Returnal’s numerous moving pieces combine to create a unique shooter that grips you with its mechanics and plot and never let’s go, enticing you with its difficulties and a foreboding feeling of dread every step of the way. Although the word “return” appears in the name, it’s not intended to be seen as a subtle nod to Returnal’s run-based architecture.
Although Selene begins each run from the wreckage of the previous one, she carries a few improvements and one of two in-game currencies with her from run to run. While other “bullet hell” shooters have you looking down from above, Returnal has you facing bullets directly in the face, forcing you to respond swiftly and elegantly.
The only option to alleviate the situation in Returnal is to eliminate your adversaries, so you are continuously strategizing your attack and defense, searching for a path to safety while simultaneously aiming and destroying the enemy. As your weapon level increases, the stats and perks of the weapons you find to improve.
You also have a sword, which you can use to break your opponents’ shields and quickly deal with any nearby foes. The more you know about your tools, the easier it is to find a rhythm for coping with any combat scenario unique to your character’s build.
As a result, picking up or opening many of the objects and chests that you discover will have a short-term negative impact on your progress until you accomplish the goal. Additionally, you will come across parasites, which can improve your character while simultaneously debuffing you if you do not have a specific item or gadget discovered throughout the planet. Therefore, pursuing a robust build frequently necessitates making trade-offs and occasionally taking a chance to improve your stats.
Being able to equip yourself with so many different types of equipment is both a gift and a curse: However, you will never have to use the same approach again because of randomization. With a lot of platforming, you will need to put your beam-dodging abilities to the test.
You will have the tools you need to traverse Returnal even when the time is very tight if you can master the accuracy and reflexes required to master the game’s controls. In the game, you are constantly looking for methods to improve your health or your equipment, and even if you get to know the layout of every pre-fab chamber, there’s always the worry of not knowing what lies ahead.
The result is a micro-run that is constantly moving and changing: To progress the plot, you must survive the following 2-4 hours of gameplay without dying, although you do not have to do it perfectly. With it, you get a nice mix between the classic roguelike’s endurance-based difficulty, where you need to succeed. Still, you also need to perform well enough to keep going and the severe challenge posed by bullet hell-style shooting galleries.
As a result, you will be able to take on Returnal’s many brutal boss battles, where you will be up against enormous, intimidating foes that can practically fill the screen with waves of devastating blows. The path ahead is always clear, but the details of how you are getting there vary with time. You are never quite sure where you are going because of the constantly changing maps and goals. However, your lack of awareness contributes to an overall feeling of uncertainty, which heightens your discomfort while exploring Atropos.
Run after run; you will discover new audio logs, speeches, and cutscenes by exploring the rooms that appear as you get closer to your objective. New notes emerge as you discover new mysteries around the environment, so thoroughly exploring each location is critical to understanding the whole narrative.
As a result, Returnal makes aggressive use of your lack of knowledge, frequently showing you images and making references to events for which you have no context, all in service to creating a hazy understanding of Selene, a terrifying impression of Atropos, and an air of mystery around the true nature of your mission.
Even when a strong feeling of foreboding dread takes hold, the desire to know what’s happening never leaves your mind. There are a few playable story moments when the “horror” of Returnal comes through front and center, but most of the game’s “horror” is confined to the narrative. When the perfect moment arrives, you will be thrust into history and a mood-driven first-person scene when she enters the home.
Returnal utilizes the PS5’s hardware to provide you with a plethora of sensory input that keeps you connected to the outside world while amplifying your feelings of dread and bewilderment. Surround sound can help you hear your opponents and their strikes when you are in the thick of battle. This creates a more physical connection between the player and the game. (Although it’s inconvenient to discover you have to squeeze the trigger twice as hard to discharge your gun).