Deathloop finally appeared on the Xbox series consoles. The time-traveling adventure from Microsoft-owned Arkane Studios debuted as a PS5 and PC release last September, a limited-time console exclusive due to a pre-purchase deal with Sony. That original PS5 release had some flaws, but it has been fixed since launch with additional content, visual fixes, and a new 120fps graphics mode. But with a fresh start on new consoles, has Arkane finally delivered a properly calibrated version of his first-person adventure? Is this the ultimate Deathloop experience?
Deathloop is a curious game. Like many previous Arkane titles, it’s superficially a first-person shooter, but success depends on exploiting the characters’ unique abilities, stealth, and environmental hazards. It offers open gameplay, but not in an open world environment – it’s a carefully curated experience that still manages to thrill and surprise. Progressing depends on exploiting the core concept of the game: a time loop that causes the game to reset at the end of each day. It’s not as strict as a game like Returnal, and it’s structured like a more conventional single-player adventure. Still, this is no roller coaster ride, and conquering the ‘Deathloop’ requires a lot of backtracking and patient exploration.
Technically speaking, this closely resembles a next-gen title. To be clear, it’s not unattractive by any means, but the visual techniques available are generally in line with 8th-gen fare. Asset quality is reasonably high at least, and volumetric lighting and shadow map quality is solid on all consoles. Deathloop doesn’t aim for a hyper-detailed aesthetic, with stylized characters, lower-density textures, and simple particle effects, and at least manages to convey its ’60s retro look. Plus, in the year since Deathloop’s original release, we’ve seen very few visually advanced efforts on the console. Most software is still mired in the cross-gen era, with little visual distinction between the current and last-gen versions. So Deathloop still keeps pace with the general trends in big-budget games, apart from a handful of graphically ambitious outliers.
But let’s move on to console comparisons. There’s a lot of ground to cover here, so to keep things simple, we’ll go console by console, starting with the Series X’s 60Hz modes, followed by the Series S and its two modes, and concluding with the available 120Hz modes. on PS5 and Series X
First is the performance mode. As on PS5, this option compromises the resolution to target a 60fps refresh. It looks like we’re getting a dynamic resolution here that tends to operate between 1080p and 1440p with what looks like upscaling via AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (the spatial 1.0 variant, not the vastly superior 2.x ‘sequel’). Image quality overall isn’t too bad and this mode generally holds up pretty well on a 4K set, despite relatively unambitious rendering goals. The advantage here is that the performance mode on the Series X is a locked 60fps as far as I can tell. Heavy combat in dense environments plays perfectly fine, without any hiccups.
The visual quality mode at first glance looks very similar to its performance equivalent. The underlying visual setup looks fairly similar and the image resolution in still shots doesn’t differ much from performance mode, although the resolution does seem to operate in something close to a 1832p-2160p window. As on PS5, Deathloop appears to operate with a fairly high resolution floor, which helps resolve distant details more cleanly, but doesn’t make much of a difference during normal gameplay. Increasing resolution carries a substantial performance penalty. Interestingly, the game is still aiming for 60fps, although drops below that are frequent. Trips to the 50s are common during most combat and in larger environments, making the game look and feel less consistent than it should. VRR cleans this up for the most part by minimizing frame time differences, but I still prefer performance mode personally.
Finally, there is the ray tracing mode. Like PS5, there are two key RT features here: ray-traced sun shadows and ray-traced ambient occlusion. RT sun shadows look pretty good and display a precise variable penumbra effect depending on the distance from the shadow casting geometry. Some sections of the shadow remain quite sharp, others become fuzzy as they move away from their source, and some, like the power lines here, disappear entirely. It’s a realistic-looking effect, though it doesn’t seem to apply to artificial light sources in the game.
However, the real star of the show is the RTAO: Ray Traced Ambient Occlusion. This adds additional ambient shadow detail to pretty much everything in the game. Shade pockets accumulate around rock faces, at the corners of buildings, and at the base of vegetation. It makes a substantial, if not transformative, impact in most areas with a much more realistic treatment of ambient shadow than standard screen space ambient occlusion can offer, at the cost of some moving artifacts, which also it was a problem on PS5. Image quality is generally pretty good though, with resolution generally looking on par with the visual quality mode. Technically it seems to be slightly above that option, ranging from about 1944p to 2160p in busy scenes.
With two RT effects in play, Arkane lowers the frame rate target to 30fps. Thankfully, I couldn’t spot any drops or inconsistencies during gameplay, so it feels very consistent, unlike the PS5 version at launch (although that version’s inconsistent framerate cap has since been fixed). My only real gripe here is that the camera’s motion blur setting doesn’t apply much blur to broad camera motion, making the game feel a bit choppier than it should during fast-paced combat.
Speaking of the balance of resolution and frame rate in general, Performance mode seems to dynamically reduce the number of pixels more often on Series X than PS5, while, interestingly, Visual Quality mode performs substantially better on Series X. X-series, around 5fps advantage in typical play. In practice, the two consoles don’t have much to set them apart.
Xbox Series S? No RT here, just performance quality modes, both at dynamic 1080p – I saw a low 900p performance mode, along with visual degradations and a minimum of 936p on the quality alternative. Neither mode offers as consistent frame rates as we’d like. Performance mode is typically 60fps, though intense scenes and larger environments can see it drop to 50 momentarily. Visual quality mode doesn’t hit 60 more often, struggling in the same places but dropping more often and strength. Neither option is as smooth as it should be, but I’d certainly prefer performance mode if given the option. VRR improves both options, of course, but I really feel more consistent performance should be on the table here, even without a display that supports variable refresh.
PS5 and Series X also receive 1080p ultra performance modes, with a target of 120fps. None of the other visual settings seem to take a hit, so this is just a milder version of the performance and quality modes available on PS5 and Series X. Performance-wise, neither version hits 120fps by much. frequency. Both the PS5 and Series X spend a lot of time in the 70-100fps region for most of the game, only going above that during quiet moments. The most substantial difference between them comes down to vsync: PS5 works without v-sync, while Series X has full v-sync enabled, at least by default (suspending the console and resuming it removes it, strangely). Enabling any other visual mode re-enables vsync, which requires another sleep if you want to re-enable it. The on-screen tooltip indicates that v-sync should be disabled in this mode, so perhaps this is something Arkane should look into.
Here’s a basic trade-off between the PS5 and the default Series X version: the PS5 version comes loaded with intrusive screen tearing, while the Series X is more visually pleasing but a little less fluid. I did notice a small frame rate advantage in favor of the Series X, though not a huge one, maybe 10fps on average. Mainly, I think this is a mode designed for VRR gameplay.
Deathloop is a fun game, and possibly the last hurray for Arkane’s idtech spin-off Void Engine, with the studio apparently ready to use the Unreal Engine for future efforts. The fundamental rendering technology doesn’t exactly impress, apart from a very good implementation of RTAO. But the art looks good, the game oozes style, and it still holds its own against most of the cross-gen efforts that are so common today. However, I think the basic visual settings leave a bit to be desired. Visual quality modes on consoles offer questionable frame rates and are the default option when starting a new game. Some changes to the menus or VRR-compatible TV hardware can resolve these issues, but consoles are all about a plug-and-play experience, and Deathloop presents a lot of complexity for the player.
The Xbox versions stack up basically as you’d expect, aside from those quibbles. The Series X trades blows with the PS5 launch, while the Series S drops to a 1080p target with mixed results. Ultimately, Deathloop on Xbox offers a decent enough experience, but not great from a technical perspective, with little to distinguish it from the previous console release. However, Arkane’s magic is still there, and that alone will be enough for many.