, as Arkane refers to the main gameplay loop.

And you do that by “save scumming” until you figured out how to do the perfect loop-breaking run. By save-scumming, I don’t mean abusing the quicksaves and quickloads which are intentionally not present here, but replaying the day again in a new loop.

The Map Is A Playground

Blackreef is divided into four different districts to explore. These maps are relatively small compared to open-world games but gigantic compared to games like Dishonored and Prey. The maps here are densely detailed, with a lot of secrets and hints to discover, learn and remember.

The districts feel like believable spaces where if there’s no video game happening it genuinely can be a place for humans to live in. They all feel anchored, or rather, immersive, despite being four separate maps.

Go to the shores of the Fridstard Rock and you can see the residential uptown of Updaam built on the high cliffs, the hangars of Karl’s Bay down the bottom of said cliff, and a huge circular dish looming over the island residing from The Complex. All of which are districts you will be exploring over and over again.

Immersive sim fans will be well at home with these maps. But now you don’t need to scrounge through every alley and open every door for completionist sake in one sitting, you can always visit them later. Though visiting the districts later will change somehow change the map in some form. Some areas are only accessible at a certain time of day. Some areas require specific things to happen during the day earlier for it to open up.

The maps also get progressively trashed by the party-goers, the Eternalists, that makes up the goons and enemies you encounter every day.

There’s no dynamic time here so if you want to you still can explore every map without time pressure. As you expect from games like this, most events only trigger when you are in the vicinity.

In all four districts you can find the Visionaries stationed inside their own little fortress, so to speak. From the usual big party house where everyone wears a mask to an open ground layered in booby traps, each of these fortresses (and the encounter with the Visionary) will require you to learn the layout and discover its mechanics to properly do the deed. And there is more than one way to ensure they are dead, which you can find by thoroughly exploring the environment.

You will start off overwhelmed, not knowing how all the paths lead to, and scared as hell when seeing a bunch of Eternalists hanging out too close with each other. By the end of Deathloop, you’ll learn how to read a map, have mentally mapped out the layout of each district, and confidently do haphazard moves because you already know what to expect.

The maps are less of a sandbox, and more of a playground and the enemies will become your playthings to toy with.

If you played the Dishonored games, or the new Hitman games, you’ll be familiar with this need to master the map and using it to your advantage. And in Deathloop it is as gratifying as it is in other Arkane games. Just don’t expect a Clockwork Mansion level of set-pieces this time, but each Visionaries’ fortress has its gimmicks.

Shoot Them All

Arkane is the contemporary torchbearer of the immersive sims, a game design philosophy that loosely involves as a focus of a set of consistent rules and systems that promotes emergent gameplay, a believable and well-fleshed world and respect towards player agency. And usually, immersive sims ended up as steath-action games where you can go quiet like a fox to complete your objectives or just go loud and start blastin’.

Previous Arkane games have, either unintentionally or not, make players gravitate toward stealth play and leave most of the cooler tools at your disposal left unused.

In Deathloop, the game makes it loud and clear Colt is willing to kill and is happy to do it. You hear it from his voice lines or the mind goblins in him manifested in the form of those floating words. “SHOOT THEM ALL” and “KNOCK KNOCK MOTHER***ERS” are usually seen.

There’s no chaos system. You are the chaos in Deathloop. All you need is kill. Kill them all. Then kill some more.

In fact, all you can do is kill. You don’t even have non-lethal options in this game. Don’t worry about getting your hands dirty, everyone resets the next day anyway until that loop is broken.

And as such, Deathloop has shifted its attention on gunplay. There are many varieties of guns that you can pick up which includes pistols, SMGs, shotguns and rifles. And it’s not just one per archetype either. There are multiple shotgun types, for example. Rarer guns even have randomised perks so you can hunt down god-roll ones. No gun stats, however, so it’s not a full-on looter-shooter thankfully.

Your character can also dual-wield weapons this time so you can have double the firepower, or have a gun ready while swinging your one and only melee weapon to fish for the instant kill. Enemies, when they are fully alerted, will swarm you quick. Just firing guns accuracy-be-gone is a legit strategy to survive. Or run away and heal up, there’s plenty of health pickups lying around to support your rambunctious gunfights.

Alerted enemies are very localised and don’t give close chase. It seems like the enemy AI is tuned to be less aware of your presence in general, unless you want them to notice you.

A Crack In The Slab

Deathloop still has supernatural powers you can equip to wreak havoc unto your enemies. But surprisingly, they have been significantly nerfed than their Dishonored equivalents.

There’s the Nexus power (equivalent to Dishonored 2’s Domino) where you can link multiple enemies together, you damage one, you damage them all. It now costs power meter to maintain the link, and requires good aim to maximise how many enemies will get into the Nexus area-of-effect.

You have Shift that lets you teleport around but the range is gimped and its usefulness diminished with how it won’t make you grab on ledges. It’s significantly worse that it’s not something I ever put in my loadout.

Also, you are limited to only equipping two powers, plus one special power unique to Colt and cannot be unequipped. And there are only six unique powers in total in Deathloop, a considerably less number than previous Arkane games that use powers. You don’t have long skill trees to upgrade these powers either, you can put two different upgrades from a limit of four available, and they still won’t be as strong as their Dishonored counterparts.

The powers are still useful though, but since they are significantly nerfed there are more like situational tools that give you an edge rather than the easy mode button that they were, which will nudge you to play in a very different kind of way. You can attempt stealth, but don’t be afraid to go guns blazing. Kill them all or die trying.

But if you die, thankfully, it’s not an immediate game over.

You Got Looped

Colt has one extra power unique to him, Reprise, where he essentially gets three lives. Die once or twice and you will be respawned back to a location you were previously. Strike three and the loop resets.

A loop reset hurts as you don’t get to keep all the weapons, trinkets (buffs) and powers you picked up. Unless you ‘infuse’ them (more on that later).

Having a three-lives grace is such a brilliant design choice. This will stop playing too cautiously and not punish them if they die from trivial actions like missing a jump or fall into the cold sea. And it works so well with the invasion system (also, more on that later).

You can consider a loop in Deathloop as a run in a roguelike game, which some folks may refer Deathloop to be one. It also has meta progression similar to a modern roguelike. For one, all earned knowledge that Colt have discovered are remembered and jogged down in the menus, just like how your own earned knowledge from playing the game is retained each loop.

While all loot is supposed to reset, you can infuse them using a currency called Residuum. Infused loot, which includes guns as well as buffs called trinkets, are kept in each loop. If you throw an infused weapon away to grab another, it may not be available throughout the day later, but tomorrow it’s back in your arsenal.

Residuum is easy enough to collect, maybe too easy. They are found just by scrounging through the map, and are also dropped when you kill other Visionaries. Speaking of, if you die, you’ll drop your stock of Residuum too. So you have to do a corpse run as if it’s a souls-like game to retrieve back all your souls.

Julianna Is On The Hunt

Speaking of souls-like , there will be instances where you go into a map with a Visionary there for you to kill, but with one extra surprise: Julianna. Julianna isn’t like the other Visionaries that sits in their fortresses, she’ll be around to actively hunt you down, stopping you from breaking the loop.

When you’re on the hunt, your exits are blocked, and you need to hack a specific antenna to unlock your exits. You don’t necessarily need to take out Julianna, but she’s a Visionary. So she will drop a good chunk of Residuum once killed, and if you’re lucky, a Slab as well.

Now the stakes got higher. If you’re in the middle of a loop, and haven’t infused the good loot you have, you’re in big trouble if you die, but you could get even more cool loot if you can make Julianna die. Now it’s a game of duelling assassins, both players having almost the same kit at their disposal.

Almost, just like Colt, Julianna has her own special power, Masquerade, where she can swap character models with another character. If you think that’s her patrolling an area, or leaning on an edge of the railing, think again. Luckily, Colt has three lives (thanks to his special power) against Julianna’s one, so Colt can go ham when fighting her while Julianna needs to remember to heal in-between her killing Colt multiple times.

Did I say players? Yes, Julianna can also be actual players invading your online session. But you can opt-out of online invasions, which makes the invading Julianna being an AI that tries its best to kill you.

(Also note, Deathloop can still be played offline normally. When choosing Single-Player mode, the pause menu also properly pauses the game.)

Is Deathloop Still An Immersive Sim?

With all the new gameplay mechanics and systems grafted onto Deathloop, it honestly feels less like your regular immersive sims. Much of the world’s interactivity has been pared down compared to Arkane’s past titles.

You can’t stack boxes or carefully place gas containers. You can’t devise some crafty way to navigate the environment by just manipulating moveable objects. There are not enough multi-purpose tools that let you interact with the world in a different way other than killing people. There’s only the Hackamajig to hack things with.

Heck, you don’t get to individually open locker doors, or use the sinks. The more trivial interactions are gone, or very rare if they are there.

And it’s sorely lacking environmental hazards that would have been so much fun now that you can kick stuff. Enemies can slip over spilled candy but it is too situational to be a useful trick. It’s missing wall spikes and an ice ray gun that can turn a floor slippery to really make kicking things fun. At least there’s a lot of cliffs to kick people off from.

The kick is an amazing addition to the toolkit, but not Dark Messiah levels of amazing. It missed a few tricks.

I suspect the devs intentionally want to streamline the experience so you can go hard on the action and not faff about inspecting all the cabinets in a room or stacking boxes for 30 minutes. The game also has an online mode now which probably explains why there are fewer moveable physics objects, only the portable turrets (plus one other portable device) can be moved and deployed elsewhere.

This trimming down of the many immersive sim quirks (and the integration of many new mechanics from modern video games) is a bold move. And I don’t think all im-sim fans will be on board with this direction.

That all being said, it’s still possible to stealth your way through the day and only kill the Visionaries. And I’d argue it is more satisfying should you pull it off now that quicksaves are not available.

However, the game compensates for that one missing feature with a seemingly less smart AI that won’t jump on you too quickly. There are guns with a perk that makes less noise when fired (with one specific gun type being totally silent) and you have powers that work for stealth play (Nexus, Aether and Shift are great at this).

And if you need enemies to be killed but don’t want to fire your own guns, the plethora of portable turrets are at your disposal with just a little hacking. Also, bodies just disintegrate, no need to think about where you should dump them.

You can play stealth if you want but it’s a less methodical experience compared to Dishonored. Again, a lot of the mechanics have been streamlined so you’re not wasting time, so it’s less compelling than say, shoot and kill people like there’s no tomorrow. Tomorrow’s just gonna be today again until you break the loop.

There’s a 0451 joke at the start of the game. The game goads you thinking you know the code, but it actually isn’t 0451. I take that as Arkane messaging the fans that Deathloop is a different kind of an immersive sim, one that doesn’t want to be defined as just a stealth-action game.

Solving The Murder Puzzle

At the heart of Deathloop’s endless murder-party is a mystery to uncover. The primary one is how the heck do you break the loop. But there are other mysteries that, should you be curious, can also start investigating.

The world of Blackreef is well fleshed out but you won’t get a good exposition that reveals it all. It’s all part of the mystery, and you’ll be hearing conversations, reading notes, and looking for secret locations in order to piece together all the information. Even when you complete the game, Deathloop won’t spell out everything about the story, so it’s all on your curiosity to find everything about the world.

There are fantastic side puzzles that will take some good brain-scratching to figure out, but most of the pieces to the puzzle are all available on site. And like past Arkane games, some of the solutions to the puzzle can’t be immediately looked up with a guide. Stuff like safe codes are randomised and unique to each playthrough, but the work you need to do in order to get the codes will remain the same.

To break the loop, you’ll have to follow leads, which will take you multiple loops to go through. Simply because you need to be at the right place and at the right time. First, you’ll have to take on the Visionaries one-on-one. But with seven (or is it eight?) Visionaries to eliminate and you can only visit four places in a day, that’s just not possible. Later you’ll figure out how to manipulate an event to influence what will happen later in the day. You know, like going to the past to change the future. It’s through these manipulations that you will uncover how to break the loop, and there’s only one way to do it.

Interestingly, since the game will have you do some repeated events, you actually spend less time backtracking than you would expect. There are some clever placements of the plot-critical locations that really cuts the travel time. And by the time you need to be going to these locations a lot, you’re likely to have been accustomed to the maps and can find the super-quick way to get there.

The devs ensure a lot of things that would have been annoying to do over and over is less annoying, making it a breeze to get to the end of the story.


Deathloop should take around 15-20 hours of your time to discover the murderer mystery and break the loop. The four districts are all you get, but it’s rewarding to explore and later master. Plus, to me, it’s a good length of time for a single-player experience. The game length is roughly on par with Dishonored, Dishonored 2 and Prey.

But if you want more to do, you can always go protect the loop as Julianna, hunting other players around. It’s good fun in concept if it were not for the lagginess that makes it hard to properly duel. Which is a shame because there’s a whole progression system that will unlock new tools for Julianna, as well as new skins for Colt and Julianna.

I wish it’s made transparent what you’ll unlock for increasing the Hunter rank, your level progression. And maybe a way to filter some of the loot you get as Julianna.

But once you have seen what’s all that is to be offered in the loop as Colt, and have your fill hunting Colt as Julianna, I find it a hard reason to come back. You can reset Colt’s progress and start a fresh game, but it won’t be the same Deathloop experience as it was the first time now that you have a ton of knowledge from before that can’t be wiped.

I am looking forward to adding more to my total 30 hours of playtime of Deathloop around next year when I start not remembering the game as much, but as for now, I’m good. I can put the game away.

In other words, despite the game is all about playing over and over again, there’s a finite cut-off point where you will have seen everything the game stops being fun anymore. Though the online multiplayer potentially could have legs, should online connectivity improves later down the line.

Personal Enjoyment

I initially have mixed feelings on Deathloop, and by the 10th hour was fully enthralled by the experience, but now that I’ve seen all that I want to see after clocking 30 hours, I have some mixed feelings again.

What I felt mixed initially is how there is now random loot to build your loadout, and how much of a setback is it when you have to finish a loop and lose all your loot.

But once I get into infusing, I feel much more confident to just blast people around and trying new weapons and powers with the knowledge that I can go back and using the loadout I’m familiar with penalty-free.

The mystery of the time loop in Blackreef is one I enjoyed so much discovering. It helps that a lot of the collectable notes and audio logs now have a cliff notes version by just highlighting them in the menu, should you want to glance and get the gist of it quickly or comprehend what the text means. It’s so useful for non-native English speakers who are still learning. More game devs should do this for their text/audio collectables.

The story is a bit predictable, I noticed some big influences from Momento that made me guess the plot points ahead of their revelations. But I like Momento, so I still loved what Deathloop’s story was going for nonetheless.

I’m a bit disappointed that after all the work to investigate and learn about the loop, there is only one way to break it. The loop-breaking run is very specific, and will only be available once you follow through with all the leads. I’ve already correctly guessed how the perfect run should be hours before I can attempt it.

It could’ve been much cooler if there were multiple ways to break the loop, but I understand that would be a massive increase in scope (and a longer development time) in order to do so. I blame the Hitman games for making me hoping there would have been more creative approaches to complete the game.

The online multiplayer invasion is neat, and I suspect a lot of immersive elements have to be streamlined to get multiplayer to even work. I love it when it works. It’s satisfying when you managed to outsmart the invader. And being on the receiving end motivates me to learn more and play better.

If an action-packed roguelike-ish FPS is how we can get the masses into appreciating this underrated game design philosophy, maybe it’s for the better. Immersive sims shouldn’t just be defined as only stealth games with the option of combat if you want to. But man, even judging it as an action-focused im-sim, there are missed opportunities to put many different systems that can interact with each other. I want more ways to kick people to death, and have the powers combo in wilder ways.

But the game is still fun for what it is. I’ve been binging the Dishonored series to prepare for Deathloop, and finally, the shackles have been unleashed. Blasting people over and over and making use of the powers to amplify the destruction you can do is exhilarating. Mopping out the whole map confidently as you have all the weapons you need and knowing how to take them all down is fulfilling.

I honestly don’t enjoy pure roguelikes and souls-like games. But in this milder form, I finally got to enjoy aspects in these genres that would otherwise be off-putting for me. I don’t like being punished hard from death in rougelikes and souls-likes. Deathloop makes it less so.

Forget “Dishonored with guns”, that’s utterly incorrect. Deathloop is more like how Arkane is making their take of Doom. And Hitman. At the same time.

I still have mixed feelings about the trimming down of its immersive sim qualities, and the many missed opportunities the game could have doubled down on. Despite all that, for what it is, Deathloop is absolutely fun. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.


Deathloop is Arkane’s boldest game yet.

The fantastic level design and world-building are amazingly well done rewarding exploration, as you would expect. The strong combat mechanics that was always there in past Arkane games is now the front-and-centre feature players can make use of without judgement.

The time loop hook and duelling assassins theme bring a whole new dimension and layer to your regular immersive sim experience, which has been streamlined in favour of a more chaotic FPS experience.

Deathloop shows how Arkane remains comfortably competent at what they do best, yet still willing to be daring. It’s not the best immersive sim out there (go play Prey if you haven’t yet). But as an action-packed roguelike-ish FPS, Deathloop is amazing, and one of the best video games to come out in 2021.

Review based on PC version. Review copy purchased by the reviewer



Deathloop shows how Arkane remains comfortably competent at what they do best, yet still willing to be daring. It's not the best immersive sim out there. But as an action-packed roguelike-ish FPS, Deathloop is amazing, and one of the best video games to come out in 2021.

  • Presentation 9.5
  • Gameplay 8.5
  • Content 8
  • Personal Enjoyment 10

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept