Deathloop is one of our favorite games of 2021 so far, and might even be a game of the year contender. Certainly, it's one of the best PS5 games you can grab right now. While we touched on the interesting two-player PvP mode in our review, we also felt its potential — and drawbacks — deserved a closer spotlight. My coworker Jennifer Locke and I are both big Arkane fans, so we took some time to try killing each other in Deathloop and came away with some interesting discoveries.
PvP changes the game
Something that became clear right away is that if you're playing with somebody who is similarly skilled, hunting each other is fun. Colt and Julianna have different advantages but they also have a huge amount of overlap. Spending time chasing each other through the streets, tracking gunshots, and setting ambushes presents a nice change of pace from most other multiplayer games available, turning the game into one of tactics rather than brute force.
Deathloop is a game that's all about studying patterns and knowing what will happen but the arrival of Julianna throws a wrench into that. Even if you've mastered the game as Colt, you're immediately put into a situation where you don't know what to expect, which is exciting. When I neared finishing the game as Colt, I felt powerful and capable, so for a game to take that feeling away without actually removing any player agency is downright incredible.
The combat loop feels great but it's taken to another level when facing off against somebody who understands how you think. As I took on a late-game mission while Jen looked for me, I hid away in a place I knew to be safe from Eternalists' prying masks. A shotgun to the back of my head a minute later revealed just how safe it really was.
Multiplayer with a twist
Like most people, my experience with Arkane Studios games is limited to single-player titles, the studio's bread and butter. Deathloop, while an excellent single-player experience, mixes up the formula by adding a multiplayer component, what Arkane had hoped to do with its canceled game The Crossing. It's much more than just hopping into another player's game, though. Multiplayer in Deathloop feels like an extension of its campaign, and this is only further supported by Julianna's progression.
By completing certain objectives (sometimes even as simple as surviving a few minutes without dying), you'll earn points that increase Julianna's Hunter rank. Increasing her Hunter Rank grants rewards like new weapons and trinkets, which can dramatically change how you approach a mission. One of the better weapons I was able to earn was the Sepulchra Breteira sniper rifle. Not only did this allow me to search for Colt across a longer distance of the map, but I could also stay well out of harm's way while doing so. Being able to upgrade and change my loadout encouraged me to keep playing more multiplayer, something I initially thought was going to be an issue before it launched.
Something that I'm still skeptical of, however, is how Julianna can only invade a player's game once per mission. This is perfect if you're being invaded by an NPC or even a random person, but it's less than ideal if you're playing with a friend. If the friend playing as Julianna dies early on, then they're stuck sitting there on the loadout screen while the other person completes the mission, which could take a while. This makes the pacing more stagnant than Arkane probably intended. I realize that balancing this mechanic is tricky, but it would have been nice to see some extra options available for friends.
All that said, I'm really impressed by what Arkane managed to pull off with Deathloop's multiplayer. It doesn't feel like a one-dimensional, tacked on multiplayer mode. It's a core experience to the game that simultaneously doesn't need to be touched at all if you don't want to. –Jennifer Locke
Co-op is possible, it's your choice
Even more interesting, however, was that we quickly discovered you don't have to fight each other. The game encourages it but if you want, the player using Julianna can actually aid the other in whatever they need to do, killing Eternalists and helping them fulfill objectives. In fact, in classic Arkane fashion, the developers at Lyon realized this as a possibility, with the Eternalists eventually turning on Julianna if she kills enough of them.
Creativity and problem-solving are huge components of any Arkane game, so getting to do it like this in co-op has been an awesome experience. It also excites me at how this could be even further realized in Redfall, a co-op vampire-hunting game from Lyon's sister studio in Austin, Texas. –Samuel Tolbert
A fresh experience
The minor issues highlighted aside, Deathloop feels great to play and we're happy to see its critical success so far. We've talked before about how Arkane's work on immersive sims is truly important and needs to keep going. Now that ZeniMax is part of Microsoft and Arkane is in the Xbox first-party family, I hope we continue to see these incredible games continue.
Deathloop is available right now on PS5 and PC.
Deathloop is a classic Arkane game, but one you can choose to play with a friend. You're meant to hunt each other but co-op isn't out of the picture, if you trust each other.