The first thing that drew my attention to Returnal was the fancy package it came in; it was a very simple cardboard sleeve, but there was a raised logo on the front that made the package pop out at me on a shelf full of competing games. The package also contained a very nice dust jacket that is used to give the game a very nice premium feel.
Hardcore Deja Vu is the story of a young man named Paul, who awakens in an elevator with no memory of who he is or how he got there. When the elevator doors open, he finds himself in a strange, surreal world unlike anything he’s ever seen before. There are seemingly endless paths of glowing lights winding their way through the dark, and a voice inside Paul’s head tells him to walk the road to the left. He soon finds that trying to navigate this world is no easy task; not only the landscape keeps shifting in impossible ways, but his sense of reality seems to be gradually fading away, replaced by growing feelings of paranoia and unease. The voice tells Paul that he needs to keep walking to the left, but at
Over the past few years, I’ve discovered that I really like stories that revolve around the time loop. I’ve seen some very good movies that use this concept, and played even better games that use it. The Outer Wilds comes to mind as a perfect example, but when I saw that the first PS5 game used this concept in a AAA budget roguelike, I was all for it.
Now that Returnal has been shown off in all its glory, it’s time to see if the latest game from Housemarque veterans can make the jump from arcade bullet hell to third-person bullet hell while controlling a complex time-loop scenario. Buckle up, it’s a crazy race.
You need two things: Time and patience
I have a conflicted relationship with roguelikes, mostly because I like to feel like I’m making progress, and when the concept itself prohibits you from making consistent progress, it can be hard to really get carried away. For me, it’s the story that counts. I can handle repeated runs if I’m motivated to keep trying.
Hades is an excellent example of a game where this execution is done to perfection. Children of Morta also excelled in this regard, with little bits of story between series. As for Returnal, things are not clear. The game has a sound that can be found in every part of Atropos, and some elements of the story give a glimpse of a home that shouldn’t exist on an alien planet, but the way the story is presented isn’t consistent or reliable.
Depending on my performance, I may run several times without a single story, translated text or sound to motivate me. Given the budget, I’d like to see more invested in additional story elements so that after each game you feel like you’ve learned something, or at least a new potential story is hinted at as you progress a bit.
This is not to say that Returnal’s story is not good. The voiceover is excellent, with plenty of emotion when the protagonist realizes she is finding the bodies of her victims from other failed attempts to get out of the cycle. It’s very engaging, and I really wanted to know what was going on, but I think I would have kept playing a few more times per session if I had known there was a crumb of story waiting for me at the end, no matter how I played.
For most people, it doesn’t matter. Roguelikes live and die by their gameplay, because you have to play a lot. Also, they usually use random environments or layouts to keep it fresh. This is one of the places where Returnal really shines. It took me a few games to get out of the first biome, and the environment changed often enough to not bore me, at least from a visual standpoint.
The fact that Returnal’s gameplay is fantastic also contributes to this. The responsive controls combined with interesting weapons and possible alternate battles, and a wide selection of artifacts, parasites and other items such as aether, make the exploration worthwhile and lead to a better outcome.
Parasites in particular are an interesting mechanism where you can have something attached to you in exchange for a buff or debuff. They can be removed, but it’s not easy, and you’ll feel this effect throughout much of the race.
Other articles, such as. B. First aid kits or cases, may also be malicious, i.e., they may have a negative impact due to a defect caused by certain actions, such as. B. the purchase of items from a manufacturer is eliminated.
The risk and reward here are exciting, and I have to say that jumping into some of these mechanisms leads to equally powerful or devastating results, so the balance is good. Today it’s all about complexity and the lack of a long-discussed non-rounded storage function.
As far as difficulty goes, the game doesn’t hold you to it. Enemies, and bosses in particular, end your run with surprising efficiency. As the game progresses, however, there is a noticeable curve as you begin to feel a little stronger. This is a combination of improving your game, unlocking new artifacts and increasing your weapon proficiency. Some trails are also better than others, and if you take the time to explore them, you can always get better material in the long run.
If you defeat the boss, you can go through the door to the next biome without fighting him again, but you will get valuable loot if you decide to fight him next time. Using a unique currency that lasts from launch to launch, known as Ether, also allows you to use rebuilders to give you a second life instead of an instant reset.
Since it can take two to three hours to play out a full game, there has been much discussion about whether the game should include a save and exit option so that you can replay the game with a single save file. Some argue that this defeats the purpose of the game, but I think if the save only counts as a continuation, it’s better than the alternative that puts the PS5 to sleep. Also, you lose your progress when you are in sleep mode and the game automatically refreshes itself, which is not really a reliable solution.
Large screen and DualSense stand
Returnal is an absolutely brilliant game that really feels like a next-gen game. Graphically, the game is an order of magnitude better than the PS4 thanks to the combination of 60 FPS gameplay with 4K visual effects and ray tracing elements. Being an exclusive model, it also makes excellent use of the DualSense feature.
By default, you can pull the left trigger partially to aim, and fully to fire. It took me a while to get used to this gun, but once I felt the trigger properly, I fell in love with it.
The haptic feedback, like raindrops splashing on the controller, is great and you honestly don’t notice it until you feel it, which only adds to the immersion in the game. Overall, Returnal is an excellent bullet-hell roguelike shooter that reflects Housemarque’s style and talent.
It’s amazing to see a AAA budget for a game like this, and while the style and difficulty won’t appeal to everyone, there’s no denying that it’s a polished, stylish and perfectly made game for the PS5. With some improvements in memory mechanisms, or lack thereof, this will be an even easier recommendation.
Final score: 8.5/10
Written by Bradley Ramsey
Date Added – 5/10/2021
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