Cyberpunk shooters, the gift that keeps on giving especially after reviewing Turbo Overkill several months ago prior to PAX East. It feels like a long time ago, but it's nice to see that the cyberpunk first-person shooter craze hadn't stopped there. In fact, I'd say a large part of its renaissance continues thanks to the release of Cyberpunk Edgerunners and a well-polished Cyberpunk 2077 among other titles and anime. There's a market for cyberpunk warfare, so combining it with the roguelike elements of, say, Hades makes Deadlink a must-look for the future of indie FPS.
The premise of Deadlink is simple. You are the secret weapon of a private sector known as the Corporate Security Agency. While they will back you with upgrades and support in the form of weaponry and ability shells, you are placed at the forefront of dismantling several sections of organized crime. As you are one person against a mob of gangs including the Yakuza, the odds are stacked against you. Fortunately, you have the ability to obtain augments that will help you in the later stages of Deadlink.
Deadlink is one of those games where death is not a penalty but an opportunity. Various augments including an increase in critical hit rate, elemental damage, and survivability are all relevant to each other. These augments, while helpful, aren't enough to make runs easier as it all depends on your skill as a player.
The controls remind me similar to arena shooters like Quake and Unreal Tournament as in the beginning you are armed with a shotgun and a rocket launcher. Ammo is replenished by destroying these orbs that appear but the name of the game is to keep moving. You're armed with a grappling hook that reminds me of the Soul ability in Valkyrie Elysium.
You can close the distance and dish out the pain to enemies as well as throw grenades from a distance. Grenades deal marked damage which means obliterating your opponent will equal bonus upgrades like extra shields for survival. You could also invest in upgrades that increase your damage at the expense of increased damage dealt to you. It all depends on your playstyle whether you want to play slow and steady or in-your-face guns blazing.
There is no right or wrong way in playing Deadlink. There are no time limits nor is there any benefit or disadvantage to playing a certain playstyle. Everything is all up to the player, but, again just be mindful that you will die several times. Much like Hades, each death adds insight to the lore of the game and it shouldn't be taken as a detriment. With this said, I feel like Deadlink is a unique spin on the "cyberpunk FPS" genre.
I will mention that this game's difficulty is brutal. You will die and you will die several times until you understand how to play Deadlink. The tutorial does a fair good job of introducing the player to the controls and mechanics. When you have several grunts, flying drones, and several armored tank spiders closing in on you, that's when the game truly begins. From my first several runs, I've learned to keep moving as you take a lot of damage if you're prone to being a sitting duck.
On the other end of the problem, moving too fast will cause you to run into enemy fire needlessly. Toxic barrels, gas canisters, and electric charges are scattered to give players an advantage against the enemy. These same enemies can use these hazards against you, ramping up the damage received. At the beginning of each seed, the flavor of enemies is easier to deal with but as you get stronger with upgrades, so too do the various enemy types.
Deadlink is a game that follows the general rule and thumbs of other roguelikes. It will get frustrating having to redo the same early levels over and over again, but you're in it for the long haul. There's enough gunplay to sate the hungry of a trigger-happy FPS fan. Those, like myself, who are a bit slow in their reactions may feel discouraged after each death. The general rule is to not give up and take the beratings of your scientist colleague with stride. The fluid framerate and the serotonin you get from blowing enemies with a rocket launcher makes it all worth it in the end.
Deadlink is currently in Early Access, in which players can access via the official Steam page here.