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I beg you, enable multiplayer in Deathloop and embrace mortality

Stick your neck out

The dastardly multiplayer invasions of Deathloop are some murderous hijinks. But not everybody wants to see a player-controlled assassin with vicious human instincts pop up as they sneak through their time loop adventure. That's fine, say developers Arkane, you can simply switch to single player mode, which will replace player incursions with periodic visits from an NPC Julianna who is (let's be diplomatic) a less feisty opponent. I am here to ask, nay, beg: do not do this. Leave it in Online mode. Welcome malice, embrace pain, receive with warmth that sudden mortal stab in the back. You are strong and capable of overcoming such things. I'm not just giving you an ego boost here. As the tenacious Colt, the fight is fixed in your favour.

In the excellent single player story, Julianna remarks how the infinitely recurring Colt only needs to get things right once, yet his Eternalist enemies have to stop him millions of times, every time. The same feeling extends to multiplayer, where Julianna's frailty is clear and purposeful. For starters, Colt has two extra lives while Julianna has zero respawns. You're already tougher. Equip the right trinkets and slabs (like the Shift power and speedy sprint trinket) and you can easily become faster too. Invading Juliannas will often spend the opening minutes of a foray just looking for their quarry, or setting up an ambush. But not if you find her first.

You're hesitant. I understand. Being invaded as a relaxed enjoyer of single player games is like receiving a hefty dose of horse stimulant in the middle of a silent art gallery. But that sudden spike of adrenaline can spark a sense of focus and grit. You're forced to play slightly differently. As soon as I hear Julianna's taunts on the intercom, I stop whatever I'm doing to go sort out the antenna.

Because, aha, killing Julianna isn't even necessary to complete your objectives, you only have to escape safely into the tunnels. Arkane's dense, intricate level design means that an exit is never far away. You can make it. Even if you don't like the shooting match that often results from an invasion, you can still play this game of hide and seek. Keep moving. The tension of the hunt is its own reward. Or you can always sprint as fast as possible towards your rat tunnel, kicking and shoving every enemy along the way, in a bid to swiftly escape with whatever loot you've attained. Slipping away from a wolfish Julianna is sometimes more satisfying than gunning her down.

And you know what? In Online mode, it won't always be another player anyway. NPC Jules still shows up from time to time. Part of the secret sauce is you won't know whether this invader is a human maniac with proximity mines and a lust for blood, or a slightly wobbly AI with a cute habit of getting stuck on world geometry and loudly broadcasting her position with grumbles and swear words. You can figure it out, of course, especially in the NPC Julianna's dottery moments. But that initial feeling of unease is a potent spice. Just the possibility that this is a human, with unpredictable behaviour and familiarity with the maps, is enough to juice up the loop, to create the high stakes that shouldn't exist in an endlessly repeating world.

By contrast, as Julianna you're essentially trespassing in somebody else's single player cabbage patch. The tension hangs in the air like wet laundry. You don't belong. You feel weak and exposed until you know where Colt is. Your only true advantage is surprise. If Colt spots you first, it's a mess. Once the bullets start flying, and Colt starts using that Shift power to dodge rifle blasts, it's frightening. Suddenly that lion you've been stalking is charging at you. Even if you kill him, you're now faced with fresh unknowns: where is he now? Is he coming straight back to fight, or making a break for the tunnels? What do I do? What was that whooshing sound? HURK.

Colt stealthily staking out an arcade/casino in Deathloop.

I've been outmanoeuvred by more Colts than I've bested, as they zipped post-death from blind spot to blind spot, closing the gap between us for a vengeful kill. Being stabbed by Colt almost always ends in me leaping out of my skin saying "JESUS". And then: "good work". They've now got all their reprises back, new lives to finish the level their way, in peace. Plus a bunch of slabs from my corpse. This is another advantage Arkane has gifted the single player hostility recipient. The Colt player is always well-rewarded for downing Julianna. And player-controlled Juliannas seem to carry better gear. New players especially have nothing to lose by taking her on, and everything to gain.

All of this combines to make even basic Colts a dangerous prey. I once broke cover and killed a Colt in a box room, then rigged his corpse with a proximity mine as I waited for my quarry to return to collect the lost energy from his flickering cadaver (explosive chicanery I learned straight from the game's own director Dinga Bakaba). I waited. Colt didn't appear. I opened a door to peek outside and stepped straight into the tripwire mine he'd placed across the threshold. Ah.

This is my plea to you. You too can best me, and other predators. You too can make your adversary say "very nic--" as the tell-tale beepsplosion of a mine sends their body soaring across a dank concrete corridor. Yes, you will sometimes die. Yes, I will occasionally blast you in the back of the head with a shotgun. But in my experience, the coin flip favours Colt. When the time comes, you will also play as Julianna, and you will appreciate his defensive ferocity. By that time, you'll have suffered plenty of dirty deaths as Colt yourself. Seek retrospective revenge on another. Pay it forward. The currency is bullets.

Duelling assassins in a Deathloop screenshot.

You'll notice it's not totally harmonious hide and seek. Matchmaking can sometimes take a while. As an invader, lag and disconnections are a significant issue. Rubber banding as Julianna makes grenades and mines particularly, uh, characterful. These problems don't seem to appear when playing as Colt (probably because he's the host). But they are troublesome.

Even with those problems, Deathloop's multiplayer is too good to turn off. It's reminiscent of novel multiplayer modes that would appear in games before many big developers slimmed down and specialised. Julianna's ability to masquerade as basic NPCs brings to mind Assassin's Creed Brotherhood's multiplayer mode of hiding and pursuit, a daisy chain of murder the purity of which was diluted by too-powerful abilities yet remained one of the last truly creative multiplayer modes to appear in a blockbuster single player game. Deathloop's invasive shit-stirring isn't without its Souls precedent, but it's still a rarer, more captivating breed than the specialist shoot-outs of the next Call of Duty.

And this is the last reason I ask you not to clog up your information pipes with cotton wool. Deathloop's multiplayer needs you. Yes you, Joe Single Player.

Colt wields one of his paranormal powers in the palm of his hand while facing off against an enemy in Deathloop.

The longer we get from the game's release date, the harder it will get for multiplayer murder lovers to find a match, as many single player one-and-dones who help make the hunt possible finish the game. Their adorable lamb-like frolics into the loop will be set aside as they reasonably decide they are done with the story, and don't feel the need to play more. Add to that the fact that only certain times and places are available for invasion, and you see how quickly the Colt numbers will dwindle. Fellow Juliannas, we are hunting an endangered species.

So in an effort to keep the beauty of this mode alive for as long as possible. Please, single player Coltists. I humbly request: stay in Online mode. I'm not just saying this so I can kick you to death and get an achievement for laying the boot in (although I bloody will). I'm saying it to make your game better too. Snort the horse stimulant. Embrace the sweet inevitability of death, the uncertainty of your future. You have speed and brutality and swift reprisal where Julianna only has tricks. Second chances where she only has critical failures. Cherish the multiplayer of Deathloop while you can, it's special. And unlike the loop, it won't last forever.

About the Author

Brendan Caldwell avatar

Brendan Caldwell

List Goblin

Brendan likes all types of games. To him there is wisdom in Crusader Kings 2, valour in Dark Souls, and tragicomedy in Nidhogg.

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