Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 5
Platform Reviewed On: PS5
After multiple smaller titles, Housemarque next game is a AAA 3rd person shooter mixed with roguelike elements called Returnal. This evolution is a great development for the studio and shows great promise for the future. The engaging gameplay, fierce atmosphere, and rewarding exploration all combine to make a Returnal a great experience, despite the mediocre story.
To begin with, the gameplay of Returnal is fast-paced, and the large selection of weapons helps every run feel different. In your early runs, all you will have is a standard pistol, shotgun, and carbine, but when you start to get some of the more experimental weapons is when the fun really begins. When you die, you start over at the Helios crash site, but you keep any permanent upgrades you unlocked from your previous run. As you progress, you unlock a larger arsenal of weapons that randomly appear when you kill larger enemies, open chests or find throughout the world. The best way to survive is to take advantage of jumping, dashing and sprinting to dodge enemies attacks. Be sure to pick up any astronaut figurines as they revive you where you die. The gameplay is fantastic and is what shines brightest in Returnal.
The boss fights are done extremely well. They’re all unique and don’t feel cheap or copy and pasted from each other. Their designs, along with the standard enemies designs, are done very well and help contribute to the overall atmosphere. Experimenting with different weapons and finding which one is the most effective against them is crucial to defeating them. Though I will say, I was a bit disappointed with how easy it was to beat the final boss.
In addition, the atmosphere and rewards help make the exploration worthwhile and fun. Rushing through is a viable option, but it will make it a lot harder to last. The rewards, like health upgrades, weapon proficiency, and better weapons, make exploration crucial to survival. Obtaining more obolites will also greatly increase your survival rate, as it allows you to buy extra silphium vials, astronaut figurines, and temporary upgrades for your run. Picking up silphium resin will increase your max integrity, which helps greatly when in combat. You also obtain scout logs which add to the lore and atmosphere of Atropos. At the same time, the gameplay is the major selling point. The exploration is done extremely well.
Finally, the story of Returnal is pretty simple and boring. There’s a first-person segment where you explore Selene’s house on earth. They are a nice change of pace, but the story they tell isn’t that interesting. Selene is a rather boring and bland protagonist, kind of like Ellen Ripley without the personality. Selene’s son is really the only other character within the game, and he only says a couple of words, so nothing else noteworthy character-wise. The lore is ok, but after reading a couple of logs, you’re most likely going to close out to get back to the gameplay. Overall the story is pretty forgettable but doesn’t get dragged on and shoved in your face like Days gone.
Once you complete act 2 of Returnal, there is still plenty for you to do. While the credits have rolled, there is a secret ending, which essentially has you replay the entire game over collecting 6 sunface fragments. Due to the world being randomly generated, the rooms which contain the fragments aren’t always there. But luckily, it’s just there if you want to continue playing.
Returnal performs great on PS5, almost always at 60fps; I only had a couple of frame drops in my 30hr playthrough. It’s not the most graphically impressive game out, but it’s pretty at moments. I didn’t experience any glitches in my playtime, so it seems as if the patches have done well in patching out early issues people had with it. The environment looks great, and the enemy design is nice. Overall, a visually impressive game that runs well.
In conclusion, Returnal makes for a great starting point in Housemarque’s AAA development. The gameplay is fantastic, and when it’s mixed with the exploration, it truly shines as one of the must-play Playstation 5 exclusives. Overall, it’s an 8/10 can’t wait to see what Housemarque does next, especially if they’re going to continue returnal as a franchise.