Cyberpunk 2077 is a good game. Sure, it didn’t live up to all of its promises, but a rollercoaster ride through its gorgeous shooter galleries is still a great weekend getaway. Then, once you’re done touring Night City with Keanu Reeves and feel like exploring a neon-lit new underbelly, consider jumping into Deadlink.
The gritty cyberpunk aesthetic is alive and well through Deadlink’s assemblage of standalone enemies, weapons, and combat shells. The roguelite first-person shooter lets you remotely control one of said combat shells, clearing the arenas of enemies, one round at a time. Each shell offers unique weaponry and enemy elimination modes – think braindances in Cyberpunk 2077, but with a deadly robot following your commands.
While the final game will certainly feature more variety of guns and enemy types, I was only able to test a two-gun loadout in a single set of stages. The game’s fluid movement system lets you dash and attack through its arenas as you take on dozens of targets, ranging from meat shields to nimble, teleporting ninjas. Deadlink’s grappling hook integrates seamlessly with its ammo system – floating orbs scattered across the terrain that serve as both grapple points and ammo crates when hit.
But those orbs aren’t the only things you can open. Tag enemies with your abilities and they become walking crates, providing bonuses to your shields when downed. Think Doom Eternal minus the bloody executions. Marked enemies even add a shell to your shotgun when defeated, allowing you to enjoy that adrenaline rush for longer. This encourages smart play, whether actively tagging enemies or sneaking in and out of combat situations. Moving to kill, taking a shield boost, and going after security is glorious in practice.
So gong it’s true
Deadlink’s acrobatic combat is a breath of fresh air after Cyberpunk 2077’s lackluster hallway shooting. And better yet, it lets you use environmental props to your advantage. For example, a huge metal gong stuns enemies when shot at. Sure, Cyberpunk 2077 gives you a double jump, but the game’s firefights were designed without that in mind – turning the ability into a boring “get out of jail for free” card. But stand still in Deadlink and you’ll be hailing the main menu screen in no time.
Just like CD Projekt Red, developers Gruby Entertainment are adopting cybernetic upgrades for their leveling system. But unlike Cyberpunk’s core bonuses, Deadlink’s upgrades drastically change the way you interact with the game’s enemies, making every run unique.
For example, poisonous or electric shotgun ammunition. Or bodily implants that trade health for power. The best part? Some of these implants light up when you perform specific moves, like switching weapons or breaking one of the aforementioned floating orbs, allowing you to create your own gameplay loop. These modifications to your borrowed body change the rules of engagement each time Deadlink runs.
Want to get closer? Improve your health. Or do you want to live on the razor’s edge? Adopt a battle build that gives you electric balls as you swing between orbs, like a robotic Tarzan. Status effects inflicted by weapons add an extra layer of strategy, especially when enemies are weak to specific damage types.
Although I only have one Combat Shell to play with, none of my runs have gone the same. Deadlink doesn’t keep its best tools as purchases from black market vendors litter an open world map. When you manage to clear an area, the doors allow you to choose between implants, weapon upgrades, and an equipment store. If enemies manage to take down your hull in battle, the resources gained from your runs can be spent to improve your combat form. It turns every loss into an opportunity, a fuzzy feeling that roguelite enthusiasts will know intimately.
The developers at Deadlink call it “Doom meets Hades” and it’s not hard to see why. The game’s current single boss comes with enemies that, while annoying, serve as walking crates to stock up on essentials while you whittle down the big baddie’s health, Doom-style. Deadlink even uses Hades’ Heat Gauge system, allowing experienced players to increase the difficulty with modifiers for rewarding runs.
I’d love to see a Hades-esque narrative set in a cyberpunk setting – but Gruby intends to focus on its gameplay mechanics. While Cyberpunk 2077 and Deadlink feature evil megacorporations, the latter haven’t offered much story during my time with her. Not that I’m complaining. Deadlink manages to weave together multiple systems with the finesse of a veteran studio, from mobility to damage and resource management.
While I don’t know why I’ll be fighting sumo wrestlers or stealth ninjas in the future, I had a great time moving and swinging around Deadlink’s arenas. I bet the other combat shells will get as much attention as the class of soldier I have to choose. It’s obvious that a lot of care has gone into tuning the game’s systems so far, and I can’t wait to see more of Deadlink’s nuanced arenas and challenging mobs.