Returnal in the test: that's how good the time loop action for PS5 is

Returnal in the test: that's how good the time loop action for PS5 is

Returnal in the test

Arcade games are dead. That might sound like an empty claim, but if it comes from a studio like Housemarque, that means something. After all, the Finnish team grew up with effects orgies like Resogun or Nex Machina! Because such games are simply no longer financially worthwhile for the developer, Housemarque officially announced a change of course four years ago: They now want to concentrate primarily on large AAA productions. A clear announcement, which is now followed by action: Housemarque's first major project is the highly anticipated Returnal. In the test, the PS5 exclusive turns out to be a high-quality action ride that interlinks a dark sci-fi story with effect-laden third-person fights, crazy bullet-hell interludes and robust Rougelike mechanics. The result: An atmospheric, often captivating action highlight that you have to get involved with - because Returnal also has a few avoidable weaknesses that put pressure on the rating.

Recommended editorial content At this point you will find external content from [PLATTFORM]. To protect your personal data, external integrations are only displayed if you confirm this by clicking on "Load all external content": Load all external content I consent to external content being displayed to me. This means that personal data is transmitted to third-party platforms. Read more about our privacy policy . External content More on this in our data protection declaration. Returnal (buy now € 79.99) doesn't give a damn about explanations, there isn't even a real start screen. Instead, the adventure starts right away: no sooner have you started the game than you experience how the astronaut Selene crash-lands on the distant planet Atropos. Who is this woman, what is she looking for - and why is she all alone in this hostile world? Housemarque deliberately raises a question about the next, the answers have to be worked out: Returnal only delivers his story in tiny bits, which only gradually come together like a gloomy puzzle.

Table of contents

Page 1 Returnal in the test: Noble roguelike action from the Resogun makers 1.1 And the alien greets you every day 1.2 Exploring at random 1.3 Housemarque outdoes itself 1.4 Tricky, but mostly fair 1.5 Fantastic hail of bullets 1.6 What the gun cabinet has to offer Page 2 Returnal in the test: Noble roguelike action from the Resogun makers 2.1 Mobile thanks to upgrades 2.2 Loot with risk 2.3 Save? It does not work! 2.4 Goosebumps thanks to Astronaut 2.5 Roguelike in the next-gen guise 2.6 Hunting for points instead of multiplayer 2.7 High price Page 3 Image gallery for "Returnal in the test: The time loop action for PS5 is so good"

And the alien greets you every day

Atropos literally turns out to be a death trap. As Selene trudges through overgrown ruins, she discovers ancient machines and mysterious artifacts, in between the countless remains of an alien civilization that Selene calls "the sentient". Even more terrifying, Selene also comes across a human corpse - her own. Before she can worry about it (panic would be the better reaction), she meets a vicious species that looks like a cross between a dog and an octopus. After a few minutes it happens as it should: Selene dies. And that's completely okay, because in Returnal you are caught in a kind of time sleep, here every death stands for a new beginning: Selene then wakes up again at the crash site and just gets on her socks again, with all her memories, but without their collected equipment. The majority of our booty is lost with every death, which should make it clear what kind of notch Returnal hits: Housemarque's new work is not a Metroidvania and also not a simple action platformer, but a real roguelike.

The lightning launcher grills several enemies from nearby at the same time. Source: PC Games

Exploring at random

As is typical for the genre, the game world is rearranged from prefabricated rooms with each new attempt, and the game also distributes opponents and loot at random. Returnal consists of a total of six levels, of which you only play two to three in a row per attempt, at the latest then the cycle is over. Because the locations are very extensive, a successful run can take a long time. If you want to explore and collect a lot, you can easily plan two hours per round.

This is how Next Gen works: Returnal has almost no loading times. Source: PC Games All six locations basically consist of ruins that have been embedded in different settings. Sometimes you are out and about in a city-like citadel, sometimes in an overgrown swamp, and in between you go to a picturesque desert. The levels are partly beautifully designed, but basically completely empty: apart from opponents and deadly traps, you don't encounter a soul, there are no dialogues and the developers have also dispensed with secondary tasks. After all, Selene regularly finds glyphs and records of the ancient alien civilization, and she repeatedly comes across other corpses of herself, where she finds disturbing audio messages. Together with the extremely successful sound effects and the atmospheric look, a dense, oppressive atmosphere quickly emerges that runs through the entire game.

Housemarque surpasses itself

Fluid, precise 2D- For years, Action was the developers' bread-and-butter business. For Returnal, the Finns are staging a spectacle in the third-person view for the first time, an experiment that they definitely succeeded in: After a few seconds, Selene is chased wonderfully smoothly through the levels, whether running, jumping, evading or shooting, the grippy one Action goes very well. An intelligent camera also ensures that you can keep an eye on the action as well as possible, even in narrower sections of the level. Housemarque knows his trade!

As a PS5 exclusive, Returnal also makes extensive use of the Dualsense controller, because you can feel every hit, every jump, every fall into the depths. Even raindrops make the gamepad vibrate slightly in your hand. Unusual: With the left trigger you can not only zoom, but also use a secondary fire mode by pressing the button even further. A cool effect in theory, but very impractical in practice because it leads to incorrect entries. Fortunately, you can change the key assignment in the options menu.

The opponents are well animated and put Selene under a lot of pressure. Source: PC Games Another highlight is the atmospheric opponent design: In addition to a wide variety of tentacle creatures, you also have to deal with murderous drones, robots, turrets, flying swamp monsters, mutated poison launchers, giant octopuses and much more. The enemies not only look great, they also pose a real threat from the start: Many opponents have multiple attack patterns, are nice to move and put Selene under a lot of pressure. You have to jump, flee, seek cover and, above all, dodge lightning-fast with a dash. If you stop, you can pack up. A nice detail: Successful kills increase Selene's adrenaline level, which gives her useful buffs, which she also loses with every hit received. That creates a lot of stress, just the good way.

Tricky, but mostly fair

There is only one level of difficulty, which is set high, but mostly fair: Im Test, for example, we packed every boss at the first attempt, we saw the credits for the first time after 15 to 20 hours. Occasionally, however, the opponents spawn a little too close to our heroine, these are moments in which the balance starts to falter. We found a room on the sixth level to be the most difficult, in which several elite opponents spawn at once - there we had to give up several times. Of course, the chance of survival also depends on the equipment you have collected: As in any roguelike, you can simply be unlucky, for example with the selection of opponents, level building or the random loot - so you should bring a bit of frustration resistance with you. Since you don't unlock permanent status improvements like in Hades or Rogue Legacy, Returnal does not, strictly speaking, qualify as roguelite. But if you proceed carefully and perfect your evasion, you should get along well most of the time. Returnal is miles away from claiming a dark soul.

Fantastic hail of bullets

Housemarque's unmistakable handwriting flashes through the battles again and again: As soon as the enemies hurl beautiful patterns of deadly energy waves and glowing balls at you , quick reactions are required. If you like bullet hell games and feel comfortable even in the hail of bullets, you should quickly take Returnal to your heart. This is especially true for the chic staged boss fights that wait in (almost) every level at the end: Here, insane amounts of projectiles fly towards you, a tidal wave of bright colors and shapes that spectacularly pours over you. Ironically, some of the most spectacular bosses in the game turn out to be astonishingly easy once you get the hang of it. That's one of the reasons why we would have liked a little more variety in the bosses, but at least: Most of the big chunks can easily be avoided in later runs.

Housemarque's arcade roots flash through again and again, especially in the effect-laden boss fights. Source: PC Games

What the gun cabinet has to offer

The ten guns can have several bonus properties, some of which change their effect significantly. Source: PC Games Selene collects ten different weapons over time, including pistol, shotgun, machine gun, grenade launcher and so on. At first glance, the offer looks a bit ordinary. After all, there are also a few crazy creakers such as the electropylon driver, with which you shoot arrows into the environment, from which a deadly energy network is created. That's not always practical, but at least it looks great. Each weapon also has a random special attack that first has to be charged, but then hits it hard. There are, for example, anti-personnel mines, target-seeking projectiles, an electric slingshot or an energy ball that grills nearby enemies with lightning. (The BFG-9000 sends its regards.)

The special thing about the weapon system is not the ratchets themselves, but their bonus features, which you unlock gradually. A weapon can have up to four passive effects at the same time, which have a major impact on the way you play. The rocket launcher then fires fully automatic volleys, for example, the rifle draws life from opponents or the pistol fires target-seeking projectiles. This brings variety to the action and increases the replay value, if only because it takes a long time to bring such a weapon effect to a higher rank ..

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