It has, quite unbelievably, been a year already since Arkane Studios' superlative Deathloop launched on PS5 and PC. It was a rather frustrating exclusivity deal that came as something of a surprise given that the game's publisher, Bethesda Softworks, had just been snapped up by Microsoft in the months before release but, finally, Xbox players are about to get their hands on one of the most inspired and original games of 2021.
Yes, there's no need to beat around the bush, this one's a well-known quantity by now, with Arkane Studios firing on all cylinders to bring us a fast and flashy time loop spectacular that sees you slowly unravel a clever mystery in the kind of narratively rich setting we've come to expect from this studio over the years. The real joy here, though, is that they've managed to meld their awesome world-building and satisfyingly stealthy gameplay with all-out action that feels like a proper alternative this time around. If you save-scummed your way through Corvo's adventures and are expecting to have to take the same sort of methodical approach here, fear not; Colt goes loud, goes hard, and it feels awesome.
Deathloop gives you all the tools you need to sneak around, for sure, and it feels like it mostly wants you to move slowly through its environments, to pick up every note and letter, to think ahead and plan towards your targets, but it also fully embraces carnage, there's no shame in letting rip here. Blackreef is the setting this time around and it's just as dense with lore as Dunwall, every room and street packing backstory for those who want to take it all in. It really does feel like it's showing off too, with its snazzy time manipulation, different locations at different times of the day giving you fresh slices of information to feed off as you get your bearings and put together your plan to take out the eight visionaries who've crippled reality for their own ends. Rip it up, rewind, reset, let's go.
The same areas traversed over and over, every trip back giving you more information to feed off. A new code, better weapons, new powers, a fresh lead...unfolding and unfolding, reworking and rethinking...you can spend ages putting it all together and every moment is so well judged that it feels like you're a master at work, a proper badass getting to grips with a ridiculous situation. But also being absolutely played at the same time. Deathloop is an ever-evolving mystery that spools out, unravels as you pick and poke and pop bullets into Clockwork Orange goons. There aren't too many games that nail their vibe as hard as this one. And so, we make this a mini review - we don't want to spoil it, it has had all the accolades already, easily one of the best games on PS5, and now you get to dive in. Arkane's best game? That's saying something.
Get busy unlocking new powers, blinking in behind bad guys, stabbing and shooting and skulking around, scouring environments for clues, choosing which lead to follow next as you push and pull and probe every corner, every wrinkle of this labyrinthian puzzle box. And it's on Game Pass too? You're spoiling us, Microsoft.