Returnal: The AGExp PC Review

Much like the name suggests Returnal has once again returned to the fore with a new release this time to the PC crowd and thanks to PlayStation Australia I’ve been lucky enough to try it out.

Returnal is the Sci-Fi adventure from Housemarque Studios that feels like it has a foot in Housemarques past, while simultaneously heralding in their future direction. Prior to about 2018 Housemarque was well known for intense top down shooters like Nex Machina and Alien Nation or side scrollers like Matterfall and Resogun to name just a few. All these titles had the same core mechanics at their hearts. Strong gameplay, tight and direct controls not to mention that absolute storm of colour and bullet storm on screen for your visual delight. Returnal is the teams next step in moving away from arcade style gameplay and into the more story driven and technically challenging world of 3D animation all while keeping those roots firmly planted.

In Returnal you play as an unlucky space pilot Selene who crash lands on the alien planet Atropos after getting too close in her investigation of a strange signal. You awake and begin to investigate the world around you only to discover you’re stuck in a time loop, if you die you simply awaken again at your crashed ship. What makes things seem even worse is that you have been there for much longer than you can remember triggered by haunting messages left behind by previous versions of yourself. It is a well written setup for the story that is unfolding in front of you in a roguelike title that frequently has me yelling at it.

The story of Returnal is a strange one to dive into without spoiling and while the game has been out for some time on the PS5 it is best to go in and experience it for yourself. The story tended to get a little confusing for me on my initial playthrough until I rolled the credits and it all came together but a lot of that stems from the intense gameplay and the fact that simply I died and restarted my runs way more than I would have liked but something about it kept me coming back.

Each run see’s you transverse the Atropos landscape but rarely in the same order. The planet changes and moves with every death the only thing staying the same is the intensity of each encounter. You collect loot and weapons, unlock secrets of the alien race that once called the area home all the while performing this frantic and deadly dance with the enemies in order to stay alive. Enemies are plentiful and each region has a good spattering of variety for you to learn their particular move sets and try to keep yourself moving out of harms way. The combat while intense is direct and unforgiving, you can never blame the controls for your demise it was definitely you that caused that one.

The landscape of Atropos is as haunting as it is beautiful. A Xenomorph like alien beings left over civilisation has  been taken back by nature causing some interesting locations and the crumbling architecture adds a puzzling element for you to solve to move onto the next arena.

Ultimately Returnal is a game that I needed to beat when I originally played on PS5 and beat it I did, scoring the Platinum trophy for my troubles. Playing on the PC again I fell right back into the groove and even managed to kill the first boss on my first play through. Returnal is a little demanding on the PC but well within most current rigs.

PC System Requirements for Returnal


OS: Windows 10 64-bit (version 1903)

Processor: Intel Core i5-6400 (4 core 2.7GHz) AMD Ryzen 5 1500X (4 core 3.5GHz)

Memory: 16 GB RAM

Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6 GB) AMD Radeon RX 580 (8 GB)

Storage: 60 GB available space

Additional Notes: SSD Recommended


OS: Windows 10 64-bit (version 1903)

Processor: Intel i7-8700 (6 core 3.7 GHz) AMD Ryzen 7 2700X (8 core 3.7 GHz)

Memory: 32 GB RAM

Graphics: NVIDIA RTX 2070 SUPER (8 GB) AMD RX 6700 XT (12 GB)

Storage: 60 GB available space

The step across to PC these days is a pretty straight forward one and PlayStation PC by now knows what is needed to make it run. But I do have some suggestions for you.

My PC is a little under recommended and after doing the included benchmark it showed I could run the game at high settings with Raytracing set to medium without too much concern. Frames were sitting around the 100FPS mark with shadows and lighting looking amazing. That is until I started getting into intense scenes and be warned, there are plenty of intense scenes. I had some moments where frames dropped significantly resulting in some noticeable moments of screen lag and it was getting worse the more that was on screen.

The solution was a simple one. I turned off Raytracing and set some of my settings a little more conservatively. I’m pretty sure the 16 GB RAM was running out. Good excuse as any for an upgrade.

Snoogs PC Specs:

OS: Windows 10 64-bit (version 1903)

Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT 6-Core Processor 3.79 GHz

Memory: 16 GB RAM

Graphics: NVIDIA RTX 2070 SUPER (8 GB) AMD RX 6700 XT (12 GB)

Storage: SSD

Returnal is a title that will not only test your twitch reflexes but also your patience. Runs can last half hour plus and there are times where you will feel after a death that you have accomplished nothing. It is a title that sits somewhere between a full Roguelike and an Action Adventure title, it has enough elements to bring fans of each genre in yet not enough of either to really stand alone in either space, it’s a strange title to define.

Unfortunately the biggest let down is the lack of cross-play between the PC and PS5 versions. Being on PS Plus there is a much larger pool of people to pull from when wanting to delve into a co-op session. For those of you that like the challenge of a horde mode of sorts buddled in with the PC release is the Tower of Sisyphus an endless survival challenge that gets increasingly more difficult as you climb the levels, the limiting factor of the tower though is you have to defeat the second boss to be able to access the area it is located in. A frustrating oversight on Housemarques behalf as I believe more would play to test themselves in the tower without going through the frustration of beating two bosses to get there.

Returnal is a title that is well suited to play on PC and those with the more powerful rigs will reap the rewards to a truly beautiful title. It is frustrating yet rewarding and worth the story to unravel at the end. Best suited to play with a PS5 controller as it has full haptic support and if you’ve picked yourself up a new EDGE those extra back buttons are going to be a massive help.

Returnal is out now on PC and can be picked up on Steam or Epic stores and will set you back around the $95 mark.



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