Returnal is similar to a shooter, yet it is completely distinct and exciting in the realm of high-budget video games. The Finnish firm Housemarque demonstrates that it can not only develop outstanding original games, but also update a seemingly immutable genre in an innovative way. Returnal demonstrates that even a high-action shooter with bullet hell aspects can be a wonderful science-fiction thriller with an engaging plot. We hear the narrative of Selene, who lands on the planet Atropos after receiving a cryptic signal. He survives the crash, but the real troubles come soon after. An ecology teeming with unusual wildlife proves to be so deadly that the heroine perishes. Death, on the other hand, is not the end of the journey, and we find ourselves standing next to the wrecked ship, understanding that we have been trapped in a temporal loop. The only way out of this cosmic macabre dance is to locate the cause of the problem. It’s worth emphasizing that this isn’t your average movie game with a lot of cutscenes. We learn about the plot primarily through audio files or cosmic hieroglyphs, with just a few moments including glimpses from the past or a larger emphasis on narrative.
The purpose of the game appears straightforward on the surface, as we must pass through six different biomes, each with a higher amount of hidden hazards. It is also worth noting that with each death, practically everything is reset. We lose weapons or relics that enhance our powers, and the layout of regions shifts. As a result, it is a roguelike game – in the shape of a shooter, with a particular bullet hell character that demands us to evade dozens or hundreds of bullets that cosmic opponents bombard us with. At first glance, opponents appear to be too homogeneous. The early regions are dominated by lizard-like monsters with multiple tentacles spewing energy orbs from their mouths. We immediately learn of violent flying predators, bipedal “warmen,” and even fast-moving monsters that like to attack with a huge sword instead of a claw. The variety grows as you go to the next area, which is populated by totally diverse species, including some genuinely startling opponents. The aforementioned random landscape creation is excellent, and the settings may be enjoyable. We come upon intriguing structures and the ruins of a mystery civilisation. Even previously seen fragments can have an entirely different collection of opponents, secrets, extra traps, and a variety of other attractions that provide an unexpected surprise each time.
The use of guns is crucial to the game, yet it’s difficult to select a favorite variety. Each sort of weapon, whether a handgun, a rapid-firing rifle, or a semi-living shotgun spewing acid bullets, offers a unique gaming experience and way of dominating the battlefield. Add to that the fact that the alternate assault is chosen at random, and the arsenal contains even more weapons with varying qualities, and we have quite an astounding collection of weapon permutations. Following fatalities are only an excuse to test new technology and capabilities with the following approach. The aesthetics of Returnal are stunning. At various points, it’s difficult not to think of “Prometheus” – a dark, deeply unpleasant mood oozes from the screen as we progressively uncover the relics and history of a society that inexplicably fell. Some of the game’s locales are magnificent. Atropos, on the other hand, is a more living planet than the one shown in Ridley Scott’s film, which we feel with every bullet that hits our suit. Returnal is smooth, swift, and aesthetically beautiful even in the most dynamic moments full of particle effects and disintegrating building debris. There were just a few tiny stutters, but these were unrelated to the actual conflict and were caused by reading something in the background.
Each of the visited biomes has a unique ecology, vegetation, atmospheric phenomena, environmental hues, and collection of foes. Despite falling in one location on the earth, Selene explores numerous really interesting sites. As a result, the entire journey is delightfully diverse, and there is no danger of monotony. The acquired technology and various relics blend into and are a part of the environment, frequently exposing fresh knowledge about Atropos and Selene herself. As it turns out, the basis of our problems is a mystery anomaly that may reach deep into the heroine’s brain, tormenting her with visions from the past and hallucinations, and operating extraterrestrial technology can make items that are quite near to the main character. Parasites are an intriguing piece of equipment; each of these creatures provides a benefit as well as a disadvantage. So we must determine if we want to take advantage of the boost at the price of some traits, such as increasing our stamina while accepting that we would do less damage. Choosing the correct parasites or managing their statistics is frequently the key to surviving on this hazardous world. Parasites, along with artifacts that improve Selene and consumables – such as unleashing the additional attack with a massive spike that pierces the adversary – are another feature that makes each successive game unique and thrilling.
To go to a new biome and continue the tale, we generally have to beat a boss at the conclusion of a certain zone. This is when our knowledge and equipment are put to the ultimate test. Most enemies rain down hundreds of colorful missiles on us, but they also occasionally conduct direct assaults, forcing us to stay on the move even more – which is nearly always critical anyhow. The difficulty level is great, and it becomes more challenging with each new planet. Unlocking a route to a new region of the globe is typically linked with a one-way trip, so it’s worth investigating the previous biome before proceeding to the next – if only to strengthen and equip yourself a little. There would be no way to return after that… Except in the case of death. Even if we die in the third world, we may restart with our shipwreck in the first biome. Moving forward has become easier and faster with time, so there is no sense of dissatisfaction here.
Exploring areas where we have already defeated bosses is not optional. Later in the game, we gain tools that allow us to reach previously inaccessible areas. We return to the first pieces, as in the metroidvania genre, to uncover even more mysteries and formidable equipment. A fantastic concept that provides variation when we die somewhere far away and don’t want to return to the bloodthirsty chaff lying outside the gates. Signals from other “incarnations” of Selene are another perk of playing with an active internet connection. Projections in the form of holograms, similar to ghosts from the Dark Souls series, depict the heroine’s final moments as controlled by another player. We can choose to revenge another user by confronting a hazardous creature. Victory brings a large prize in the form of equipment or raw materials utilized in the game, but it is wise to prepare because these sorts of encounters may be quite taxing. more people’s corpses might sometimes offer us with more frightening scenarios – but we don’t want to give too much away. The game never gets monotonous and is always surprising with something fresh or unexpected. Small aspects like fresh visions during sleep or the “back to the beginning” itself, which we sometimes start outside and sometimes still at the controls of the ship, add to the impression of continuity of the continuous time trap. It’s difficult to discover flaws with Returnal since there are so few of them. In reality, other from minor animation flaws, a rare, transient reduction in frame rate, and one instance where access to the map was temporarily unavailable, there are virtually no flaws here.
Returnal is a technologically stunning game and a one-of-a-kind shooter that demonstrates not just the capabilities of the PlayStation 5, but also the use of DualSense and 3D sound. The latest work of the authors of Resogun or Nex Machina engrosses you for dozens of hours and is incredibly tough to leave. All due to the flawless fighting, but the entire envelope may also thrill with its aesthetic and mood.