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Returnal Review


Developer: Housemarque
Publisher: PlayStation PC
Platforms: PlayStation 5PC (Reviewed)
Release Date: 15 Feb 2023
Price: $59.99 USD – Available Here $124.95 AUD – Available Here


Is there an appeal in repetition? When it comes to gaming, there is quite a lot of that. You finish a game and you often go to replay your favorite sections, levels, or chapters. Maybe that last mission in Hitman 3 where you can go nuts and murder absolutely everyone on the train. Or robbing the same banks in PAYDAY 2 but this time with new weapons & skills. And come to think of it, didn’t Warframe make repetition its whole shtick? They actually managed to make the grind seem fun.


Returnal is another game where repetition and trying the same thing over and over again is the core part of the gameplay. You play as an astronaut Selene Vassos and after a crash landing on a quite unwelcoming alien planet, you are fighting for your life and a chance to escape. Isolated and alone, Selene finds herself fighting tooth and nail for survival. Again and again, she’s defeated – forced to restart her journey every time she dies. Through fast, relentless gameplay, you’ll discover that just as the planet changes with every cycle, so do the items at your disposal. Every loop offers new combinations, empowering you to push your boundaries and approach combat with a different strategy each time.


The loop is simple – every time you start at your crashed ship, look around and venture deep into the unknown. The goal is to make it through multiple biomes (in one run, preferably) and uncover the secrets of the planet and learn more about Selene’s story. Each of the thematic biomes is made out of multiple sections/rooms often filled with alien monsters, traps, and secrets. At the end of each, you’ll have to take down a boss which opens access to a new biome and often gives you a new gadget or an upgrade as a bonus.

Your starting pistol is enough to take you through just enough rooms but soon enough you get a better weapon either from containers or from enemies. Basically, the goal is to beef yourself up with more health, abilities, and a better weapon so you can take down a boss at the end. The alien life in Returnal is anything but friendly. They use melee, charge at you and shoot colorful spheres in your direction that you have to evade constantly. And bosses are a different story, they’re such a grandiose display of visual art that I feel like they belong more in this next section.


Returnal often feels like six games in one. That’s because each of the six biomes is so distinguishable and thematic that it often comes as a breath of fresh air after you take down a boss and venture deeper into a new landscape. After the dense flora of Overgrown Ruins, you will find yourself in the barren and dry desert of Crimson Wastes. Thrown is some cold & snowy biome of Fractured Wastes followed by a creepy underwater landscape of Abyssal Scar and it will never feel like you’ve seen the same sections twice.

It’s not only biomes and alien life that could be described as thematic. The bosses at the end of each biome are wonderfully designed as they are challenging. For example, the boss Hyperion at the end of Echoing Ruins is nothing short of amazing in terms of design. Also, each boss has three health bars (aka three phases) that you need to bring down in order to claim victory. But, going back to Hyperion, we find him lurching over some alien-like pipe organs, waiting for you. The battle with him perfectly syncs with the music in the arena and his attacks are occasionally telegraphed if you pay attention to the music his playing while attacking you. Just marvelous.


The music in Returnal will also vary depending on the biome you’re in but notable mention also goes to the small arsenal of weapons that you’ll be wielding throughout the game. The sound effects for each are distinctive and they even change their sound a bit depending on the pickups and upgrade you get for them in your run. The overall soundtrack balances a fine line between orchestrally majestic and tense horror undertones.


You need to learn to love Returnal. It doesn’t offer you much at the start, you’ll die at least 20 times in the first biome until you memorize the enemy patterns, what to focus on every time you enter a new area, how to evade & when to attack, and so on. And that’s when all finally clicks. It’s not an easy game but also not an unfair one. The fluid gameplay coupled with astounding visuals (especially when it comes to enemy design) will make you eventually go for another playthrough just so you can refine your shooting & dodging skills even more.

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.


Returnal is a masterclass in fluid gameplay and creativity on the visual end. Engaging as it is unforgiving. It's a perfect example of that "just one more try" addiction.
Admir Brkic
Admir Brkic
I play video games from time to time and sometimes they manage to elicit a reaction from me that I can't help but to write about them.
<em>Returnal</em> is a masterclass in fluid gameplay and creativity on the visual end. Engaging as it is unforgiving. It's a perfect example of that "just one more try" addiction.Returnal Review