TUCSON, Ariz. — Leaning heavily on intellect while filled with compelling hunting and escaping action, "Deathloop" is a daring and harrowing shooter that makes you take pause to understand exactly what you're doing and why you're doing it.
More than most games of its genre, it makes you feel as though you're writing the story along with it.
Arkane Lyon, the team that developed the "Dishonored" franchise, delivers a passion project that builds on the promise of the studio's body of work while pushing the boundaries of what you'd expect to see in a shooter. Using time loop games such as "The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask," films such as "Memento" and TV series like "The Prisoner" as inspiration, the narrative casts you as a doomed, abandoned, amnesiac foot soldier forced to endure grisly death time after time.
As Colt, a soldier marooned on the bizarre island of Blackreef, you piece together your plight with visual clues and puzzles. Quickly you piece together an arsenal and learn you must take out eight targets before your day ends. Lurking in the background is Julianna, an adversary who hunts down Colt in an effort to keep the loop intact. The cat-and-mouse game becomes central to the ongoing story, a dense yet grounded sci-fi tale with poignant commentary about commoditized warfare and the impact of memory on action.
A multiplayer lets you play as Julia, sneaking into another player's game to mess with them, or even help them if you're so inclined. You can choose to lock other players out or invite them in, in a manner similar to "Dark Souls" games.
As the story unfolds, layers unravel to reveal far more at play than at first appears, giving the game the tone of a watercooler TV series in the vein of "Game of Thrones."
The gameplay bona fides are rock solid, with touches reminiscent of the stealth and combat touches of the "Dishonored' games. Many art games — particularly walking simulators — sacrifice action in the name of dialogue and deep thought, but "Deathloop' takes both in stride, melding them into a dynamic combination.
Horror elements also abound, producing moments of high anxiety, devastating failure and exhilarating triumph.
In a basic sense, all games are death loops in a manner of speaking. The ongoing effort in repeated failure with an incremental advancement in honing your skills toward eventual success is one of the most rewarding aspects of gaming. "Deathloop" deconstructs the notion and says something profound while inverting the template.
A thinking gamer's delight, it connects on every conceivable level and leaves you shaken and craving more.
Publisher provided review code.
This story was originally published by Phil Villarreal on Scripps station KGUN in Tucson, Arizona.