Everything you need to know about PS5 sci-fi shooter Returnal

Veteran studio Housemarque (Resogun, Nex Machina, Alienation) lands on PS5 with one of its most ambitious games ever. Discover eight key ways Returnal pushes design, technology and gameplay boundaries on a new generation of hardware.

1. Maps, environments and locations

“Fluid simulation drives dynamic systems like fog and vegetation and when combined with our global wind it creates breath-taking effects not possible on previous generations of hardware.”


Ethan Watson, Technology Director

Distinct biomes

Arid deserts, frozen wastes, exotic cave systems and more await on the mysterious planet of Atropos. Move through each as the story progresses, encountering unique hazards and challenges as well as entirely new species of flora and fauna.

Living ecosystems

The world of Atropos is constantly in flux – you’ll never encounter the same place in the same way twice. Each environment also presents a living ecosystem with shifting weather patterns, dense fog and particulates that respond to your touch, and vegetation that bristles about you.

Instantaneous travel

Death is both inevitable and cyclical in Atropos’ strange temporal climate, but rebirth is almost instant. Using the advanced streaming power of PS5, you’ll move seamlessly around this strange alien world, hopping instantly between warp points and transitioning between vastly different regions in a heartbeat. 

2. Exploration and traversal

“When players pick up the controller and start running, jumping and shooting they'll immediately recognize Housemarque’s creative DNA.”

Harry Krueger, Game Director

Movement and traversal

Housemarque’s prior releases have typically focused on a ‘flat’ field of play – the lateral, looping motion of Resogun or the top-down chaos of Nex Machina – but in the shift to a third-person view, Returnal gives the team a broader scope than ever before. Jump, climb and hook shot your way to better vantage points, surveying the alien landscape or unlocking secret areas.

Hazards and traps

While the lush environments are breathtaking to behold, you won't want to hang around too long. Atropos is filled with hazards and traps. Consider your route through the world carefully and be prepared to think on your feet as you navigate complex traps to secure scarce resources or overcome tricky platforming challenges to reach hidden areas. 

Hidden secrets

Housemarque has always filled their game worlds with hidden depth – secret stages to unlock, weapons to collect or bonuses to pick up – and Returnal keeps up that tradition. Crucial resources aren't always in plain sight:  hunt and gather, build your weapons and supplies, and not only will you live longer, you might uncover more information about the bizarre reality within which you're trapped.

3. Story and setting

“While we’ve sometimes flirted with deeper themes in our games, Returnal explores a much darker, more mysterious and personal story than anything we’ve done before.”

Harry Krueger, Game Director

Lost in the far reaches of space

Stranded and alone on the uncharted planet of Atropos, take on the role of deep-space ASTRA scout Selene and traverse hostile, unfamiliar environments in search of rescue. With only limited resources and little knowledge of your surroundings, set out from your downed ship Helios towards the source of a mysterious broadcast signal known as 'White Shadow'. 

A deep, sci-fi narrative

Selene’s story combines the eerie, cosmic horror of interstellar exploration with an intricate time-travel narrative. The result is a gritty, high-concept science fiction story entwined with intimate themes of isolation, trauma and loss.

Not all is as it seems

With only an isolated signal broadcast to follow, your journey reveals a world that at first seems entirely alien, but which gradually reveals impossible visions of your own past - an eerie psychological trick played by the ever-moving world of Atropos.

Discovery through play

Selene's story depends on your own will to uncover it. The events triggered by her arrival on Atropos are only the beginning: explore the world thoroughly and search out its hidden secrets to reveal the truth behind what is happening to you.

4. Gameplay and design

“Our vast array – literally hundreds – of items, artifacts, upgrades, consumables and weapon combinations means that no two runs will ever be alike; it’s impossible to experience everything in a single run.”

Harry Krueger, Game Director

Evolved arcade action

Returnal's unique design harnesses two enduring staples of 2D design - bullet-hell action and roguelike progression - and reimagines them in a fast-paced, free-roaming, third-person adventure that marries spectacular fast-paced shoot-outs with a thrilling blockbuster narrative.

Reset, not restart

In classic roguelike style, every death cycles your journey back to where you began, but that doesn't necessarily mean starting over. Whilst some items and upgrades will be left behind, others persist beyond death becoming powerful permanent enhancements.

More reasons to return

The world is radically reshaped each time you set out and the obstacles you encounter alter vastly. This new and unfamiliar territory brings with it new threats: cunning traps, enemy ambushes, hidden resources and brutal elite foes stand between you and every new attempt at escape.

5. Enemies, weapons and combat

“We’re taking our cutting-edge particle systems to the next level on PS5 and bringing particle-powered tentacles to the masses; the hostiles native to Atropos are like nothing you've ever seen in a AAA game.”

Ethan Watson, Technology Director

Spectacular weaponry

You’ll discover all kinds of weapons as you fight your way through Atropos, each with its own particular strengths. From rapid-fire carbines like the Hollowseeker to the slow, thunderous rapport of the Spit Maw; the reliable stopping power of your standard-issue sidearm to otherworldly abilities of  the Eletropylon Driver.

Hostile alien life

Atropos is alive. From chittering, betentacled beasts and scouring, red-eyed sentinels to mucus-slinging, mis-shapen monstrosities and colossal bipedal monoliths, threat is ever-present. Each lifeform poses its own challenge, dive-bombing you with attacks from above, blasting you with particles or binding you in viscous webbing. 

Customisable load-outs

Collect and install unique 'Traits' that add devasting secondary fire modes to your weapons. Unlock passive abilities like 'Explosive Counter' or pick-up useful consumables like 'Shield Vials' by interacting with the strange Xeno-tech devices you encounter around Atropos - scavenging the world lets you build your loadout as you go.

6. PS5 features

“The unique features of PS5 – Tempest 3D Audio, DualSense controller and lightning-fast SSD - mean we’ve been able to shoot for the stars with Returnal - to create something we're incredibly proud of.”

Harry Krueger, Game Director

Near-instant loading

Making use of PS5’s advanced I/O architecture and super-fast SSD, Returnal’s vast game worlds can be rendered in incredibly high detail, with higher fidelity models and art that load in an instant.

Adaptive triggers

Using the DualSense’s innovative adaptive triggers allows for unique multifunctional trigger systems where different firing modes can be activated by applying different pressure to the triggers. 

Haptic feedback

Experience a heightened sense of immersion as you explore Atropos, with the DualSense haptic feedback able to simulate the feeling of heavy mud underfoot, or raindrops falling on your suit.

Advanced 3D audio

Enjoy greater immersion and spatial awareness as you move around the world, with audio that takes account of the environment and position of sounds around you.

7. Visuals and technology

“By leveraging PS5’s ray-tracing hardware, we are able to deliver high-quality lighting in real time. Our global illumination system uniquely adapts to the randomized placement of the world, while neon-lit projectiles create that arcade, fever-dream feel our team is known for.”

Ethan Watson, Technology Director

Accelerated visuals effects

Housemarque’s use of eye-popping visual effects – with screen-filling particle pyrotechnics – has become the studio's signature. The power of PS5 pushes that vision even further with full fluid simulations controlling weather and environments alongside innovative particle animations for enemies and environments.

Ray-traced lighting

Experience high-fidelity ambient lighting that is specifically designed to adapt in real-time to Atropos’ dynamic environment.  

Outstanding performance

Placing gameplay at the forefront of all it does, Housemarque maintains the highest standards for performance. Thanks to the incredible power of PS5, the blistering combat and brooding visuals of Returnal’s unique world are delivered at a consistent 60 frames-per-second and a 4K resolution.

8. Multiplayer and Challenges

“As you explore, you'll encounter corpses of other players that have died in other timelines - interacting with these will produce some… surprises!”

Harry Krueger, Game Director

Make contact with the dead

While dying loops you back in time, your physical remains are left behind for other players to discover in their own worlds. The rewards to be reaped from these corpses are numerous, but be very careful: on Atropos, death is not always what it seems.

Daily Challenges

Outside the main campaign, test your skills in unique Daily Challenges. In this specifically devised mode, you must complete a single biome under unique conditions that change how you play, limiting your access to weapons and skills and forcing you to improvise as you go.

Global leaderboards

The scores you rack up in Daily Challenges will be added to global leaderboards, where you can face off against friends, set high scores for them to beat and challenge yourself to better theirs. 

Editions

Standard Edition

  • Returnal™

Digital Deluxe Edition

  • Returnal™
  • Electropylon Driver weapon
  • Hollowseeker weapon
  • 1 Reflex Stimulant consumable
  • 1 Pulsating Mass artefact
  • 1 Adrenaline Booster
  • Digital soundtrack
  • PSN avatars for PS5™
Platform:
PS5
Release:
30/4/2021
Publisher:
Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre:
Shooter
Voice:
English, French (France), Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (Mexico)
Screen Languages:
English, French (France), Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (Mexico)
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©2021 Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe. Developed by Housemarque Oy. Returnal is a trademark of Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Appearance in this game does not imply sponsorship or endorsement.
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