Game Reviews

Returnal review

UPDATED: PC performance

₹ 3,999

PC performance review

We have updated the review with PC performance and features that came with the PC launch. Our 2018 review remains unchanged but there are some new bits added here for PC gamers. Starting off with the keyboard and mouse precision. This is a game built for a keyboard and mouse setup. No matter how good the PS5 controller haptics feel, the mouse precision is exactly the kind of thing that makes this less challenging than it used to be during its PS5 launch. Housemarque (the devs) have also balanced and tweaked the difficulty in the game to feel more rewarding as you progress and now there’s a Suspend mode as well which acts as a save point so you can take a break and continue your game from the spot you left. Although if you still get stuck, you can also bring a buddy to join you in co-op mode.

Graphics and all stay similar to the PS5 but there’s a bit of stuttering between load times when you’re entering a new level. This stuttering and frame drop really pull away from Returnal’s fluid combat and movement which is best experienced on the PlayStation 5. We think it can be fixed with a few updates but it's been a few weeks since the launch and it still hasn’t been fixed. So better watch out for that update before you get your mitts on this.

Like most PlayStation Studios titles for PC, this one too supports 16:10, Ultrawide (21:9) and Super Ultrawide (32:9) aspect ratios. You’ll also find Nvidia’s DLSS and Nvidia NIS, along with AMD’s FSR here. There’s Ray Tracing as well. So pretty much whatever rig you’re rocking, Returnal will run as smoothly as your PC can allow. We tried it on our reference Nvidia RTX 4090 card and got around 100 to 130 FPS on 2K resolution with all settings set to Ultra along with Ray Tracing and no DLSS. Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered also had a similar set of settings to play with. Lastly, there’s Dolby Atmos support here along with 3D Audio support similar to the PlayStation’s Tempest 3D Audio. We recommend playing with headphones because it's simply more immersive.

You also get the DLC called the Tower of Sisyphus which lets you endlessly climb the tower beating baddies and putting your score on a global chart. If you have the PS5 controller, the game will detect it and let you experience the same level of haptic fidelity that is on the PS5. We absolutely recommend trying this. However, if you have the PlayStation DualSense Edge controller (₹18,990), you will not be able to use the extra buttons on the PC. It will only work as a regular PS5 DualSense controller.

There’s a new level of difficulty in video games, and unlike the masochists who enjoy Souls-like video games, rogue-like games offer a special kind of difficulty. In 2018 Hades set a new bar for rogue-like games. It was a rogue-like game for people who have never played or enjoyed rogue-likes before, and even if you set aside the genre debate, Hades managed to beat expectations. It was almost faultless! The fact that it blends narrative and gameplay structure so seamlessly makes Hades one of our top recommendations. But unlike Hades, I am not sure if Returnal will entice everyone. That doesn’t mean Returnal is bad. Not one bit! It’s great. The only thing keeping you from grabbing the controller is understanding that is Returnal’s rogue-like and time-consuming structure for you or not.

On the surface, Returnal is similar to Hades, the premise is simple at first and the least bit daunting. The story slowly expands after every run. Giving you breadcrumbs of information and almost always pulling you back for another round.

Selene doesn’t quite stick the landing after receiving a distress call from an unknown planet. She’s part of an intergalactic space exploration team called Astra. Your job is to find the source of the distress call and also, figure out why you’re able to come back to life at the crash site (beginning of the game) every time you die. Its procedurally generated world and the almost perma-death situation will challenge you in ways only the best of gamers can come through. So repetition is key and dying is part of the job.

Dying repeatedly is also part of the game’s rogue-like design, but it also extends to its story elements. It’s also a bit creepy in that regard. Unlike Hades where you’re the son of the Underworld God so rebirth is acceptable. Dying in Returnal feels more punishing and often creepy. It’s also done with the fantastic level design, the PlayStation 5 controller’s impeccable haptics and the eerie sound design. Nearly all your senses are pulled into Serene’s distressing situation. It’s safe to say that Returnal feels like a fleshed-out game as we expect from Sony’s exclusives, and that’s why this rogue-like deserves attention, even from folks who are not into it.

The procedurally generated level is divided into biomes, each biome has a boss after which it’s a bit easier to get to the next biome without confronting the boss of the previous biome again.

Returnal can quickly become a tiresome venture after you die more than the usual amount and the fact that permanent unlocks/items are far and few, doesn’t make Selene’s life any easy. So GetGud because it can get very challenging and frustrating for casual gamers to sit through the many levels at a stretch. There are no checkpoints and taking any damage can severely impact your health. So if you’re not careful, death can come easily, even when you’re looking to avoid a fight.

Returnal is best at training you to pick and choose your items. Going in guns blazing is probably a bad idea, but the reward is worth the grind if you’re bold enough. This third-person twin-stick shooter is made for gamers who thrive under bullet-hell situations. To carefully dodge and avoid incoming bullets while shooting at the enemy at the same time takes experience and precise hand-eye coordination. It also makes Returnal such a fun game to play for seasoned gamers, meanwhile, casual players might find it bothersome.

You also have to manage health, items, malignant items, keys and artefacts. All of which is lost after you die and the only thing you can carry from one run to the other is a substance called Ether. That too is rare, almost as rare as finding a waterfall in the middle of the desert. Of course, all these items have their uses and once you figure out which items are needed for your next boss battle, things tend to clear up but it’s not guaranteed that you’ll find the same thing again. That’s why some successful runs feel lucky. In my first-ever run, I was able to reach the third biome in a total of three to four hours of continuous gaming.

Items can also be Malignant. Laced in bad juju so to speak and picking them up will induce a sort of debuff till you clear the specified malfunctions. For example, You get health but your dash cooldown will last longer until you kill three enemies with a melee attack. That sorta stuff. There are also parasites that have pros and cons as long as they’re attached to your body.

Enemies drop Obilites upon death which can be traded for upgrades/items using Xeno tech devices. Much of the utilities you need to continue to your next boss battle can be found in the first biome. The first biome is also connected to the other ones, so it’s easier for you to access the latest biome without going through the previous ones again!

The world of Returnal is creepy. Enemies look odd and everything wants to kill you. The aesthetic is almost similar to some horror/thriller movies, think of Prometheus from the Alien movie franchise and you’re almost there. The PS5 controller also adds to another level of immersion, something I knew would be possible during my time with the PS5 but wasn’t sure until I played Returnal. The haptic feedback is downright fantastic! The shooting mechanics are built right into the controller. When you half-press the left trigger, the weapon only scopes in for normal fire but when you push the left trigger all the way in, it activates an alt-fire mode. Even the smaller details like raindrops on Selene’s spacesuit is felt with such precision that it blew my mind, again! The first time was when I played Astro’s Playroom.

Returnal promises many of PS5’s amazing features. The rapid load times after death and smooth gameplay are quite on top of that list but the immersive experience that the PS5 controller brings simply breathes life into Selene’s gruesome adventure.

You have to do your best to avoid enemy fire which always comes at you in simple yet deadly patterns. Dashing and running around the many levels and biomes while shooting enemies with various weapons and a lightsaber-esque sword is all part of what makes this third-person shooter so much fun. It’s almost like Doom at some point, maybe soon after you unlock a permanent grapple hook mod to reach higher sections of the level.

It’s a fluid third-person shooter where bullet hell and rogue-like mechanics are thrown into the blender along with some superbly scripted narrative to keep you coming back for another run. The PS5 controller haptics and its audio add a certain level of immersion that is otherwise not available anywhere but the PlayStation 5!

Stuff Says

Returnal has all the ingredients for an enjoyable, tough and fluid rogue-like game, and the PS5 controller elevates this experience further!
Good stuff
Bad stuff
  1. Intriguing story and plot

  1. Creepy enemies and world

  1. PS5 controller haptics are something else!

  1. Selene is interesting and complex

  1. Extremely difficult for some

  1. Get gud!