Die, respawn, begin again, die, respawn, begin again. This is the gameplay loop for Returnal, the upcoming PS5 exclusive from Housemarque. Where this endless loop of my 12 deaths in three hours would usually be enough to make me throw in the towel and uninstall the game, Housemarque has managed to make this life-death cycle feel novel and exciting. After just a few cycles, I found myself looking forward to dying so that I could see what new and terrifying things awaited me in this stunning game.
Upon launching the game and feeling the distinct haptics in the DualSense for everything from the jarring vibrations of the crash landing, to the light tapping of fingers on a keypad, and even the gentle ping of raindrops hitting your space suit, I felt for the first time that this was what next gen truly meant. It’s all distinct and more than that, it’s all discernable. Over and over again the thought that this is what the DualSense was created for came to mind.
I was a bit nervous on first launch when I was presented with a fairly minimal options menu during the hard open though my fears were quickly abated upon diving into the full settings and exploring the wealth of options that make this the most accessible (for me) PS5 titles thus far.
Toggles and Holds
Players are offered multiple toggles for holds and presses, including sprinting, scanning, and “risky interactions.” Players will also find a fantastic aim assist selection that feels great in-game.
Subtitles are highly customizable with options for text size, background opacity, subtitle color, speaker name, and speaker name color. The font choice is another high point, making the subtitles fairly legible even at their smallest size.
Among my favorite options is the ability to focus on dialogue in the audio menu, which improves the clarity against all background noises when turned on. Another favorite feature is the ability to increase the line weight and size of the crosshair, taking it from often difficult to see to quite clear in all settings.
While there is the option to have a simplified UI which reduces distortion and effects on the minimap, suit, and ship menus, I still found myself wishing the minimap could be enlarged, as the helpful icons for enemies and items were often difficult to see. Also unfortunate is that increasing the subtitle text size has no effect on text in the in-game menu.
In addition to two control schemes—one focused on utilizing the adaptive triggers and the other being more of a classic shooter scheme—controls are fully customizable. While the game encourages players to experience haptics and adaptive triggers, as always, there is the option to change the intensity of both or turn the features off entirely.
With a couple of hours into Returnal, I’m excited for the very first time to play a game that was designed to be incredibly difficult and that’s a testament to how accessible I found it. I’m eager for other players to get their hands on this wonderfully accessible title when it launches on 4/30/2021.