Deathloop PC review – Arcane’s first missfire

Before I say any more let me state my video review and written review are different, I wanted to keep the video review relatively short, while I go more into depth in my written reviews. With that out of the way, if you are going to continue reading, strap yourself in because this is going to be one long ride that explains why despite being opinion, I can not fathom why any review site could give this a 10 without it being pure shilling. You know my reviews by now, they aren’t traditional i’d rather give you a sit and sit down at a table with me, no BS I tell you how I feel and why.

World/Story

So the Story of Deathloop is you wake up without your memories 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 the second part of Arcane’s was their power of world building. Dishonoured 1 and 2 were fictional worlds that felt very real. There were many reasons for this from prop placement to details littered around the levels, dialogues and so on. As alluded to earlier, the prop placement is very random and the entire island feels very gamey, it does not feel like a real living breathing world, unlike Dishonoured and Prey. It honestly feels like they put very little effort into making this entire island anything other than it existing for a gimmick feel like an actual island. It goes for a more realistic style than D1 and 2 yet somehow feels less realistic, everything feels clearly placed for either your amusement or with no thought. While there were things there for your amusement in D1 and 2 it felt entirely organic due to well thought out placement. Something Deathloop does not have, all the world building I came to expect of Arcane 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 back store or build lore. Furthermore, even the information you gather is pretty much handed out in a very uncreative manner. As alluded to before, the world just feels like it exists as a plot point, an afterthought just there so the game can be played out.  It is a major back step for Arcane and one of their strongest points has completely disappeared.

Art

There were always two things about Ackane that they excelled at: Art and world building. The Art in Deathloop is an unorganized wishy washy mix match which does not hold a candle to Dishonoured. Everything feels off, scaling, colour usage and so on, it just has a very weird feel to it that doesn’t really work. They went for this 80s kind of style but did not pull it off. On top of that all artistic integrity seems to have left Arcane, prop placement is very random making the world feel very gamey. This was an island built on a gimmick and yet it feels like 0 effort was made making the island, which is what I want to talk about next.

Here is a screenshot of Dishonoured 2. Notice the prop placement, the use of lighting, the curled up wallpaper telling a story of this room? Multiple points of detail trying to make this room speak.

Now here’s Deathloop…

The artistry has completely gone, there is no story to be told, it’s randomly placed props with no real artistic vision to do anything but serve as a generic room for a game. Arcane used to be so much more than this. The colour usage is poor, the filters are awful it just simply does not hold a candle.

Voice Acting

The voice acting and dialogue is terrible, Cole often sounds like he is talking into a tube. There seems to be a swear word per minute allocation to all dialogue, to, you know, be “edgy”. Because the only way to be gritty is a juvenile attempt of constantly swearing and aggression. There is no actual attempt to have the conversations between the MC and antagonist be an attempt to flesh out the world through their dialogue. It’s just swear word after swear word. I love swear words and all, but there’s a limit to everything and this clearly is a really poor juvenile attempt at being “edgy” .

The same can be said about typical NPCs and even the visionaries, it’s just swearing and vulgarity, Deathloop tries to be edgy, but it just fails hard. All the dialogue feels like it was written by some juvenile in university who’s only there because he paid to be there and has only got a chance to write for a game because his rich mummy and daddy know people. The writing is truly atrocious.

Gameplay

Unfortunately, the gameplay has also gone back a major step compared to the Dishonoured games. Gone are the Arcane that put faith in the player and gave a big variety of options and effectively had levels that felt like a sandbox. Unfortunately 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 when you are not there are technically options, but they are incredibly limited and very boring. You also have a massive lack of stealth tools and general creativity with your powers compared to the dishonoured games. The creativity they used to give the player due to the faith they had has completely gone.

There are no houses to go into or multiple sprawling paths that you can choose from like in Dishonoured 2. There are no moments of looking around and seeing 2 entirely different buildings with multiple flaws to go through that you can choose to progress ever so slightly forward in the mission. Nope it’s very clearly designed tunnels and paths that a monkey could see. There is no true sense of freedom anywhere to be seen, just a hollow imitation of Dishonoured. There’s intrusive writing everywhere saying completely irrelevant things that frankly I wish would just F*** off, I don’t need cosntant remidners or suggestions, I have my own brain that I am capable of using.

The AI offers literally no challenge, and later you can mow them down relatively easily, it makes for very predictable encounters, and on that note of predictable encounters 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 4 phases that play out mildly similar in concept to Majora’s mask. Bosses and enemies change position based on the time, 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 spiel of the game is working out what is the correct order 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. I at one point shot multiple enemies in the head with nails, while they were surrounded by fellow allies, and yet 0 reaction from the allies. I stealth killed an enemy and they fell into their ally, yet again 0 reaction. This AI feels like an afterthought, there really was no real effort into making the AI anything substantial. Another gripe with the AI, you can shoot a mine with a gun and the enemies react to the noise in a very basic way of what was that never mind within the space of a second. However, this is where how poor the AI is really shows, if you then take a quiet gun and shoot a mine, the explosion being much louder than any gun ever is, they do not react. Walk into it take damage and scream, NOPE NO REACTION. I can not get my mind around how bad this AI truly is, it only reacts to a sound of a loud gun.

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 bleeps in the loop, and there is the invasion mode you can enable, and adds some mild variety, with very poorly implemented netcode that zaps out all the fun it could offer. The game without invasion mode fundamentally plays out the same no matter what. Which again makes the world feel very gamey, it does not feel organic, everything plays out in its set way, and while that is true of many games even the dishonoured games there is a stark difference.

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 the first time you witnessed it, but once you repeat the loop over and over, which is the entire premise, the curtain falls very quick. What remains is a very hollow predictable gamey world. Dishonoured made you feel like a god due to the sheer amount of power and options, Deathloop makes you feel godly from the sheer predictability. This is objectively worse than Dishonoured.

Unfortunately, as the start make abundantly clear, you are in small set areas, of which there are 4, they are called districts. Yet an entire district feels smaller in scale than Dishonoured 2, simply due to the lack of paths and freedom. You complete an objective then you can stay or leave, it is not organic as mentioned previously, there is no real attempt at world building. Areas are even completley unavilable 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, and given how easy the gameplay is… I see no real reason to. 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 Dishonoured, it is all very archaic. It’s nowhere near the sandbox you would expect from Arcane.

An example of how scripted it is would be this. At the start of the overly long insulting spoon-feeding introduction to a selection of very simple and easy to understand mechanics, which I can not fathom that people are presenting as something much more than they are. Anyway, You come across an objective where you have to find a battery which is right on the ground inf rotn of you, charge it and insert it into the machine. However, there are 3 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. That is how scripted everything is.

So how are the rest of the mechanics? Underwhelming to say the least, there are some cool powers, but nothing is as good as Dishonoured overall, you have a very limited set and there’s 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 Arcane fashion the guns feel very poor, there is a straight up lack of feedback and poor sound mixing and sounds in general. Recoil seems non existant in a lot of weapons, and the range on the first psitol 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 dissapear, 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 an 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 are straight up underwhelming to straight up comical. I shot one person in the head from quite a distance probably 150 or so feet and their body went flying so far away I almost died from laughter. Combat is also very easy as just get a half decent gun (which you get at the start) land a headshot and boom.

The movement however does feel quite good, and the sliding, jumping and general traversal is solid. Matched with the movement-based abilities you have it does have a good feel to it and matches Dishonoured in that regard. It does however have a major flaw; you can spam special abilities and dashes with borderline 0 cooldown. Well none for the dodge dash, 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 to a place should feel very freeing and while it is true that it allows you to customize how you play, you’re ultimately playing the same way regardless of what you choose.  With the underwhelming gunplay and the lack of creativity of dishonoured it just feels incredibly disappointing. Everything feels like a watered down dishonoured.  Also, the Time of Day does not change organically it is set in a menu, again adding to the gamey inorganic feel and directly taking away from the sandbox feel it should have. They want you to believe the world is alive, as 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 and the game loads that state. It’s more basic than Majora’s mask on the N64, where in that you experienced the entire day from early morning to night. 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 dishonoured was known for loading its levels at absolutely insane speeds even on HDDs. In addition to that, yes there is no loading on an individual small level, however the amount of loading between those points is ridiculous.

So, what are the positive aspects of Deathloop? There isn’t much as is already abundantly clear. 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 would expect from Arcane, and when they do arrive, they do feel great. Being able to take turrets and throw them on the floor, wait for AI to go by and activate it, making it ever so slightly more creative than majority of FPS’s. Returning to unlock the things you could not previously unlike 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 Arcane moments are just very few and far between, and what you are left with is aboring repetition of doing the samethings over and over until you figure the right order to do it in. This would work if the level design, gunplay and AI were a lot better than they are.

The reality is most of the paths in the game are locked away by the time of day you load in. Add in the repetitiveness of going to the same levels over and over again, witnessing the same AI positions and so on and it gets tiresome really quick. Once you’ve learned the level exploring it again is not fun, does not feel compelling or motivational, you’ve simply had routes locked away to try andmake the world feel organic. It’s just doing the same thing over and over and over again, expecting it to be different. As Vaas would say, the true definition of insanity. I can see in an age of rogue likes and general repetitive gameplay and watering down; some people will get enjoyment out of this. I simply 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. Neither would I call it next gen, small tiny levels, with highly scripted incredibly basic AI and no dynamic TOD, a lack of physics and interactable objects, there is nothing here that is a next gen experience.

Everything feels underbaked, nothing sticks out or shines. This is not a bad game, but it is not a good one either. Everything I knew and love about Arcane is either gone or barely existent.

Sound

The soundtrack is actually decent, the songs are good and generally know when to play. The problem is, however, everything outside of the OST is awful… The mixing on guns is terrible, they often feel recorded in a tunnel/tube, they lack any sense of kick or impact. Environmental sounds are average at best. Voice acting often sounds like it was recorded in a tube when it comes to Cole,this is an incredibly weak poorly mixed sound package outside of the music. Not even some of the special powers which should sound crazy and powerful sound anything like it. 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 improves nothing and wasn’t released for Deathloop anyway. Rest assured though the devs of this horrible engine ensure you need the latest driver, there’s even a warnign 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 will say for obvious reasons, this is not a well optimized game or 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, due to poor frame handling the game feels bad and suffers from constant micro stutters. Enabling V-sync though Nvidia control panel helps a little at the cost of added latency but does not 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 are not, there is 0 reason for these absurd specifications. I’m sure your average Joe will say “FINALLY A GAME THAT PUSHES HARDWARE”, which I have already witnessed… The truth however is 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, Shadows and AO 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 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, dropping performance by 10%+ depending on the scene, it also made changing any setting offerED 0 performance boost, once I reduced 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 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 has 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, 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 get fatiguing quick, there’s no real sandbox or meaningful options. No sense of real attempt at lore or world building, Dialogue between the protagonists 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 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 Arcane’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 Arcane this is a painfully average game that everyone will forget very quickly and a complete misfire for the studio. It’s a completely watered down dishonoured which has taken away trust in the player for higher ratings.

6/10

Leave a Comment