Deathloop does a lot of things right. One of those things is chat logs. When you’re not going on a murder spree, you’re reading through the private DMs of those you just killed. Arkane has done a superb job of imbuing its villains with flair and personality from beyond the grave, thanks to one of the best in-game group chat threads I’ve ever read.
“This is the PS5’s big console exclusive for fall 2021 and you want to talk about chat logs?” Yes, yes I do. Despite some great dialogue and voice acting, it’s hard to get to know Deathloop’s main characters when you’re busy stabbing them in the face. They’re trying to preserve an infinite time loop while you, playing as their former colleague Colt, need to assassinate them to break it. It’s a nifty setup that doesn’t leave much room for cinematic chit-chat.
Fortunately, the opposing crew has littered the game’s island with intriguing morsels in the form of diaries, audio logs, and computer files, as immersive-sim NPCs are often want to do, and they are bursting with flavor. But my favorite by far is the Temporary Group Channel, a chat log that evolves over the course of day but starts off with a banger:
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You can practically feel the “many people are typing” energy rippling out of the screen. From very serious topics being derailed by side beefs, to the unintelligible pitter-patter of people all unloading their knee-jerk reactions in half-a-dozen different directions at the same time, it’s a whole mood. One which, though it’s mutated over the years as it jumped from AIM to SMS to Google Chat to Slack to Discord, I feel deep in my bones.
Overarchiver, the handle for main Deathloop antagonist, Julianna, is losing her mind trying to keep people on task. FranklyMyDarlin, the singer and resident fireworks freak, is asking useless questions. Aleksis “AlphaWolf69” (chef’s kiss) proceeds to blow up the chat with more stupidity and all caps. And then there’s Harriet’s perfectly placed cherry to top off the lore sundae: “The adults are speaking.”
The first log ends with Colt getting booted from the group chat—RIP—but it doesn’t stop there. Later in the day, AdminCharlie threatens to ban AlphaWolf69 for being a jerk and a creep about trying to get the scientist Wenjie to come to his costume party that night. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:
“I AM EMPEROR OF ELECTRONS.” Spelling mistakes. That one friend teling you to reign it the fuck in. A carefully deployed ellipsis from the person who wants to be involved but not take a side and so just feigns embarrassment at the whole thing. I wish every video game in-universe note were this good.
The writing and characterizations across the other documents and chat logs you come across are also fantastic. “I AM invited to the party, aren’t I,” asks the physicist Egor in one private exchange. “CALL ME BY MY FUCKING HANDLE YOU SADSAK SACK OF SADSHIT,” responds Aleksis. I also love the message from the seafood restaurant explaining the abundance of abandoned burgers everywhere: “Fristad Fish and Chips will not be available during the Loop due to the dish’s popularity prior to First Day.”
Deathloop is a game about harvesting information and leveraging it to uncover the secret behind why you’re trapped in a repeating 24-hour cycle. Usually this kind of sleuthing is perfunctory at best in a first-person shooter with as much style as Arkane’s, but Deathloop elevates it to a main attraction, and when it works, it works splendidly.