Home Gaming Deathloop PC review – Arcane’s first missfire

Deathloop PC review – Arcane’s first missfire

Before I say more let me state that my video review and written review have some differences. I wanted to keep the video review relatively short, while I go more in-depth with the written review. With that out of the way, if you are going to continue reading, strap yourself in because this is going to be a long ride. I’m going to try to explain why I believe that any review site that gives this a 10 is just pure shilling. You know my reviews by now. They aren’t written in the regular style and I’d rather give you a sit-down at a table with me, no BS, and tell you how I feel and why.

World/Story

So the Story of Deathloop is that you wake up without your memories, realize that you’re stuck in a time-loop, and you need to work out what is going on. Or as the MC would put it, WHAT THE S*** IS GOING ON…

Now, one of Arkane Studio’s strengths was their world-building. Dishonored 1 and 2 were fictional worlds that felt very real. There were many reasons for this from prop placement, to tiny details littered around the levels, to dialogue, and so on. In Deathloop, the prop placement is very random and the entire island feels very game-like, it does not feel like a real living, breathing world, unlike Dishonored or Prey. It honestly feels like they put very little effort into making this entire island anything other than it existing for a gimmick. It goes for a more realistic art style than Dishonored 1 and 2, yet somehow feels less realistic. Everything feels clearly placed for either your amusement or with no thought. While there were things placed for the player’s amusement in Dishonored 1 and 2, it still felt organic due to well-thought-out placement. This is something Deathloop does not have and all the world-building I came to expect of Arkane has been thrown out the window.

The world-building simply is not here, and there seems to be no attempt or interest to do so. The narration between the MC and antagonist is pretty much focused on just a swearing war; constant bickering with no real attempt to add to the backstory or build lore. Furthermore, even the information you gather is pretty much handed out in a very uncreative manner. As I said before, the world feels like it just exists as a plot point. An afterthought that’s just there so the game can be played out. It’s a step back for Arkane and one of their major strengths as a developer has completely disappeared.

Art

The Art in Deathloop is an unorganized, wishy-washy, mishmash that does not hold a candle to their previous games. Everything feels off. Scaling, colour usage, textures all have a very weird feel to them that doesn’t really work. They seem to have been going for an 80s kind of style but weren’t quite able to pull it off. On top of that, and I’m aware I’ve said this before, but prop placement is very random, making the world feel very game-y. It’s almost like they slapped assets together, called it an island, and clocked out for their shift. Zero effort.

Here is a screenshot of Dishonored 2. Notice the prop placement, the use of lighting, the peeling wallpaper. This room tells a story. Multiple points of detail trying to give it a voice.

Now, here’s Deathloop…

See what I mean? The artistry has completely gone, there is no story to be told. It’s randomly placed props with no real artistic vision or purpose but to serve as a generic room for a game. Arkane used to be so much more than this. The colour palette is questionable, the filters are awful, and it just simply does not hold a candle.

Voice Acting

The voice acting and dialogue are terrible. Cole often sounds like he’s talking into a tube. There seems to be a swear word per minute requirement to all dialogue to, you know, be “edgy”. Because, of course, the only way to be gritty is to constantly swear and display bouts of juvenile aggression. There is no attempt to have actual conversations between the MC and the antagonist. No attempt to flesh out the world through their dialogue. It’s just swear word after mothereffing swear word. I mean, I don’t mind swear words. Hell, we all use them, but there’s a limit to everything beyond which it just starts becoming ridiculous. And boy, is it ridiculous.

The same can be said about typical NPCs and even the visionaries; just more swearing and vulgarity. Deathloop tries to be edgy, but it fails hard. All the dialogue feels like it was written by some teen in university who’s mainlining energy drinks and just came off bingeing Tarantino films. He’s only there because he paid to be there and only got the chance to write for a game because his rich mummy and daddy know people. Atrocious.

Gameplay

Unfortunately, the gameplay has also taken a major step backward compared to the Dishonored games. Gone is the Arkane that put faith in the player and gave a variety of options resulting in levels that almost felt like an open world. The Island does not feel like anything but a set piece. There are multiple points where you are pushed in a very linear fashion, and while there are technically options, they’re incredibly limited and very boring. You also have a massive lack of stealth tools and less general creativity with your powers compared to the Dishonored games.

There are no houses to go into or multiple sprawling paths that you can choose from. There are no moments of looking around and seeing entirely different buildings with multiple access points that you can exploit and progress, ever so slightly, in the mission. Nope, it’s very clearly designed tunnels and paths that a trained monkey could complete. There is no true freedom anywhere to be seen, just a hollow imitation of better games. (Dishonored. *cough* Dishonored.) There’s also intrusive reminders everywhere saying completely irrelevant things that, frankly, I wish would just F*** right off. I don’t need constant suggestions. I have my own brain and am capable of using it, thank you very much.

The AI offers literally no challenge and later in the game you can mow them down relatively easily. It makes for very predictable encounters and things do not really get much better. While it is true that you do have to work out how to take down the bosses (albeit, with very limited options), there is a reason why the AI is so dumb. Yes, the game plays out over the space of one day and has four phases that play out mildly similar in concept to Majora’s mask. Bosses and enemies change position based on the time of day, but it has one fundamental flaw, in my opinion. There is only one way to beat the loop. Yes, you read that right. There is only ONE WAY TO COMPLETE THE GAME. The whole shtick of the game is working out what the correct order is to do things. Once you’ve worked that out, that is it. Another playthrough will not change what you must do to complete a run.

Here are some examples of the abysmal AI. At one point I shot multiple enemies in the head with nails, while they were surrounded by allies, and yet zero reaction from their fellows. Another time I stealth killed an enemy who fell onto their ally, and again zero reaction. The AI feels like an afterthought; it seems no real effort was made into making the AI anything substantial. Another gripe with the AI, you can shoot a mine with a gun and the enemies will react to the noise – and then promptly forget about it within the space of a second. However, this is where how poor the AI really shows, if you take a silenced gun and then shoot a mine, they do not react. Boom with regular gun? Raised eyebrow. Boom with gun equipped with a silencer? Never happened. The AI can literally walk into it as you blow it up, take damage, scream bloody murder, and then go about its day. I cannot wrap my mind around how bad this AI truly is. It only reacts to the sound of an unmuffled gunshot.

Also due to the nature of how the game takes place throughout a day, the AI is incredibly predictable, which it must be as there is only one way to actually beat the loop. You can easily cheese the AI once you’ve studied it and surprises become very rare. There are occasional blips in the loop, and there is the invasion mode you can enable that adds some mild variety (with very poorly implemented netcode that zaps out all the fun it could offer). I get the vibe they were going for. I understand that it’s like Groundhog Day or Edge of Tomorrow (Live. Die. Repeat. Sound familiar?). But even in those movies, the protagonist had options. Limited options, maybe, but enough variety that there was the illusion of free will.

In Deathloop that illusion is shattered very quickly as there is much less to play with. At first, it does feel great as it’s your first time around, but once you repeat the loop over and over, which is again the entire premise, the shine fades very quickly. What remains is a very hollow, predictable, game-y world. Dishonored made you feel like a god due to the sheer amount of power and options, Deathloop makes you feel godly from the sheer predictability. Three guesses which is more engaging.

What makes the lack of real, impactful choices worse is you play the game in small set areas, of which there are four, called districts. Despite how large districts are supposed to be, they feel way smaller simply due to the lack of available paths and choices. You complete an objective, then leave. Areas are even completely unavailable until you do what the game wants you to do. You can stay in areas once an objective is complete, however, I find there is little to no incentive to do so. Sure you can find better weapons, but you never really find any lore or interesting events, but given how easy the gameplay is it’s not much of an incentive. I am simply not motivated enough. Sure, you can explore, and I do kind of recommend doing that as there are things you would otherwise not see, but there’s nothing huge or major, nothing on the scale of Dishonored. It’s nowhere near the sandbox you would expect from Arkane.

Here’s another example of how scripted it is. At the start of the overly long and insulting spoon-feeding introduction to a selection of very simple and easy-to-understand mechanics, you come across an objective where you have to find a battery that is right on the ground in front of you, charge it, and then insert it into the machine. However, there are three batteries on the floor, and if you don’t choose one with the Objective marker on it, the marker will not disappear. You must use that specific battery for the marker to disappear. There are no indicators why the other batteries wouldn’t work, no explanation as to why that one battery is the bestest battery that ever batteried. Why not just remove the other batteries then? It’s unnecessary.

So how are the rest of the mechanics? Underwhelming, to say the least. There are some cool powers, but you have a very limited set and there are no cool abilities like possessing animals or anything that helps with stealth.

It is really all based around guns, which also have tiers, and in true Arkane fashion the guns feel very poor; there is a straight-up lack of feedback and poor sound mixing and sound effects in general. Recoil seems nonexistent in a lot of weapons, and the range on the first pistol you get is absolutely ridiculous. You can snipe with it without even using iron sights. Oh, and bullets only do damage over a set distance too, you can see the bullet go far then just disappear. Like, based on the trajectory it should hit the enemy, but it does not. Death animations are canned, and none of it feels anything more than average. You would and should expect much more from a AAA game. I am honestly mind blown by how poor the sounds for the guns are; they lack any real kick and feel mismatched most of the time. The animations are poor to average, and the enemy reactions range from underwhelming to straight-up comical. I shot one person in the head from quite a distance, probably 150+ feet, and their body went flying so far away I almost died from laughter. RIP physics. Combat is also very easy: just get a half-decent gun (which you get at the start), land a headshot, and boom.

The movement, however, does feel quite good. The sliding, jumping, and traveling, in general, are solid. Matched with the movement-based abilities you have, it does have a good feel to it and matches their better games in that regard. It does however have a major flaw: you can spam special abilities and dashes with borderline zero cooldown. Well, none for the dodge dash, and while there is a cooldown on specials it is far too generous. No need to think, just do.

In theory, being able to choose what you keep and when you decide to go somewhere should feel very freeing. And while it is true that it allows you to customize how you play, if you want to finish the game you’re ultimately playing the same way regardless. With the underwhelming gunplay and the lack of creativity, it just feels incredibly disappointing. Everything feels like a watered-down Dishonored. Also, the Time of Day does not change organically. It’s set in a menu, again adding to the artificial feel and directly taking away from the sandbox-like experience it should have. They want you to believe the world is alive since things are different based on time of day, but there’s no sophistication to it. You go to the menu you choose the time of day, you load it, and voilà. It’s more basic than Majora’s mask on the N64. Nothing about this experience feels “next-gen” and there is absolutely nothing here that could not be done on current gen. Performance would be trash because of the engine and nothing to do with the game.

I am quite shocked by the amount of loading too. On a 3500MBs read speed NVME SSD, loading levels takes up to 20 seconds, which is jarring, given that some of their other games were known for loading its levels at absolutely insane speeds, even on HDDs.

So, what are the positive aspects of Deathloop? Not much. I will say that the levels are OK, and I do like the idea of having to work out things yourself, even if it is really kind of spoon-fed to you. There are occasional moments that feel like the standard one would expect from Arkane, and when they do arrive, they feel great. Being able to take turrets and throw them on the floor, wait for the AI to go by and activate it, makes it ever so slightly more creative than the majority of FPS games. Returning to unlock the things you previously couldn’t has a mild thrill, but there never seems to be a eureka movement. There is a sense of reward, but it does not feel as rewarding as it should be. Ultimately, those Arkane moments are just very few and far between, and what you are left with is a boring slog of doing the same things over and over until you figure out the right order to do it in. This would work if the level design, gunplay, and AI were a lot better than they are.

Most of the paths in the game are locked away by the time of day you load in. Add in the repetitiveness of going through the same levels over and over again, witnessing the same AI positions and so on, and it gets tiresome really quick. I can see in an age of rogue-likes and general repetitive gameplay and watering down that some people will get enjoyment out of this. I do not. It is far too monotonous, and the gunplay so painfully average, that nothing about the repetition is anything remotely what I would call fun. Nor would I call it next-gen. Small tiny levels, with highly scripted, incredibly basic AI, no dynamic TOD, and a lack of physics or interactable objects; there is nothing here that is a next-gen experience.

Sound

The soundtrack is actually decent, the songs are good and generally know when to play. The problem is everything outside of the OST is awful. The mixing on guns is terrible; they often sound like they were recorded in a tunnel/tube, and lack any sense of kick or impact. Environmental sounds are average at best and the voice acting often sounds disappointingly the same when it comes to Cole. Not even some of the special powers which should sound crazy and powerful sound anything remotely so. Yet again nothing stands out.

Performance

I ran this on my 8700K running at 4.7GHz on all cores, RTX 3080 OC rig with 16GB of LL DDR4 RAM clocked at 3.6GHz, with the latest Nvidia driver installed, which surprise, surprise, improved nothing and wasn’t released for Deathloop anyway. The devs of this horrible engine insist that you need the latest driver, there’s even a warning when you boot the game, and I’m sure this is going to be their go-to excuse for poor performance.

Unfortunately, despite what certain MSM organizations say for obvious reasons, this is not a well-optimized game or a good PC version. It runs on the Void Engine, and if you played Dishonoured 2 on PC you know where this is going… Nothing has really been fixed, performance is all over the place, and even when you pull high frames the game feels bad and suffers from constant micro stutters due to poor frame handling. Enabling V-sync through Nvidia control panel helps a little at the cost of added latency, but does not completely resolve the issues.

There are areas where FPS tanks for no apparent reason and I have even seen people with a 3080ti and 5900X combo having very poor performance. Furthermore, when you look at what’s going on, how incredibly poor the AI is and how complex the physics aren’t, there is zero reason for these absurd specifications. The truth is that it’s just a straight-up poorly optimized engine. Why they are using their highly customized (and frankly bastardized) IDTECH5 known as the VOID engine is beyond me. High FPS feels awful, and that is if you can get it. Not to mention that most settings do not even affect performance, with Shadows and Ambient Occlusion seem to be the biggest offenders. The game also hates FreeSync and G-Sync and you absolutely need to turn it off. Even when you do, the problems don’t fully disappear unlike what a certain person from a certain well-known channel says. Don’t believe me? Go look at videos by others and then check the Steam forums. Quite peculiar how everyone but that person is having issues.

I discovered that the game (despite using small levels rather than a fully-explorable open world) with textures on anything above High, saturates my 3080’s VRAM and drops performance by 10%+ depending on the scene. It also made changing any setting result in no performance boost. Once I dialed back textures to High, suddenly reducing shadows gave me a boost. How this is saturating 10GB of GDDR6X VRAM for the quality it is showing (which admittedly is solid) and the size of the areas is absolutely beyond me. While I can run the game at 80fps+ for the most part with random drops, the game hates anything above 60fps. Looking around is the same kind of odd that MCC Reach on PC launched with. It felt horrible above 60 for quite some time and was only recently patched. 

Effectively, the game runs like garbage and feels awful at anything above 60. CPU usage is on the low side, never going above 40% and often quite under, so those system requirements are beyond me.

I suggest looking to see if people with a rig similar to yours have commented on the forums as I have absolutely no idea how this will run on any rig; it’s entirely unpredictable.

Conclusion

Deathloop is a true misfire by Arcane, it feels like they sacrificed everything they stood for, and watered it all down in the quest for higher scores and sales. Nothing feels next-gen, the sounds are poor to average, the general loop gets fatiguing quick, and there’s no real sandbox or meaningful options. No sense of any real attempt at lore or world-building and the dialogue between characters is truly awful and goes nowhere.

Everything feels underbaked, levels load in the selected state, play out in a set way, you gather resources to take what you want with you into the next loop, then rinse/repeat until you find the one way to complete it. It’s a painfully average game that has been marketed incredibly hard for 2 years. It is Arkane’s worst game to date and looking at Redfall leaks this seems to be their new trajectory.

Some people will get enjoyment out of this, but for a studio like Arkane this is a painfully average game that everyone will forget very quickly and a complete misfire for the studio. And the ludicrously high ratings it’s been getting only serves to erode people’s trust in those reviews. Arkane can and should have done better. Now, excuse me while I go look for my copy of Dishonored again.

6/10

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