The Finnish team Housemarque known for twitch-based action thrills such as Super Stardust and Nex Machina has just released their biggest project, Returnal, for PCs. It is a sci-fi thriller set in deep space’s dark, uncharted heart.
Returnal is one of the most acclaimed PlayStation 5 launch titles and won several end-year awards and sold over 560,000 units by July 2021. It mostly received positive reviews for its visuals, combat, and audio design. Unlike the PlayStation version, the PC version of Returnal has some additional features.
The Story is a Big Part of The Game
Returnal is also a challenging game, but it’s worth the effort for what it has to offer. In particular, the most intriguing aspect of the game is Selene, the eponymous octopus astronaut who lands on Atropos. As she sifts through a series of levels and time loops, she gleans some very clever hints about what happened on her mysterious planet and her own psyche. Despite the daunting task ahead of her, Selene is an endearing protagonist, and the game’s bleak tale of her misadventures is a compelling and affecting one.
In Returnal, Selene looks for a mysterious signal called “White Shadow.” Unfortunately, she gets trapped inside a time loop. She must use her armor and high-tech weapons to thwart the forces of time to get out. As Selene explores the planet and learns more about her situation, she also comes to terms with her own personal trauma. The unreliable nature of memory, the elasticity of time, and how all these factors influence each new death are central to the game’s narrative.
Watch Your Deaths in Returnal
Combat in Returnal is a mix of bullet hell and platforming, as enemies attempt to kill you with multi-colored energy balls or waves that you must dodge. A wide variety of creatures will try and take your life, from lizard-like beasts to bipedal teleporting trees and stationary turrets.
The fast-paced action and spooky atmosphere of Returnal are reminiscent of a lot of Housemarque’s best games, like Resogun and Nex Machina. Still, the game also has its own style that makes it feel unique. Its combat has a lot of risk and reward in it, as killing enemies increases Selene’s Adrenaline levels, which grants her better perks such as bigger active reload windows or enhanced melee attacks.
Taking on one of the more daunting bosses is a rush, but it can be incredibly frustrating if you don’t take your time and plan out every move. You can lose hours of progress if you get killed, and there are no difficulty settings to change, so it’s crucial to be willing to adapt your strategy.
While these issues may turn off some players, they don’t detract from the overall experience. It’s an intense game with a compelling story that keeps you coming back for more.
New Features and Enhanced Graphics
The most impressive feat is the game’s nifty physics engine, which is able to render everything from light to dark and all the colors in between with relative precision. There’s also a fair amount of detail to be found in the game’s environments, from the towering ruins of Atropos to the alienesque bio-engineered creatures that inhabit it.
Housemarque has put in a lot of work to make the environment feel real, with environments being made up of organic matter, sand, and water. The graphics in Returnal are quite stunning, with sparkling effects and intricately designed enemies that are difficult to avoid. The game also features a unique roguelike progression system that rewards innovation and mastery, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.
The PC version of Returnal offers a variety of resolution scaling and dynamic resolution options. It also supports Nvidia DLSS and AMD FSR, upscaling technologies that allow more detail to be displayed without sacrificing the resolution. Other options include ray-traced shadows and reflections and unlocked frame rates. The game also supports FOV sliders, five graphical presets, and in-game performance metrics.