Have you ever had that feeling of déjà vu? Like you've done, seen, or felt something before? That's the sensation that Colt Vahn, Deathloop's protagonist is feeling. Only much, much worse.
Colt is trapped in a time-loop where the same day repeats itself unless all eight of his targets, the Visionaries, are killed by the end of the day. If he doesn't get to them, he awakens back on a beach with partial amnesia. It's a bit of a mind-bending concept to get your head around, but it might just be Arkane's most exciting project yet.
Deathloop Preview: Arkane Is at Its Weirdest, Wildest, and Smartest On Blackreef
The studio behind the Dishonored franchise and the Prey reboot of 2017, much of the immersive-sim DNA finds its way into Deathloop, just not in the way you'd expect. Deathloop is, for the most part, a shooter with stealth, movement, and powers, but it's also much more than that.
All eight visionaries exist in different parts of the Blackreef, which is cut up into playable areas. Part of the puzzle is how to get the eight Visionaries in a certain spot, and what you do in one area will have repercussions in another. There are also four times of day, and while players can stay in one region as long as they'd like, that means the Visionaries can be in sixteen places at any one point.
That means finding clues, whether from listening into conversations, finding notes, or paying attention to your environment is just as important as Colt's trigger finger.
In one instance, Colt is tracking Visionary target Aleksis Dorsey through the Updaam district. Aleksis is holding a party, replete with open-mic night. In our first demo, we see Colt jump in, guns blazing, before being shot down by enemies. Oh well, can always try again tomorrow, aka today.
In the next loop, he overhears a conversation about an open window, and sneaks through this gap in the defenses, then killing Aleksis without firing a bullet - before a large gunfight ensues, anyway.
If this sounds vaguely rogue-likish, then fear not. While Arkane notes that they're fans of the genre, there's no singular path to follow. In fact, game director Dinga Bakaba describes the feeling of taking out every enemy in a single run as a sort of "victory lap".
If you're concerned about losing all of your progress, then you may be pleased to know that early on you'll get the opportunity to hold onto what you have, and you can save between time periods.
And you'll want to do just that. Colt can get his hands on plenty of killing tools, including a machete for Dishonored-style stealth kills, dual-wieldable weapons (including a silenced nailgun), and even a turret, all of which can be boosted with Trinkets.
These Trinket perks range from reduced recoil, to larger magazines, to upgrades for Colt himself that allow for double-jumps and the like, on top of powers like invisibility and the ability to throw enemies around the environment.
Of course, while Colt is hunting the Visionaries, he himself is also being stalked by Julianna, the wildcard element who plays differently each time. This charismatic killer is always hunting our hero, and while the game is entirely playable in single-player it's also possible to allow Juliana to be controlled by another player.
That's sure to lead to more "water-cooler" moments as she scuppers a perfect run, but while Colt's job is to stay alive, players controlling Julianna will be rewarded for playing with style with new visuals and customisation options.
Deathloop still feels like a game that will require hands-on time to fully understand, but it's already clear that it's the crystallisation of everything Arkane has done before. It's tense, malleable, and it's undoubtedly one for players to look out for when it launches on September 14.