Along his way, Colt picks up a variety of weapons and ultra-high-tech artifacts that grant him special abilities and perks. There are Trinkets, which are small glowing items that enhance whatever gun they’re attached to, and Slabs, which give Colt — and his enemies — superhuman powers like invisibility, telekinesis and short-distance teleportation. Once collected, the Slabs are swappable in Colt’s loadout, and they tend to be tons of fun.
Blackreef is controlled by eight Visionaries of the AEON Program, one of whom is Julianna, and the only way to escape the island is for Colt to kill them all in a single day, breaking the loop. However, it’s not as simple as speedrunning through Blackreef in order to take them all out. Colt has deep ties to the AEON Program and the Visionaries all keep their own schedules, meaning a successful assassination run will require hours of information-gathering and strategizing. And, it turns out, dying.
Once he gets going, Colt is able to die twice during any playthrough with few consequences; he’s simply transported to a previous location and allowed to keep going, health restored. On the third death, however, he’s sent back to that bottle-lined beach, resources depleted.
He also loses his gear after a full day of activity, regardless of progress. Deathloop is divided into four times — morning, noon, afternoon and night — and after each complete sequence, Colt is beached. Certain missions can only be completed at specific times of day, so players have to plan their attacks accordingly, either shifting time forward or simply delaying until the next loop.
Eventually, Colt gains the ability to carry some slabs, trinkets and weapons with him between loops, though he has to infuse the items he wants to keep with a resource called Residiuum. Colt can harvest Residiuum from the shiny, glitched-out objects in Blackreef, or by killing visionaries and absorbing their energy. Residiuum can then be applied to specific items in Colt’s kit, holding them for good.
With all of these trinkets, slabs, weapons, Residiuum, visionaries and loops, there’s a lot to keep tabs on in Deathlooop. The amount of stuff in the game is overwhelming at times, and it’s complicated by an intense plot filled with overlapping, time-bending mysteries. Small scraps of paper and brief audio recordings often contain crucial bits of information, rewarding players who obsessively explore every bookshelf, desk and dead-end with reams of notes and leads. The game does a good job of organizing all of these details in the resource-management screen, but overall, Deathloop demands full and complete attention, lest you completely lose the plot.
For those who pay attention, the story and environment of Blackreef unravels beautifully, with important secrets hidden in plain view, and new parts of the world opening and closing depending on the time of day. From this perspective, the density of things to collect, use and learn in Deathloop makes perfect sense. This game is built on the idea of replaying the same four maps again and again — Colt needs something new to do every time.
Julianna is a charming constant in Deathloop, generally talking shit and fleshing out the background of Blackreef. She’s also the star of the game’s second mode, Protect the Loop. Here, players are able to invade the games of friends or strangers, playing as Julianna and hunting down Colt as he tries to complete a mission. She has her own loadout, trinkets and slabs, including a masquerade ability that lets her trade appearances with allied NPCs — meaning, everyone except Colt.
Protect the Loop is marked by long periods of silence and inactivity, followed by furious gunfire and death. Colt can take any route he wants through the various maps, and Julianna has to actively hunt him down or wait for him to appear near the objective. She may be able to disguise herself, but she only has one life, while Colt has to die three times to make it final. This results in a delicious cat-and-mouse game that’s different with each new player.
That said, Protect the Loop is also where I’ve encountered the most technical issues. I played on PS5, and one round crashed fully right after launching, while two more were completely unplayable from my end, repeatedly setting my Julianna back a few frames until Colt finally showed up and shot her. That’s in comparison with four glitch-free rounds. My recommendation here is to use an ethernet cable, rather than Wi-Fi, and make sure your friends do, too.