The revolving door of opportunity turns for thee
Let’s try action. Let’s try action. Let’s try action. This is the Deathloop I’m in at the moment, but I’m slowly beginning to think it’s worth breaking the cycle and taking the stealthy approach as often as I can. I’m confused, you see. In many of the game’s pre-release teasers, we saw Colt bursting into action. Stealth? No no, this is more of an FPS. The music flares, enemies die, it is carnage.
But when I actually give action a go in the game, I’m mostly left dead in seconds. Either that, or I meekly duck behind some cover and regret not trying the stealthy approach. And the problem is that sometimes I have no option but to go all guns blazing, and I think, “Colt isn’t built for this. He’s only a squishy lad.” I just think he’s a stealth character being forced to break cover when he’s clearly uncomfortable doing so.
Now, Dishonored and Dishonored 2 hold a special place in my heart. The latter I’d consider an all-time classic, actually, and I’m thinking about moving it from my dingy aorta into my lighter, brighter right atrium. And I will hire little red guards and carefully place them in spots for aerial backstabs, so any assassin entering my heart to try and wrest Dishonored 2 from its hallowed plinth will have a great time.
It’s the stealth focus that really gets me going in Dishonored. Each scenario is built with sneaky-stabby-stabby in mind, and your assassin’s toolkit complements this perfectly. The guard placement and clever layout of the levels work in unison to operate many revolving doors of opportunity. Spy an opening? Then slip in with a blink, fire a sleeping dart, and slit a throat. You aren’t a hulking great piece of work, but that’s okay, because everything’s doable if you wait patiently for the gap to swing around again.
But in Deathloop, you’re forced into action sequences whether you like it or not. Guards don’t operate metaphorical revolving doors. It’s more like they’re flanking your classic ‘pull this open manually’ type of door. If you want to beat some sections, you can’t exploit a moment of opportunity or blag entry with a fake ID. Oh no, you’ve got to force your way in. Thing is, Colt doesn’t strike me as someone who was designed for this kind of argy bargy. If anything, I get the sense he’s deeply uncomfortable in these aggro moments.
What I’m trying to say is: Colt is weak as heck, folks. Although he’s capable of handling himself in a fight, with all his special powers and weapons, he’s still barely got any health, especially at the start of the game when you don’t have a load of special powers and weapons. If he stepped on a plug, he’d die instantly. If he stepped on a rake and it flipped upwards and smacked him in the face, he’d disintegrate. And the islander goons have machetes and guns, so you can imagine how Cole stacks up against them. While Deathloop wants you to blend stealth with action, for me, it feels like Colt’s missed the memo. He’s a stealth hero in a game that demands action.
Of course, Deathloop is still an Arkane game and this means you have options. There are trinkets that’ll give Colt more health, or help him regenerate health faster. Hey, some magical powers also make you harder to take down. Alternate paths might help you get the drop on your enemies a bit better. If you die, you’re given a couple of extra chances because this is the loop life, baby. I reckon the loop life is good, by the way. I mean, Deathloop really does it for me in many, many ways. The guns feel solid and make nice sounds. Julianna and Colt are both excellent characters with believable, funny craic. I like that knowledge really does mean power. Did I mention that it’s an absolutely gorgeous world?
But despite all of these things, Colt still feels a bit too vulnerable when shit hits the fan. No matter how many times I’ve looped and rehearsed and prepared, I miss having the stealth options I did in Dishonored (and my blessed quicksave). Maybe it’s because the rhythms of Deathloop haven’t quite clicked with me yet, but I just don’t feel as cool as I did in Dishonored. Colt is a very cool dude, capable of some very cool things, but in a firefight I feel stripped of my apex predator status and reduced to a silly wizard man who’s just as mortal (or immortal, technically) as anyone else. Unless you’re a parkour pro, or the bloke behind the controller in those teaser videos, I often feel like you’d be better off sitting behind a box and felling your enemies one by one like a whack-a-mole champ, than trying out some bat-shit mixture of slides and quickscopes. But [extremely Mark from Peep Show voice] that isn’t very Deathloopy is it?!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great if you’ve managed to reach that flow state you see in those Deathloop trailers, or string together a gnarly wombo-combo out of nowhere. But I lack confidence in Colt. The revolving door of opportunity spins too slowly in a loop. Even with magic juice running through my veins and my trinket armour equipped, I remain fearful of combat. It’s reached a point where I approach action sequences with reluctance, as all it takes is one minor slip-up to perish, and perish, and perish again.