Returnal PC Review
Returnal arrives on PC bringing the PS5 blockbuster to a new platform. Is there anything lost in translation? My full review.
If you are looking for a challenging rouge-lite sci-fi experience Returnal is an absolute must-play. PlayStation is continuing to bring some of its most critically acclaimed franchises to the PC platform further expanding the gaming ecosystem players have access to. I originally reviewed Returnal on the PS5 when it originally landed on the console in 2021. I am happy to report that nothing has been lost in translation with the title arriving on PC.
" I am happy to report that nothing has been lost in translation with the title arriving on PC."
It's quite the opposite, with the game looking better than ever and adding a host of new visual refinements and customizations. Get ready to embark on a journey through Atropos as you explore unknown worlds, solve puzzles, and fend off enemies while unravelling your mysterious past. Returnal's roguelike elements will keep you captivated for hours with each new playthrough offering a unique and challenging experience. Join me and traverse the ever-evolving landscape of Atropos to uncover why it's such an exceptional journey that held my attention from start to finish even with a second playthrough on PC.
Returnal PC Details
Platform(s): PC and PlayStation 5
Developer(s): Climax Studios, Housemarque
Publisher (s): PlayStation PC
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
The story forces you to live, die and repeat
Alone in the vastness of space, Selene Vassos is sent hurtling toward a mysterious planet known as Atropos. With nothing but her wits to protect her, she must face this strange new world and discover its hidden secrets. As soon as you disembark from your vessel, Helios, a mysterious signal beckons and it's up to you to discover its source. This is when you are presented with hostile aliens, a time-looping environment and a fractured story that you need to piece together. Stranded, you'll find yourself in an infinite cycle of battles against formidable foes. Death is no escape, as each time you are killed, you'll be immediately transported back to the beginning of the mission--rising once more from your ship to do it all again.
A brutal, but beautiful world
Returnal is a visual marvel, with its stunning ray tracing in randomized environments and incredible particle effects. The game features 4K assets at a blazing fast 60 or 120 frames-per-second depending on what your PC rig can handle. Besides already offering ray-traced shadows, Climax Studios also added support for RT reflections. This additional component adds more depth to the inky black backgrounds which now reflect bright neon projectiles making the environment feel more alive with realistic lighting. Returnal on PC offers even more options to customize the game's visual experience. You can take advantage of an FPS counter and track your GPU + CPU usage as well as latency levels so you can optimize it exactly to your liking.
Two new, ultra-wide resolution formats are also now available to PC players - Ultrawide at 21:9 and an even wider Super Ultrawide 32:9. This especially comes in handy when battling all the massive alien bosses. The ultrawide options really shone on the LG UItraGear UHD 4K OLED monitor offering a greater field of view.
"Two new, ultra-wide resolution formats are also now available to PC players - Ultrawide at 21:9 and an even wider Super Ultrawide 32:9."
So far, I haven't experienced any major game crashes, sluggishness or framerate issues. Not only are the worlds of this game dynamically altered with every death, but they do so in a way that does not compromise its technical prowess. It's an impressive feat, especially for a game in the roguelike genre that looks this pretty and performs this well.
Outstanding, but extremely punishing gameplay
The exceptional gameplay was what kept me coming back loop after loop, and it truly had me addicted in a second go around. The non-stop action is mesmerizing, particularly since each encounter carries such high stakes with the potential to push you back to the start. If you can dodge your opponent's shots, you'll gain weapon bonuses that strengthen as take out enemies by filling the adrenaline gauge. If you get hit once, this build-up is completely reset and you need to start rebuilding. This “mini challenge” in the game rewards you for performing optimally during combat, encouraging you to train and hone your skills with each run. If you can manage to walk away unscathed each time, you'll be that much more powerful for the next battle. Of course, you can also discover artifacts, collectibles and other items to upgrade your character with various effects which add a layer of strategic planning for each playthrough.
The gameplay is arcade-like and always exciting and intense, it's further bolstered with a variety of weapons to upgrade and experiment with. My preferred weapon is the Atropian Blade, if you can maneuver close enough without being hit, you'll be able to pull off ferocious close combat assaults. Equip your trusted pistol, shotgun or automatic-style weapons with this blade and you'll have an unstoppable force for action-packed showdowns. The game is hard, and it’s meant to be, but a small amount of mercy could go a long way. The way your character is debuffed with a single hit can be demoralizing, a second hit or an over shield could create a slightly more forgiving system. All this aside, when you are in the zone and can overcome these challenges, the game is fun and extremely rewarding.
DualSense Controller, keyboard and mouse support added
One of my favourite parts of Returnal on the PS5 was the DualSense controller integration. The controller along with its haptic feedback and adaptive triggers are compatible with the PC version. Keyboard and Mouse support is also available, along with a wide range of customization options to suit your preferences like adjusting the sensitivity and assignment of buttons.
Added save features and content
If there is one area that could have used further refinement in the Returnal PS5 experience, it was the save system. Players were locked in long 1-2 hours runs (or longer) without any way to save their games. Luckily, the PC version offers a "Suspend Cycle Functionality" allowing you to save your game state in between cycles. This feature is accompanied by several other useful features like the Tower of Sisyphus expansion content and a full Photo Mode to capture some of your most epic battles.
Final thoughts on Returnal PC
Returnal PC is a great game, and the port to PC offers everything I loved about it on the PS5 and more. With some new technical additions plus all the content updates, Returnal becomes an even more exciting and visually stunning experience. The technical aspects have been well-executed with plenty of options for optimization, making sure your gaming rig will be able to handle this space horror adventure at its best. The gameplay loop is incredibly satisfying with heaps of customization and planning involved, you'll need all of your skills to survive each cycle. Returnal is definitely worth checking out if you're looking for a worthy roguelike shooter and one of the best games in recent years.
+ Fun and intense arcade-style shooting
+ PC DualSense controller integration with haptic feedback and adaptive triggers
+ Lots of customization options for optimization and personal preference
+ Save cycle functionality
- Steep learning curve
- Very punishing difficulty with a single hit being enough to debuff the character
- No second chance or over-shield system in place which can be demoralizing at times
Overall Game Score
A copy of the game was provided by PlayStation for the purpose of this review.
About the Author - Matthew "Dapper Tux" Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Along with being the Managing Editor of dappertux.com, he has bylines with Best Buy, Cineplex Entertainment, Mobile Syrup and Walmart. Follow Matthew’s gaming + tech adventures on twitter, Instagram and join in on the fun!
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