It's Deathloop day! After experiencing two delays, Arkane Studios' newest blockbuster hit theand PC on Tuesday. (PC players are , however.) It's one of the most hyped games of the year, and also one of the best: . It's an imaginative shooter that oozes personality and violence, a mystery game set in the irresistible location of Blackreef Island.
Deathloop is about making sense of Blackreef's insanity -- and finding a way to break the loop.
You play as Colt, who wakes up on the shores of a Blackreef beach only to find he's stuck in a timeloop. After every day ends, or any time he dies, he wakes up at the same beach at the same time. What gives? You'll quickly learn that the only way to break that damn loop is to kill seven Visionaries -- superpowered boss characters -- all within the same loop. And you'll have to do all that without being killed off by Julianna, another Visionary who's doing her best to stop you in your tracks.
Here's what you'll need to know to get your first few loops started right.
Deathloop, a murder puzzle
The game opens with what's essentially an extended tutorial that guides you through Deathloop's premise. In addition to story details that I won't spoil, you'll learn how the game is essentially one big puzzle.
There are four different locations: Updaam, The Complex, Fristad Rock and Karl's Bay. You can visit each location at four different times of day: morning, noon, afternoon and evening. In other words, there are 16 different levels -- four locations multiplied by four times of day. Colt can only visit four levels per loop, one in the morning, one at noon, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.
Colt's job is to figure out which combination of four levels will allow him to kill all the Visionaries. The way the game guides you through this is extremely gratifying.
The first few hours are intimidating
Deathloop has a fluid combat system that rewards you for creativity. When you start out, though, creativity is the last thing on your mind. Survival will do.
The first few hours of Deathloop are tough. The story is bewildering, and you'll find yourself woefully unprepared for the Eternalists (bad guys) who populate each level. I died a lot in my first few loops, and you probably will too. I'm not ashamed to admit it: I was a huge scaredy cat when I began. Horrified to turn around each corner.
This is all part of the plan. The story is meant to be overwhelmingly complex at first, and you're meant to die a lot. Deathloop is built around trial and error, and its joys come from making sense of things -- whether that's a plot development or a group of Eternalists you just can't get first.
Slowly, you'll earn how the levels are laid out and where the enemies are (and where they aren't, for when you need a respite to regain some health). The game reminds you that dying is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you learn something. Each time you clear an area, you'll scour for loot and discover open windows, a hidden door or a crawl space that'll help you clear the area next time.
No man ever steps in the same river twice, because it's not the same river and he's not the same man, as Greek philosopher Heraclitus once observed. Deathloop is that, but a video game. You'll tackle the same areas, but each time is different not just because your equipment and powers improve, but because of the knowledge you glean from dying painful deaths.
Find a new gun straight away (and pay attention to trinkets)
At first I thought Deathloop's gunplay was shoddy. Then I figured out it's just the gun you start with that sucks.
About 2 hours in you'll learn how to retain weapons from one loop to the next. Until then, you'll have to get weapons by killing Eternalists and looting their evaporating corpses. Eventually you'll find rare weapons behind locked doors or amid special story events, and you'll be able to infuse them so that Colt can use them each loop.
When you start off, you'll see the same few guns over and over again. Shotgun, a machine gun, a pistol and a nailgun that lets you kill bad guys without making a sound. As you progress, you'll find weapons that come with special traits, like dealing more damage while you're airborne or improved zoom. You'll also pick up trinkets, which improve both Colt's attributes and those of his weapons.
These make a huge difference. One of the game's flaws is that you'll be overflowing with trinkets by the time you're about 80% through, so you eventually stop paying attention to them. In the first few hours, however, they'll aid your game drastically.
Slabs are important
A few of the Visionaries carry Slabs that grant them special powers. Once you kill one of them, you'll get their Slab. (Killing one isn't so tough, killing seven in one day? A whole other story.) These give you powers like temporary invisibility, teleportation and telekenesis. Killing the same Visionary again, on a different loop, and nabbing the Slab again will get you an upgrade. Each Slab can be augmented with two upgrades at a time.
Deathloop lets you play your way, be it stealth or guns blazing. No matter what your style, you need to be properly equipped. That's obvious for weapon choice, but more crucial for Slabs. If you like to play things Rambo style, for instance, you probably don't need an invisibility cloak -- you'd rather have the Havoc Slab, which briefly makes you deal more damage and take less.
Colt can only carry two of these Slabs at a time (there are five to choose from). Each are valuable, and you'll often encounter situations where you wished you had another Slab equipped. Once you know how you like to play, attach Slabs accordingly. It'll make everything so much smoother.
Turrets are very powerful in Deathloop, something you'll find out as soon as one guns you down in terrifyingly quick fashion. Thankfully, you can hack them so that they turn on Eternalists instead. Once hacked, you can also pick them up and move them elsewhere -- like, say, in the middle of a pack of soon-to-be-dead Eternalists. Always make sure to scope out turrets and think about how you can use them to your advantage.
You can't copy door codes off the internet
There are a lot of locked doors in Deathloop, most of which require a code to access. Since you'll have access to (almost) all areas from the beginning, in any other game you could boot up Ask Jeeves or AltaVista and find some cheeky door codes. Alas, Arkane is one step ahead. All the door codes are generated in-game, meaning each copy of Deathloop will have different codes.
You'll have to access the secrets behind these locked doors the old-fashioned way: watching YouTube guides.
Each time you enter a new area, make sure to eavesdrop on the conversations Eternalists have with each other. I recommend turning your subtitles on for this purpose, as you'll get to see what they say onscreen even if you can't hear them. You should eavesdrop for many reasons.
Eternalists are the heart and soul of Blackreef. They're living the loop just like Colt, and they often have funny banter or otherwise say things that'll make you love them. (I just recently overheard an Eternalist complain about his bad luck over getting back pain on the one day he's now stuck in forever.) More importantly, they'll often give you great intel.
They'll tip you off to whatever mission you're on, or hint at things off the beaten path that are often worth exploring.
Make sure you read everything
Deathloop mostly tells its story through documents left behind by key characters or audio casettes they've recorded. It's very video gamey, but it works well thanks to solid writing and outstanding voice acting. Here's the downside though: Sometimes these communications are hard to find. Deathloop rarely shoves them in your face; at best there'll be a casette or a document in the center of a desk. Often times they're crammed in a bookshelf, underneath a table or tucked away in a crevice somewhere.
The downside here is that it's easy to miss crucial documents. After beating the game I went back to old areas to scour for answers, only to find a few documents that I completely missed the first time. It sounds like I'm an idiot -- and I am -- but it's as easy mistake to make. Keep your eyes peeled when you're rummaging through a key story area so you don't have to backtrack hours later.