Returnal is a fast-paced third-person shooter roguelike from developer Housemarque. The game was released exclusively for the PS5 almost two years ago to both critical and commercial success despite its challenging gameplay and steep learning curve. However, it is now finally releasing on PC with a slew of new exclusive features and options. Having spent several hours in the game on PC, I can confidently say that despite its difficulty and some frustrating elements, it is still one of the most fun games I’ve played in a while, and the PC port is Sony’s best port yet.
For those unfamiliar with Returnal, the game follows ASTRA Corporation astronaut Selene Vassos who decides to visit the forbidden planet of Atropos to pursue the mysterious “White Shadow ” signal. However, upon crash landing on the planet, she finds corpses of herself and discovers that she revives with each death and that the planet and its creatures shift and change in the process, leading to a disturbing endless cycle of death and rebirth that presents new challenges and mysteries to unravel.
Returnal’s plot is one that I find incredibly interesting and is one of the many elements that attracted me to the game. It does a great job of presenting an intriguing psychological horror mystery that slowly unravels with each major and minor progress. While players will start out knowing very little about Selene’s circumstances, this changes as they slowly begin to learn more about her history, the origins of the mysterious planet, and the reason for the horrific cycle with each victory in combat.
Speaking of combat, Returnal’s gameplay is nothing short of impeccable. I’m a huge fan of fast-paced gameplay in any medium, and Returnal does a great job of scratching that itch. Guns feel weighty and accurate, movement is swift but precise, and enemies are unique and unpredictable. Players can jump and dash across high distances and use a variety of guns, explosives, upgrades, restorative items, and more. So in terms of pure action, Returnal is one of the best games I’ve played in recent years.
However, there will always be bad with the good, and that remains true for Returnal. While the game is skill-based, it is unfortunately just as luck-based as well due to its roguelike elements. The problem with this is that, regardless of their skill, some players will find it difficult to progress without the necessary luck needed to find good weapons, upgrades, and items. As a result, you may find yourself blazing through the game in some runs while struggling in others.
What’s more, I found the weapon variety to be very lacking, especially earlier in the game, as you’re only given a selection of three weapons with varying stats to choose from until you progress to other biomes. My biggest gripe with gameplay is the penalty system. Not only will good items be rare to come by sometimes, but you will also be faced with multiple “malignant” items which curse you with several types of debuffs, like reduced damage and healing, until you clear a bunch of different objectives. While there are ways to avoid dealing with the system, I still find that it adds an unnecessary level of tedium to the game.
However, I will admit that despite its challenges, Returnal is still an incredibly fun, satisfying, and addictive game, especially once you learn the game’s ins and outs and once your luck hopefully begins to pick up. The experience is also significantly amplified when playing with a friend as the challenge is halved, and the fun is doubled.
Now for the meat and potatoes of the PC version, I have to say that Returnal has the best port I’ve played thus far. The port gives players a slew of features, options, and toggles, including 4K support, Ultra and Super Ultra-wide support, 3D audio, Nvidia DLSS, Ray Tracing, several lighting, shadow, and FOV settings, and so much more. It also provides a neat benchmark feature that tests your PC against a mock level with enemies and a dynamic environment while displaying your CPU, RAM, and GPU usage before you even start the game, which I still find really cool.
Despite its odd warnings of playing it on low settings, I was able to run the game on a measly RTX 3060 averaging about 60 FPS on High settings with no issues despite some frame rate dips during some intense moments with enemies, which I blame on the limitations of my own graphics card and not the game. I say this confidently because Ron, our Editor-in-chief, ran the game in 4K on a 4090 with all the works and no issues.
Overall, despite its frustrating and challenging elements, Returnal is an incredible game, especially on PC, as it provides even more neat ways to enjoy its immersive, challenging and satisfying experience.
Returnal is a great game on console and on PC, and its brilliant fast-paced gameplay will give daring players a highly entertaining experience despite its frustrating elements.
- Great visuals
- Excellent performance
- Cool features
- Interesting story
- Very luck based
- Can be frustrating