RETURNAL REVIEW (PC/STEAM DECK)
''A Returnal to form?''
Published: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: Feb 15th, 2033
*Review copy provided to me by PLAYSTATION*
Returnal is a rogue-like title that is developed by Housemarque and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. With the game seeing some pretty good success on PS5 for both its difficulty and creativity, its now PC players turn to take their shot at it to see if the game holds up just as well on their platform as it does on home consoles. Does the game live up to the hype that it once did on PS5? or does this PC port fall short? only one way to find out, so lets go!
Follow the ASTRA Corporation astronaut Selene Vassos who takes it upon herself to visit the forbidden planet of Atropos to pursue the mysterious “White Shadow ” signal. However, upon crash landing on the planet, she finds other versions of herself, dead, nothing but corpses and soon and quickly discovers that she revives with each death. Curious as to just what in the heck is going on, she begins a journey that unlocks a mystery that may be more than what she bargained for.
''Death Becomes Her''
Returnal is regarded as one of the hardest games in recent memory, some say on the level of a souls-like game or because of the games Rogue-Like elements that sees patterns, enemies and other items in the game randomize after each death. Basically it's like me after I try to eat a whole pizza by myself, then pass out, wake up in another room, but still have my pizza to take a bite on. Pretty similar. Here in Returnal, the game puts players in the shoes of Selene, a space explorer who finds herself stranded on a mysterious planet. The planet is filled with dangerous creatures, hostile environments, and a time loop that resets every time Selene dies. The game is a rogue-lite, meaning that each playthrough is different due to randomized levels and items. If you've played a ton of indie games or even games like Death Loop lately from Bethesda, then you have a pretty fair idea of what you're getting yourself into. Just be lucky my ugly doggo with one tooth isn't an enemy in the game, otherwise no amount of over powering yourself will make any difference at all. Good job, you've been saved my friends. But enough about my ugly stinky doggo, lets hop straight into one of the more unique features of this title that really makes it stand out against other titles. What is that you ask? what? you didn't ask? oh.. well, I'm going to tell you anyways. It's the overall gameplay mechanics and how they're implemented and and used.
As I just mentioned, to me, one of the more striking elements of Returnal is its gameplay mechanics. This game will knock you on your booty and kick your butt to hell and back if you let it, because at times, it can be really relentless due to the enemy variety and if you're too slow to react to enemy patterns. In this title, for those who haven't payed previously on PS5 before, players need to use a combination of shooting, melee attacks, and dodging to survive the various enemies and hazards. Not as much of a hazard as Yamcha getting in the way of your baseball game, but still some pretty dastardly hazards none the less. At your disposal are a feature of a variety of weapons, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, all depending on enemy type, situational or how you properly utilize them yourself. Living and dying and sucking loser juice from a cheerio straw is entirely up to you as the player, and at the end of it, much like in a Souls game with its utilization of spears for mid range fighting or magic for long range fighting, so to will you have to find the right combination for your combat and weapon choices in order to progress further in the game. I won't sugar coat it, you will swear many times playing this game due to some sections being a seizure inducing bullet hell. It's not be all to end all hard though, I won't exaggerate its difficulty, but it's enough to make you swear more than the South Park cussing special. Just be careful not to do it in front of your mom or a sibling, or just like Ralphie, so to will you get your mouth washed out with soap. Yuck.
''I've seen enough anime to know where this is heading''
Even though I keep comparing this to a Souls game, don't be fooled by that comparison all the way, because the games combat is fast-paced and challenging, requiring quick reflexes and strategic thinking. Yes, even a tad bit more than any recent Souls like game, Elden Ring aside. So no running around in your underwear and grunt rolling like a little freak like I did in the original Demon Souls game will be achievable this time, sadly. Dang it. Goodbye my whitey tighties. I shall always remember you. In my opinion what makes this games combat pretty addicting is you with your character, Selene, needing to constantly dodge and evade attacks while simultaneously taking down her enemies. Myself, for instance, It was like giving a little kid a 5lbs bag of candy and caffeine and then letting them on the loose. This is the best way to describe how I moved around in this game. Jumping and dodging while trying to focus the camera on your enemy while you shoot the enemy at the same time.. it can get a bit jarring or disorienting early on in the game, for sure, however, the further you progress, your eyes and personal reflexes gradually begin to adapt, and by mid game, you'll find yourself going from dying like 50 times over and over, to just 10 or less. So in the words of crying Tyrese, ''CONGRATULATIONS'', you've just graduated from noob to GOT GUD. The game also tends to reward players who take risks and use their weapons creatively overall, so you're definitely encouraged to go outside your comfort zone and not be a freaking pansy. But gameplay aside, there's an actual story here as well. What? oops I forgot to mention that. But, honestly, even though it can be intriguing at times as you progress through each level with you uncovering more about Selene's past and the events that led to her being stranded on the planet via listening to audio logs discovered and your standard cutscenes, even though there's that, I still find it rather lack luster and not as engaging or gripping as one would hope a tale of this genre would end up being. Much like when I played it on PS5, I just cant click with and invest fully into Selene. Which is a bummer since that puts so much pressure on the overall gameplay itself, which is a lot to put on its shoulders. But honestly, that's the least of its problems, sadly.
Having played this title on a Steam Deck, there were quite a few issues I ran into with environment flicking, certain parts not loading, stuttering of FPS and a few hang ups here and there which caused heavy combat areas to freeze or lock up as if it the whole thing was going to crash or my Steam Deck was going to blow up like its an episode of Dinosaurs, and then someone is going to have to come into my room and proclaim, ''WERE GOING TO NEED ANOTHER TIMMY''. Oh ya, I was almost a Timmy. Well not really, but I COULDVE BEEN. But it's not all bad in all honesty, even with its shortcomings on Deck. The game itself when working properly, which honestly is majority of the time, actually looks really good. Particle effects, lighting and details in the environments tend to be the stand out features overall, much like these features were in another recent PC title of Hogwarts Legacy. Which I absolutely got obsessed in and as if someone casted Imperio on me to make me play the game for like two weeks straight, but that's just off topic now. Honestly, my reference to Timmy from Dinosaurs makes more sense than one would think, I know that sounds weird, but hear me out. I say this because of the feature called Time Loop. Once Selene dies.. or more like EVERY TIME she dies, she will be restarted at the beginning of the loop with randomized items and levels, again, much like Bethesda's Death Loop. I see this as a double edged sword for a lot of players. Most people I know today are, how do I be nice about this, very very very lazy and want instant satisfaction from immediate victory without really having to try in a game or attempt to get better. That's where trouble may lie for some gamers out there, while others, who love more of a challenge, will simply see it as it being a game with more long term replayabiltiy due to no one playthrough being the same. In the end, if you're a ween who can't handle dying 30 times before you win a fight, you're going to have a bad time, if you're the opposite, then maybe... just maybe.. you're masochist. But hey, I'm not here to judge, I too have my secret rooms. I mean... um. You didn't hear me say that.
''A game with color? WHAT YEAR IS IT?''
At the end of the day, Returnal at it its core is an excellent addition to the rogue-lite genre. From its gameplay mechanics, an ok'ish story, great visuals at times, challenging, and even giving you glimpses of greatness similar to other awesome titles like Hades and Dead Cells. All of that seems like I'm going to tell you to BUY NOW on PC, doesn't it? uh oh. While yes, all of that is great, but as stated before, performance issues on PC are what hold the game back quite a bit with its FPS stuttering, occasional freezing, and graphic hiccups that will cause environmental issues. On paper, these might not seem like game breaking deals for an average game, but for one that relies on quick reflexes, fast changing of weapons and moving around and relying on the smoothest experience possible, to me, it doesn't fit that bill entirely and comes up short. In my opinion, if you truly want to experience this game to its fullest and how fun and great it can be, it's a must play on PS5, no questions asked, but here on PC... ehh. So with that having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says WAIT.