Leaks from Valve’s Deadlock look like a pressed sandwich of every game around

Shelves at Valve's offices, as seen in 2018, with a mixture of artifacts from Half-Life, Portal, Dota 2, and other games.
Enlarge / Valve has its own canon of games full of artifacts and concepts worth emulating, as seen in a 2018 tour of its offices.

Sam Machkovech

“Basically, fast-paced interesting ADHD gameplay. Combination of Dota 2, Team Fortress 2, Overwatch, Valorant, Smite, Orcs Must Die.”

That’s how notable Valve leaker “Gabe Follower” describes Deadlock, a Valve game that is seemingly in playtesting at the moment, for which a few screenshots have leaked out.

The game has been known as “Neon Prime” and “Citadel” at prior points. It’s a “Competitive third-person hero-based shooter,” with six-on-six battles across a map with four “lanes.” That allows for some of the “Tower defense mechanics” mentioned by Gabe Follower, along with “fast travel using floating rails, similar to Bioshock Infinite.” The maps reference a “modern steampunk European city (little bit like Half-Life),” after “bad feedback” about a sci-fi theme pushed the development team toward fantasy.

Valve doesn’t release games often, and the games it does release are often in development for long periods. Deadlock purportedly started development in 2018, two years before Half-Life: Alyx existed. That the game has now seemingly reached a closed (though not closed enough) “alpha” playtesting phase, with players in the “hundreds,” could suggest release within a reasonable time. Longtime Valve watcher (and modder, and code examiner) Tyler McVicker suggests in a related video that Deadlock has hundreds of people playing in this closed test, and the release is “about to happen.”

McVicker adds to the descriptor pile-on by noting that it’s “team-based,” “hero-based,” “class-based,” and “personality-driven.” It’s an attempt, he says, to “bring together all of their communities under one umbrella.”

Tyler McVicker’s discussion of the leaked Deadlock content, featuring … BioShock Infinite footage.

Many of Valve’s games do something notable to push gaming technology and culture forward. Half-Life brought advanced scripting, physics, and atmosphere to the “Doom clones” field and forever changed it. Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2 lead the way in team multiplayer dynamics. Dota 2 solidified and popularized MOBAs, and Half-Life: Alyx gave VR on PC its killer app. Yes, there are Artifact moments, but they’re more exception than rule.

Following any of those games seems like a tall order, but Valve’s track record speaks for itself. I think players like me, who never took to Valorant or Overwatch or the like, should reserve judgment until the game can be seen in its whole. I have to imagine that there’s more to Deadlock than a pile of very familiar elements.

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