Before we get into what is traditionally a spicy topic, I want to make some things very clear. I don't usually play harder games. I want to sit on my sofa, play some games, and have fun. I don't want to grind my teeth to dust, and I want to respect the gaming time I do have as someone with a full-time job, a partner, and a two-year-old.
That's not to say that I don't see the appeal of more difficult titles, it's just that I think it's important that everyone should be able to play the way they want.
Read More: Returnal Review: Infinitely Satisfying
Returnal Is Hard, But It’s A Matter Of Perspective
As you may have heard, Returnal is hard. It's also borderline punishing, depending on the gear you've accrued, the items you have available, and the point you're at in a run.
While some have attributed this to the game sharing some DNA with some of gaming's toughest franchises, I actually think it's more about Housemarque's own history.
Prior to Returnal, Housemarque made the likes of Resogun, Super Stardust, and Dead Nation. These seemingly disparate titles were united by one thing - pure, unadulterated, arcade-style action.
These are the titles that send players into a mode and task them with racking up points. Maybe you're against the clock, maybe you're against an opponent, but everything you do from the time the game starts to the time the game ends matters.
Like an ether collection bleeding through to Selene's next run, Housemarque has taken those aspects and wrapped them in a third-person shooter shell.
Sure, Returnal looks incredible, with all of its particle effects and whatnot, but if you were to flip the perspective to a top-down one, much of its gameplay would remain intact thanks to its clear bullet-hell reverence, and it'd start to look familiar to longtime Housemarque fans, too.
Therein lies Returnal's greatest trick - it's a roguelike, sure, but it's also Housemarque's vision crystallised. Between the start of a run and the end of it, every moment matters. You're not chasing scores, you're fighting to survive.
Every death is a lesson, and every hand-cramping battle you scrape past is a tangible teaching moment.
What's the point of this article? Returnal will kick your arse, but it'll do so in the same way that had you shelling coins into an old arcade back in the day. Forget the gorgeous graphics and the Alien-inspired aesthetic, and go with your feelings.