PS5 Review: Returnal

Is this roguelike worth eternally returning for?

Returnal transforms roguelike gameplay into a third-person shooter where players fight to survive a hostile planet that changes with every death. Players can switch instinctively between firing modes by using a single adaptive trigger and can get right back into the action after dying. PS5’s immersive 3D audio brings the alien world to life around the player, helping players navigate the intense positional combat.

I didn’t know what to expect from Returnal as roguelike games aren’t usually my thing and the whole RNG nature of the biomes, including layout, enemies and loot had the potential to be a nightmare….and at first it was. I kept dying as I got shoved into a small area with a giant beast and only a pistol to defend myself, but after much persevering I managed to make it upto the first boss and thanks to a certain item that revived me upon my death, I was able to beat him and move onto the second area.

The great thing about Returnal is that once you beat a boss, you don’t need to redo it to access the next area, somethings you do are permanent such as some upgrades you get to access new areas. Think of the game much like a Metroid game where at first you can’t access areas but you get upgrades and can later revisit those areas with the tech (albeit probably in another cycle) and you can even skip to the second or third biome if you’ve beaten the bosses of biome 1 and 2.

You’ll slowly become more intune with the enemy patterns and while rooms are randomly generated in the way they are put on you, you can learn the ins and outs of each area over time. The thing about Returnal is that yes, it’s brutal and you can lose hours of progress if you make a few mistakes, but you’d still be slightly further along the way to victory each time. Weapons get stronger the more you use them, more weapons are found as you go and finding the right one for you is essential.

Selene’s journey of being stuck in a loop where when she dies, she wakes up on the planet over and over is a intriguing one and while I won’t spoil what it all means, I would say to make sure you definitely don’t miss out on the House sequences which changes the game from third-person shooter to an first person experience that was slightly reminiscent of the P.T. demo.

The game handles like a dream thanks to the DualSense, the triggers support alternate fire modes depending on how far the trigger is pushed down and while it won’t be for everyone, it can also be disabled for a more traditional feel. The haptic feedback is also insane and the best use of it since the PS5 came out in my opinion.

I did come across a good few bugs during my time, but a lot seems to have been fixed already. I did experience crashes, doors not opening and sound glitches that cancelled all audio on my TV until I closed the game itself, something I have never experienced in any game before. The worst part was the game crashing or not loading during a long run which meant 2-3 hours was wasted, but after much struggle and playing to gather the remaining collectibles, I can say that I finally have the Platinum trophy!

Waiting for the right collectible to spawn in each area took a LOT of patience and as established, this game won’t be for everyone. It’s challenging, brutal by design and can be particulary unforgiving if you are unprepared and sometimes more so if you are. The game looks incredible on PS5 and runs at a solid framerate with the odd glitch exception that somehow made it run to an unplayable standard, but it’s just another thing I expect to be patched any day now.

The Verdict

Returnal is an amazing game, tough in so many ways but if I can do it, someone who has never beaten a Souls game, then anyone can if they just push through. Housemarque have knocked it out of the park and while it still has a few teething problems, at least the majority of them are now fixed and now what is here is one hell of an experience and now is when it’s worth beginning the cycle.

Score: 9.0