Deathloop review: This suave immersive sim is one of Arkane's finest

With phenomenal gameplay and unbeatable charm, Deathloop is a triumph.

(Image: © Windows Central)

Windows Central Must Play Award

Whether with award-winning games like Dishonored 2 or criminally-underrated cult classics like 2017's Prey, Arkane Studios has brought a ton to the immersive sim genre over the last decade. In 2021, the developer is back with a concept unlike any other: Deathloop, a "murder puzzler" set on the remote island of Blackreef, where a mysterious time loop resets daily. The game tasks protagonist, Colt, with figuring out how to kill eight different "Visionaries" in a single in-game day. Doing so will break the cycle of time loops.

Failing to accomplish this (or dying during the attempt) will lead to a reset. However, you can take advantage of these time loops by searching for clues and chasing leads, herding multiple Visionaries into one location, adding efficiency to your executions. As you progress through the game, you'll also be hunted by a mysterious woman named Julianna, pushing back on efforts to end the loop. By default, Julianna is an AI enemy, but she can be controlled by other players if playing online.

Overall, Deathloop is, without a doubt, one of the most creative and unique immersive sims to date. And between the game's stellar gameplay, immaculate level design, slick presentation, and comedic writing, it's nothing short of a triumph.

Deathloop: The good stuff

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

There's a lot to love about Deathloop, but its gameplay tops the list. Like you'd expect from an immersive sim, there are multiple different ways to approach level exploration and combat. Everything from stealthily moving through levels unnoticed to going on a guns-blazing rampage is perfectly viable, though there are situations where some approaches are better than others (especially when fighting Visionaries, as each one poses a unique threat). Plus, Deathloop just feels so slick to play, which helps set it apart in the space. Melee assassinations are brutal yet satisfying, guns are snappy and powerful, while Colt's slides and clambers feel fluid and responsive. It's to be expected given Arkane's previous titles, but the developer has delivered beyond expectations with Deathloop.

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DeveloperArkane Studios
PublisherBethesda Softworks
GenreImmersive Sim
PlatformsPC, PS5
Minimum RequirementsWindows 10, Intel Core i5-8400 @ 2.80GHz or AMD Ryzen 5 1600, 12GB RAM, NVIDIA GTX 1060 (6GB) or AMD Radeon RX 580 (8GB), DirectX Version 12
Game Size30GB
PlayersSingle, Multiple (optional)
Launch DateSeptember 14, 2021
Launch Price$60

The game also has an excellent progression system, both in terms of the gameplay and the story. On the gameplay side, you obtain powerful items called Slabs and Trinkets as you complete time loops, boosting stats, or unlocking abilities like invisibility or Dishonored-style teleportation. You can also find and equip advanced weapons with unique traits, such as a machine gun that causes explosions with each headshot. All of this gear will be lost if the player completes a loop, but players can also "infuse" gear to make it a permanent component of their arsenal. Therefore, you'll get stronger with each loop, which helps you kill Visionaries and their henchmen more efficiently. These unlocks will also be used against you when Julianna invades your levels, but taking her down will reward her kit, along with plenty of resources.

From a story perspective, the game uses helpful waypoints and reminders to help you keep track of what you need to do next to get multiple Visionaries together in one place. While the game was initially holding my hand through the "murder puzzle," in retrospect, these aides helped prevent juggling an overwhelming volume of information. I still had to put in a lot of thought to succeed, but there was never a point where I felt lost.

Deathloop's level design is also stellar. Each level has a ton of different secrets, routes, and hidden pathways to discover, and depending on the time of day you visit them, new paths will open up that reveal previously hidden sub-areas. Each level is also built to accommodate whichever playstyle you prefer, with cover for intense gunfighting, and ample hiding spots for stealth.

Deathloop is one of the most stylish games I've ever played, hands down.

I also came to love Deathloop's presentation, which oozes charm and style. Blackreef's '60s-inspired retro-future aesthetic is slick, vibrant, and colorful, and in many ways, it feels symbolic of the ways in which the island's residents abuse the time loop to engage in endless debauchery from dawn until dusk. Deathloop also features Arkane's classic stylized visuals that fans have come to know and love over the years, and it fits Blackreef's snazzy party-filled atmosphere perfectly. The soundtrack is fantastic, too; players can expect to hear everything from smooth guitar riffs to snazzy electronica as they go on their killing sprees.

Lastly, Deathloop's story is well written, with lots of entertaining characters, twists, and jokes. Colt and Julianna constantly bicker throughout the story, and as you figure out how to efficiently kill the Visionaries, you'll get opportunities to learn about their strange, disturbing, and comical personas. The dialogue was, in most cases, well voice-acted and enjoyable to listen to, although there were a few times where Colt and Julianna were talking so fast that it was hard to keep up.

Deathloop: The bad stuff

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

There's not much that I dislike about Deathloop, but there are a few gripes I have with it. My main issue with the game is that the graphics and visuals, while certainly pretty and stylish, don't justify how demanding Deathloop is specs-wise. Bethesda states the game requires an i7-9700K, an NVIDIA RTX 2060, and 16GB of RAM just to hit 1080p 60FPS on high settings, which seems crazy for a stylized PC game like this. My i7-9700K rig with an NVIDIA RTX 3070 and 32GB of RAM managed to hold a stable 60FPS playing on high settings with an ultrawide 1440p monitor, but I was getting VRAM usage warnings throughout my playthrough (trying to use ray tracing nosedived performance).

The demanding requirements would be less frustrating if the game had NVIDIA DLSS 2.0 upscaling as an option, but it doesn't; only AMD FSR is available to use, and while it does help a bit, it's far less effective than DLSS. It's disappointing that DLSS 2.0 isn't here, as it means I (and many others) won't be able to use ray-traced lighting with high settings without significant performance hits.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I also experienced a few notable performance issues throughout my playthrough on PC. The worst of these was a significant FPS drop down into the 20s that I couldn't fix without restarting the game, although this only happened one time. The game also stuttered in some cases as I played through each level.

Deathloop: Should you play it?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Deathloop's overly demanding PC specs, lack of NVIDIA DLSS 2.0, and minor performance issues aren't ideal, but they're just minor annoyances for a title of this caliber. Its gameplay is phenomenal, its style, world, and level design are superb, and its writing enterains throughout. What more could you want out of an immersive sim?

Deathloop is my favorite game in 2021 so far and it's easily one of the best PC games available, and it'll be exciting to see how the Julianna PvP invasions in online mode spice up the experience once the game publicly launches and I begin a second playthrough. Ultimately, Arkane has created something unique and special with Deathloop, and I can't recommend it enough.

Deathloop is available for $60 on Windows PCs and PS5, and it's expected to eventually launch on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in 2022 as well.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.