Returnal is either the best game or the worst game of 2021, depending on what type of gamer you are
You'll either love this game, or hate that you've spent €80 on it.
There are many, many different types of gamer out there.
There are those who exclusively play online games, enjoying the social aspect of a few rounds of Fortnite or Call Of Duty, or there are those that enjoy the solo-only aspect of gaming, a little bubble to get lost in a for a while.
There are those who just want to get to the gameplay, no need for anything superfluous such as a plot or engaging characters, and then there are those appreciate that games are becoming a storytelling medium all of their own, with the likes of The Last Of Us or Bioshock delivering on the same quality level as some of the very best movies and TV shows.
There are gamers that love to sink endless days and weeks into games with incredibly long campaigns and side missions, like the 200-ish hours that can be dunked into Skyrim or Metal Gear Solid 5, and then those that would rather have something a little more short-term.
Personally, I lean towards solo-playing, well-told, not-too-long games, all boxes that Returnal absolutely ticks, but still found myself incredibly frustrated by the game, simply because it doesn't mesh with my gameplay style.
The big-budget rogue-like has you crash land on an alien planet, filled with creatures out to kill. Every time you die, you wake up in your ship again, mid-crash, and you happen across corpses on the planet's surface, all of which seem to be previous versions of yourself.
Every time you venture into the world, the terrain is changed at random, the creatures spawning in new locations, as if the surface of the planet is self-aware and doesn't want you to learn its deadly tricks. The oppressive psychological horror atmosphere, matched one of the greatest game soundtracks maybe all of time by Bobby Krlic, as well as with some brilliantly realised visuals, and it all combines to what should amount to an absolute certified cracker of a game.
Instead, you'll soon realise that Returnal's forced gameplay style is either right up your alley, or absolutely not worth your time and money.
From starting crash to final credits, it will take you around three hours.
That doesn't sound too bad, right? Well, it is, because you've got to get through those three hours without dying once, or it right back to ship crash. You also can't save it midway through a run and come back to it later. If you're thinking you might pause it and return at your own leisure, all it takes is a simple hardware update on the PlayStation to auto-turn your console off and on again, and your progress is lost.
If you want to finish Returnal, you have to put aside the three solid hours. But of course you won't finish the game three hours after you've bought it, because it kicks off with an incredibly high difficulty level, and then stays that high pretty much all the way through. Getting used to the new monsters and weapons and layouts of the levels, each of which bring their own patterns to get semi-used to, but all it takes is one step of a ledge you thought was further away, and you're right back to where you started.
Returnal is a gorgeously presented and ingeniously laid-out shooter, but if you don't fit within the brackets of the exact type of gamer that it requires to play it, then you'll likely find yourself getting massively frustrated before you get anywhere near the final boss.
Returnal is available to buy right now exclusively on the PlayStation 5.
All clips via PlayStation