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I wish Deathloop would treat me like a real mastermind

Deathloop is out now, and it’s giving players another reason to hunt down a PlayStation 5. Critics and players alike are obsessed with Arkane Studios’ inventive first-person shooter, which combines the stealth assassinations of Hitman with the supernatural powers of Dishonored, all wrapped in a roguelite time loop premise. Add in some snappy shooting and a killer sense of style, and you have all the ingredients necessary for a standout title in a quiet year for gaming.

While there’s a lot to love in Deathloop, it’s not a perfect experience. Its multiplayer component is polarizing, enemy A.I. is bafflingly bad, and it’s experiencing performance issues on PC that have led to review bombing. There’s one area of the game that I found specifically disappointing though: Its ending.

While I’m not going to spoil anything about the story here, I am going to discuss how the ending is structured, so proceed with caution if you have yet to finish the game.

Doing the work

The central hook of Deathloop is that players need to find a way to assassinate the eight visionaries responsible for creating Blackreef’s time loop in a single day. It’s essentially a big puzzle game where players need to make one giant solution. “Leads” act as missions that point players in the right direction, but much of the game’s hook relies on personal eureka moments. As I was playing, I was talking to myself out loud, working out my final plan in my head.

As I finished up the last lead, I felt like a mastermind. I could see the flowchart I’d built in my head and knew exactly where I’d need to be at all times of day to make this happen. I was running it through my mind over and over, making sure I had every detail down pat. I wasn’t 100% positive I had it all right, but it all felt just mad enough to work.

And then, Deathloop just told me what to do.

Colt looks at a flowchart of visionaries in Deathloop.

A major disappointment

Completing every lead in the game unlocks a stylish cutscene where Colt summarizes everything that he learned from the leads. It doesn’t leave any ambiguity. Colt rattles off exactly where he will need to be at each time. The lead screen is updated with a new mission listing every single step in sequence. The loadout screen displays icons at each time of day, telling me exactly where to go and who to kill. I couldn’t mess it up if I tried.

It was a disappointing moment that betrayed one of the game’s driving hooks. I was all bought in on the puzzle aspect and ready to see it through to the end. Having the game do the work for me felt like having the rug pulled out from under me. One of the small joys of puzzle games is the euphoric moment where you try a solution and it actually works. You spend all that time on trial and error, and then it organically clicks into place. Deathloop feels like working on a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and then having someone else put the last piece in for you.

In general, Deathloop is a little overeager to hold players’ hands throughout. While I started playing the game by randomly hopping into different areas and snooping around, that quickly faded as I unlocked leads. Soon, I was just following objective markers. There were a few moments where I’d need to think for myself, like trying to find and disable an invisible machine, but Deathloop never wants players to get too lost.

Colt sneaks up on enemies in Deathloop.

That’s a positive, in some ways. Time loop games like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask can get frustrating as they push players to piece everything together themselves. They can start to feel obtuse, sending players looking for a guide online. Deathloop smooths that over and makes sure to always leave a clear path open. It’s an action game first and foremost, so it’s careful to keep the momentum up at all times.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel a little betrayed as I completed my final loop. I no longer felt like Danny Ocean orchestrating a brilliantly crafted plot; I was checking items off a grocery list. The action is strong enough that it was still perfectly fun to go through the whole cycle and blast some visionaries away, but I wished Deathloop had put enough faith in my ability to piece it together myself.

Talk to a die-hard Hitman fan and they’ll tell you that the best way to play that series is by turning off all objectives and exploring the sandbox organically. I wish that was more of an option in Deathloop.

Deathloop is available now for PS5 and PC.

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