In my early years of gaming, I’d spend hours if not days getting excited about upcoming games. I’d watch trailers, hang out on discussion forums and devour any bit of news that I could find. It got to a point where the first few levels of whatever game would be already familiar to me on the first play through.
To be honest, it sucked all the fun out of it. The rush to know every little bit of a game before I’d even picked up a controller robbed me of the excitement and satisfaction of discovering it at my own pace.
It’s a habit that has largely fallen off in the last few years, in large part because I don’t have the time and because I’m fortunate enough to be able to write this column where I’m always on the hunt for new and unusual games to tell everyone else about.
With all of that said, if you’re fortunate enough to have scored an impossible-to-find PlayStation 5 or have a decent PC and enjoy games rich with mystery and discovery—and can handle the basics of a first-person shooter—then stop reading this column right now and go get yourself a copy of “Deathloop.”
Announced along with the PS5, “Deathloop” had this dazzling 1960s futuristic style and glimpses of frenetic combat that told me all I needed to know. I intentionally stayed away from previews and went in knowing little else about the game. It was about 30 minutes into “Deathloop” that I knew I had made the right decision as the game, the setting, the world, the gameplay, the adventure, the characters (the voice acting is excellent), and the underlying mystery unfolded into a grand playground that is an absolute joy to explore and discover.
I’ll stay away from spoilers as much as possible, but the bare basics are you wake up on the beach of a mysterious island filled with masked weirdos that’s led by a handful of mega-powerful visionaries who want nothing more than to be rid of you. The problem, though, is each time they bring you to your end—whether that be on the receiving end of a bullet, poisonous gas or mysterious powers—you wake up again at the beach at the start of the same. Even if you hide out in the shadows all day and survive into the night, you’ll still wake up the next morning.
The very broadest of goals is to figure out how to get to all the visionaries in a single day. It’s a challenge given that they’re never really all in one convenient place on the island, which is divided into four distinct areas that change dramatically over the course of the four distinct time periods. A snowstorm rolls in in the afternoon, making some areas accessible while other areas go under lockdown in the afternoon. Doors may be unlocked in the morning, but locked tight by the afternoon. Oh, and one of the visionaries is always on the hunt for you and can follow you around the island.
It’d be easy to try to explain “Deathloop” by comparing it to other games and genres, but that’d essentially be an exercise in describing the entire history of gaming. There’s bits and pieces from nearly every single other game crammed in there but what I’d liken it most to is a really good, old-school adventure game filled with threads to explore and untangle. It invites you to use your head to find clever solutions to its puzzles and, boy, there are puzzles in just about every corner you’ll look.
One of the best parts of the game is its lead system where it keeps track of the clues and evidence in a manageable and easy-to-track menu. If you’re ever at a loss of what to do next, just click on one of the leads to find the relevant clues and get you right back on the trail. For a game that is wrapped up in heady concepts of time looping, immortality and more, it’s surprisingly easy to play and grasp.
“Deathloop” is perhaps one of the most complete visions of a video game concept—a rarity in a world that seems driven by games designed by committee—that absolutely nails everything from start to finish and I’d already count it among my all-time favorite games.
Matt Buxton is a freelance writer and gamer. He can be reached at email@example.com.