Returnal PC Review: One of a kind phenomenally addictive hit

It’s difficult to believe that Housemarque’s Returnal was released over two years ago. When it was launched on the PS5, it ignited the platform’s possibilities and provided fans with a blazing shooter replete with atmosphere, intensity, and a variety of genres that stretched the boundaries of both the console and gaming itself. Returnal on PC captures everything it did on console, giving a fluid gameplay that not only looks amazing, but also plays just as well.

Returnal sees its resolute protagonist Selene trapped in a seemingly unending loop after plummeting into an unknown extraterrestrial world. She goes out, engages in combat with hostile lifeforms, and scans artefacts and other objects she finds to learn more about them. But because this world is so hostile, it’s not long until she meets a horrific end. It’s not the end of her fight, though: every time she dies, she strangely returns to the location where she wrecked her spacecraft.

Returnal mixes a best-in-class third-person shooter with a thorough dive into its protagonist’s mentality. Selene’s voyage into Atropos takes her through a dense forest, a searing vermilion desert, and beyond, sending her through a whirlwind of emotions ranging from perplexity to hope, despair to resolve. And her mood frequently coincides with your own highs and lows of exhilaration and frustration, until every aspect of Returnal traps you in its web.

With the number of missiles hurled at you, this is a tough game that occasionally feels like a bullet hell shooter. If you don’t stay alert and use your talents effectively, such as the dash, you’ll quickly find yourself back at the accident site. It is no longer necessary to have a single player perspective: Online co-op is available, allowing players to work together to defeat the monstrosities that await them. The Tower of Sisyphus may be played once the main mission has been completed. This is an unending wave game in which the higher you go, the stronger your adversaries grow.

Except for the extraterrestrial lifeforms you encounter, Atropos is a barren planet. Crumbling structures and sculptures litter the earth, and extraterrestrial artefacts are rarely discovered, providing some context for what’s going on. The true thrill of Returnal on PC is the fact that you never know what you’ll find. Each cycle is unique, with a fresh layout each time. When you think you understand what’s going on or where you’re heading, death throws you back into the unknown, requiring you to play conservatively all over again.

Despite this, the controls and camera are always trustworthy, never interfering with the illusion. Returnal is one of those rare games in which everything works flawlessly. You can see all you need to see. Every twitch of the thumb that tells Selene to run, jump, or dash is met with life-or-death intensity. The grappling wire enhancement you obtain halfway through pushes you across venues with no effort. You’re sprinting towards a health pickup, and you know you can grab it without stopping.

Returnal’s circle has been completed. Continue to play, and each round shows with growing surety that this is a game completely at one with itself, from the audio-visual extravaganza to the precision control to the interwoven story and now its durability.

This is a one-of-a-kind game. This is a third-person shooter with roguelike features and a dash of horror, but what links it all together is Housemarque’s flair for crafting games that keep you coming back for more.

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