Returnal Review

Returnal

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Here is our Returnal Review giving you a subjective, unbiased review helping you make a more educated decision on whether or not the game is for you

Release Date
30-Apr-2021
Platforms
PS5
Price At Launch
£69.99
Developer
Housemarque
Publisher
Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre
Third Person Shooter, Survival Thriller, Bullet-Hell

The Game

Returnal is a third-person, survival thriller set on the planet Atropos, you play as Selene, the lone survivor of a space ship crash… continuously. Allow me to explain, at the start of the game you see a cutscene of Selene crashing into the planet, dusting herself off and going out into the world where she finds herself dead on the ground. She then sets off into the procedurally generated world to find out what’s going on meeting plenty of hostile creatures along the way until you inevitably die, awakening back at your ship
That’s how the game goes, you will die over and over again, each time uncovering a little bit more of yourself being resurrected in a different version of the world where the landscape, enemy placement and tactics you’ll need to employ change with every new cycle you attempt
Returnal is brought to you by Housemarque, the same developers behind Resogun, Nex Machina and Alienation, all fantastic bullet-hell style games and Returnal is all this and more. Enemies can attack you from a distance with a barrage of attacks or up close and personally with powerful melee attacks
You can also find parasites throughout the cycles which are a risk / reward mechanic where you might be able to do more damage with a given weapon but then lose health whenever you pick up an item which is good as it adds another dimension to the gameplay

The Good

Returnal looks stunning whatever you’re doing it just looks perfect for the setting, the environment is brought to life by bio-luminescent plant life, the enemy attacks look really well detailed and the weapons look and feel as you’d expect in a game of this nature
One of the more impressive things about Returnal is it runs at 60fps regardless of what’s happening on screen, this is down to some very clever coding as well as the power of the PS5 itself, I’ve played over 40 hours of Returnal so far and not once have I had a frame rate drop / glitches / crashes / issues of any kind which seems to be a very rare thing in this day and age and Housemarque are definitely commended for doing such a good thorough job with the game overall
Returnal also brings a lot of atmosphere and tension with the game, you could be sprinting through an area when the floor suddenly falls away landing you in an area where you’re surrounded by enemies and you need to fight your way out and back up to where you fell or find another route to your objective
Then there’s Selene herself, a middle-aged lady who is trying piece together her memories and figure out just what the hell is going on around her causing her to respawn over and over again, the dialogue brings a lot of depth and intrigue to the character and personally, I just want to keep playing so I can learn more about what’s going on
The DualSense controller is fully utilised in Returnal enabling you to aim by half pressing L2 or unleashing a powerful attack by pressing the button fully, the rumble features are second only to Astro’s Playroom which was essentially designed as a tech-demo for the DualSense controller
Returnal is very impressive on every front

The not so Good

Returnal is a game that doesn’t hold your hand at all throughout the many hours you need to invest, you’re pretty much straight into the action in a kill or be killed scenario, whilst players of Housemarque’s previous titles, Alienation, Dead Nation and Nex Machina will know what to expect, I feel there could have been a tutorial style level just to teach newcomers the importance of dashing and jumping in the game, I fully understand that would break the immersion and to be honest I am struggling to find much more than one small criticism about the game, it’s brutal, but that’s where the game is at it’s best

Audio

The sound of the environment is eerie and foreboding like you never know what’s through the next door or what you’ll find popping out of the walls to blast you with a barrage of neon death, the guns sound good and powerful as does the whoosh of the xeno-blade as you carve through enemies’ shields and health bars
Selene does a very good of detailing her journey as you progress by essentially talking to herself (you as the player) as she struggles to remember what’s going on, Jane Perry who voiced Selene portrays her beautifully
The enemies sound as deadly as they are, they roar, screech and wail through the levels as they come to kill you and the sound changes whether you’re in a large cavern or a tight tunnel which all adds to the immersive experience

Online

Returnal is a single-player game with no online components at launch

Trophies

The trophies in Returnal are a bit of a sticking point as for the most part they are luck based, it all depends on how the world is formed in a given cycle, some may be attainable fairly easily, however, some might take 30 / 40 deaths before the world loads in a way that allows a trophy to unlock
Overall, the trophies are mixed and varied seeing you through all 3 acts of the story and much more besides, click the link below to have a look at the Returnal trophy list before you pick the game up if trophies matter to you

Gallery

Here are a series of photos to show you how the game looks

Overall

Returnal is a unique experience, I certainly haven’t ever played a sci-fi, survival thriller, action adventure bullet-hell that sounds like it should be a complete disaster on paper, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth here
The game is beautiful, the gameplay is lightning fast and super smooth, you are presented with a challenge whilst not being overly unfair
The game makes you work to find out what’s going on, there’s no difficulty settings so everyone has the same experience and after over 40 hours of gameplay, I haven’t experienced a single crash, outage glitch or issue
Therefore, Returnal earns a solid, very well deserved 9/10

Final Score

9/10

9/10

I hope the review helps you make a more informed decision on whether or not Returnal is for you
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Take care of yourselves and we’ll see you on the next one

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