Returnal PC review

by on February 15, 2023
Reviewed On
Release Date

February 15, 2023


It’s hard to imagine that Housemarque’s Returnal came out almost two years ago. When it released on PS5, it set alight the capabilities of the platform and gave fans a blistering shooter filled with atmosphere, intensity, and lots of different genres that pushed the boundaries of both the console and gaming itself. Returnal on PC manages to capture everything it did on console, providing a smooth experience that not only looks incredible, but plays just as good as it ever did.

You play as Selene, an employee of a team of scientists called Astra who’s job it is to document life across the cosmos. However, after crash-landing on Atropos, she gets stuck in a cycle that sees her returning to the crash site upon death, forced to repeat the same nightmare and face the same horrors upon this strange planet. It’s a simple premise executed with style, and although each time you die it feels as if nothing has been achieved, there’re certain things that remain with you, even after death.

You start to uncover patterns, abilities, devices, and information that drip feeds you with a purpose to being on Atropos. Suit upgrades remain on you, as well as items that’ll help you get through certain blockades such as a teleportation system and a tool that cuts through previously unreachable areas. Various audio logs are scattered across the biomes, giving you some context to what’s happening, and after a few hours of playing, you’ll begin to piece together the story, as well as how to play Returnal.

Atropos is a desolate planet, except for the alien lifeforms you encounter. Crumbling structures and statues litter the world, and alien artefacts are seldom found, giving some kind of context about what’s going on. The real joy of Returnal on PC is how you never know what you might find. Each cycle is different, presenting a new layout every time. When you think you know what’s happening or where you’re going, death rectifies that, thrusting you back into the unknown and forcing you to play cautiously all over again.

The enemies are a mixed bag, all firing glowing orbs of destruction at you. They’re beautiful in a weird way, glowing reds, blues, and greens, firing at you consistently and relentlessly, always forcing you to dodge and evade with the hopes of getting in those vital attacks. Throughout Returnal, you’ll uncover new weapons that feel much like shotguns and assault rifles, all with alternative firing patterns, and once you die, they’re lost, however, there’s still the chance the next cycle with present you with that fancy new gun you got.

Housemarque has designed Returnal in such an exquisite way. Layouts change, but certain patterns remain. Areas you come across at the beginning will be inaccessible, but new devices will allow you to finally access them. Other areas might simply have supplies or opportunities to upgrade or buff abilities and weapons, while others throw you into an intense battle against tons of enemies. You never know just what you’re going to face, but it’s such a staggeringly beautiful game that you’re always happy to repeat the cycle and see what lurks in the shadows in the hopes of uncovering something or somewhere new.

For Returnal on PC, it ran at a smooth 60fps during gameplay on my modest rig on high setting, with some of the cutscenes causing a little stutter. For those with better graphics cards, there won’t be any issues, and even on low it looks great and runs superbly. Using a DualSense provided an almost identical experience when it came to adaptive triggers providing you change the setting, and the nuanced audio plays through the controller’s speaker, providing more of an atmosphere, as the excellent sound design has another method to thrive.

Returnal on PC is just as fantastic as it was on the PlayStation 5. If you weren’t fortunate enough to play on console, the PC version is equally engaging and stunning, both in the way it looks and how it plays. For the techo buffs around, the Ultrawide at 21:9 and Super Ultrawide 32:9 ratios provide more on screen and give you a better view of the environments, and 3D audio, as long as you have the capabilities, will make Returnal on PC a must for fans of the science fiction genre.


Level design is superb
Exciting gameplay loop
Intriguing story
Wonderful atmosphere


May be too challenging for some

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Returnal on PC is just as stunning as it ever was, with a high level of detail in its environmental design and layered gameplay.