Crash. Fight aliens. Die. Repeat. Sure, sounds like your average first person sci-fi shooter. However, Housemarque’s Returnal makes the protagonist aware of their multiple deaths through the game and her struggle to make sense of the death loop she finds herself in. It’s either you break the cycle, or the cycle breaks you.
The trailer that was announced today during the PS5 Future of gaming live stream, delves into the way the protagonist becomes connected to this alien planet. It seems to be burrowing into her psyche, tormenting her current and past actions. As the protagonist states “This world is becoming part of me. Infecting my mind. My memories.” Every time you crash onto the planet it also evolves, its landscape and creatures changing. Therefore, the game’s genre seems to be a cross between psychological thriller, first person shooter and sci-fi.
Some gameplay is shown, where the unnamed protagonist wields some pretty bad ass futuristic weaponry whilst shooting down alien enemies of all shapes and sizes. The real beauty is in the environment. From red desserts, to scorched fields, these visual landscapes are hauntingly beautiful. We are also shown flash-backs from the protagonist’s past that are blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fast. These gives us come context of what her life was like before and a deeper understanding of who this character may be. The trailer doesn’t reveal too much about her, other than her defining feature of having David Bowie (anisocoria) eyes.
For those who know Housemarque this is a massive shift from what the devs are known for. After some early PS4 success with Resogun, their 2017 title, Nex Machina was a top-down shoot em’ up that received accolades from the industry but disappointing sales. Only months after its release, Housemarque released a blog post stating that “Arcade is dead” and that they were moving on to explore new genres.
Though the trailer did not reveal a release date, Returnal is a PlayStation 5 exclusive title.