The Finnish video game developer Housemarque has carved a niche for itself in the industry by making arcade-style games such as Resogun and Nex Machina. The latest release, Returnal, takes you to alien lands as you piece together the past of a space pilot named Selene. Although it is only set to launch on the 30th of April, critics have gotten their hands on Returnal already, and it seems that it is yet another PlayStation exclusive that has gotten stellar reviews.
As has been previously reported, the sci-fi PS5 title tells the story of Selene, who must fight for her survival after she finds herself stranded on an alien planet. The game is a roguelike and therefore makes use of procedural generation to bring you environments structured in new ways every replay. It makes itself unique by offering bullet-hell gameplay with a third-person shooter perspective.
On Metacritic, a popular review aggregator, the game debuted with a score of 86. This generally indicates favorable reviews. One of the recurring comments was the excellent implementation of the DualSense controller. This is one of Returnal‘s draws as a PlayStation exclusive, and reviewers have certainly taken note. In their review where they reward the game a 9/10, TheSixthAxis compliment how the “haptic feedback is incredibly dynamic here, from being able to feel the gentle patter of Olobites against fingers to the wrenching rumbles that emerge when steeped in set-piece action”. They also praise the creative use of the adaptive triggers where “a half-press of the left trigger aims down sights while pushing past the mid-point stop enters each weapon’s randomized alternate fire”.
Plenty of reviews have also given praise to Returnal‘s visuals. Making good use of the PS5’s power, the game is able to run at 4K resolution and 60fps. It also implements ray-tracing, which spectacularly enhances the glow of the strange aliens that Selene encounters. Push Square, who gave the game a score of 9/10, note that the visuals are a “sight to behold” as “your screen is filled with vivid, deadly colors”. PlayStation Lifestyle also notes the game’s dazzling visuals, but they also compliment the varied biomes you encounter, writing that “from the dark and rainy overgrown ruins you start in, to the expansive Martian-like desert and its enormous citadel, to a few others that are best left to the awe of discovering them for the first time on your own, the environments each feel distinct”.
There were some common criticisms, however. The most popular one was that the game has the potential to get repetitive and grindy at times. While some might consider this to be characteristic of the roguelike genre, for some critics, it proved to be too much. In the VentureBeat review, they complain that the “lack of variety in the style of play makes every run feel samey, and they begin to blur together”. As such, the game got a 3/5.
Another thing that several reviews note about Returnal is its difficulty. Many critics comment on how brutal the game can be and how much progress can be lost from dying. There are no save points, and death in this game could mean losing hours of play. So gamers who are not looking for a crushing challenge should probably tread with caution.
Reviews of Returnal suggest that Housemarque has delivered a classic title that truly marks the beginning of the next era of gaming. It is a well-needed addition to the PS5 library, which could use a few quality editions during this early stage in its lifetime. With the bar set as high as Returnal has set it, we are sure to have a great generation of gaming.