Games Inbox: Is Returnal on PS5 worth the hype?

The Monday Inbox tries to make sense of Umbrella’s corporate roadmap, as one reader asks about Persona 3 FES vs. Persona 3 Portable.

To join in with the discussions yourself email [email protected]

Pure gaming
So it turns out Returnal is pretty damn hard. It also turned out to be pretty damn good. When you’re in the zone and particles are flying everywhere whilst you effortlessly glide past them with the grace of a ballerina it’s totally mesmerising. The 3D audio adds plenty to the atmosphere too.

Obviously, it’ll displease a few and people have made their voices heard on the lack of a save option but I must commend Housemarque for their willingness to be uncompromising in their vision. Also, got to give Sony some credit. They’ve been accusing of focusing on blockbusters but their two biggest exclusives on PlayStation 5 are both as pure as gaming can be.

No vanity projects or interactive movies, just good old knuckle down hard and work for your rewards… and weep an ocean of tears for your losses.

Top tier
One day into Returnal and I can tell you so far it’s a great game. There’s a lot to learn, and it has a steep difficulty curve, but it feels, plays, and looks absolutely stunning.

I’m expecting it will get a lot harder the further I progress, which is why I’m holding off judgement on some of the harsher reviews out there. But from what I’ve played so far I honestly believe that it deserves to be sat among the 90+ games on Metacritic.

Welcome surprise
Fair dues GameCentral, I didn’t see that one coming with your Returnal review. And for the game to get a 9/10 rating, especially for the type of game being described, and the fact it’s a new IP! Definitely one which blindsided me for sure.

I didn’t really have this game on my radar whatsoever, but with so many influences like Dark Souls, Metroid Prime, Hades, Gears Of War, and Sony’s best new franchise since The Last of Us it’s sure on my radar now.

Without too much gameplay examples watched, or much interest in its gaming mechanics, it was hard to envision what I was to be expecting in the review, with a couple or more game styles being described. The fact the difficulty is well and truly amped up when a new loop ensures and the relearning of the game again due to its difficulty, sounds very refreshing.

The H.P. Lovecraft style story or lore involved already gives me a sense of what I may possibly expect. The game looks and sounds very foreboding and atmospheric with a possibility of dying at any moment, like in the Soulsborne series.

I did have Resident Evil Village as my only main game to look forward to at the moment but your very good and promising Returnal review has definitely got me excited to try something so intriguing and new. Will definitely be wanting this game for sure, just for the curiosity of it as well.

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

Everybody wants to rule the world
RE: Hamlet. Umbrella’s motivations are confusing (especially in the films, where the exact problems you raised are present and ignored).

If I recall correctly, it was initially that they were a pharmaceutical company with a side business of developing weapons to sell to different militaries, but as the games went on I think they added an underlying motivation of ethnic cleansing or something – basically wiping out everyone who isn’t one of their chosen race. But maybe I’m misremembering something.

Wesker is different, though, and his motivation was just global domination, but he also needed money to finance it, hence his stealing stuff and selling it to terrorists.
Joseph Dowland

GC: We don’t remember anything about ethnic cleansing, but we have to admit we’re also a bit fuzzy on why Umbrella does the things it does.

Personal choice
I’ve been on the PlayStation 3 Store buying some PSP, PS Vita, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3 games recently. Yes, shock horror, I do buy games and don’t get them all free! I was wondering which is the best version of Persona 3 to get, Persona 3 Portable (£24.99) or Persona 3 FES (£7.99) for PlayStation 2? I don’t want to buy both, but was wondering if a GameCentral reader can tell me which is the superior version? I guess the PSP version is the newer version but don’t know which one is best.

I’m not bothered about paying more for the PSP version than the PlayStation 2 version. I have looked on eBay and the physical versions are a lot more expensive than the digital versions, so £24.99 is a good price. Thank you if you can advise.
Andrew J.
PS: In reply to someone in the Inbox or Underbox the other week, I went into my EE router settings and changed the security setting from WPA2 to WPA Auto and my launch day PSP managed to find my Wi-Fi and connect after doing that. I changed it back to the higher security (WPA2) once I had updated the PSP to the latest firmware. I bought one of these batteries off Amazon and although it seems to work OK with it to do the update I talked about the other week I will not be using it all the time for safety, because it is a third party battery.

GC: That’s a point of some contention, as while Persona 3 Portable has better combat and a female protagonist options, amongst other refinements, there’s no proper overworld any more – you just click on places and people with your cursor and listen to visual novel style conversations.

Buying American
I pre-ordered Returnal just after the reviews showed but I was already pretty confident due to Housemarque’s pedigree as a highly successful indie developer.

Me and my girlfriend have loved all their games, so to hear that they were making their first triple-A outing was a curious nod of excitement to see what this developer could do with a bigger budget.

I also love, love, love sci-fi horror, from Dead Space to the original Alien movie, so it was a long time coming to get a game of this narrative genre.

I will admit that with my girlfriend being in the US for now that we took advantage of the exchange rate and bought the game on the US PSN instead making it just a £55 purchase, but being a disk collector I was fully prepared to shell out the £70 until we figured that life hack.

After playing it for six hours so far though I can reassure gamers that it is a highly enjoyable experience, from the gunplay to the haptic feedback and sound design in my 3D Pulse headset. Buy it. It is another PlayStation exclusive already set to be a classic!

Why now?
I imagine everyone will be talking about Returnal this week but I just want to say that me and the kids have had a ton of fun with New Pokémon Snap so far. It really is a great sequel to the original that gave me some nostalgia feels and has really entertained them with trying to spot all the pokémon and work out how to make them do things.

I don’t understand why something like this never came out years ago though. I remember when GC asked Game Freak a few years ago they said that they’d only do it when they could do something new with the idea. But… there’s nothing substantially different about it. That’s why it’s good!

Corporate strategy
RE: Money to burn. I feel that I must address some of the issues in this letter, Firstly (contrary to what many people seem to think}, Microsoft did not pay $7.5 billion for Bethesda, they actually paid $7.5 billion for ZeniMax Media, which includes Arkane and MachineGames, neither of which I would classify as tired old developers.

Does the author not think that Steam deserved to be undercut? This is a company which long abused its monopoly by charging excessive amounts to use its platform. Does this not help developers by giving them a larger percentage of sales? Does the money paid by Game Pass not help developers, of course it does?

While I would agree that that Microsoft has been a tad unimaginative in its choice in developers that it buys, it has developed backward compatibility, a value for money subscription service, and is developing what hopefully develops into an excellent streaming service. In comparison, the changes in Sony’s business model seem somewhat insipid to me.

On another point, I am surprised that so many people seem to think that just because Microsoft has not issued a profits figure for Game Pass that it making a loss. With 18 million subscribers worldwide, it has to be generating at least $1 billion a year, so I would actually be rather surprised if it is. My guess is that the information is business sensitive, if Games Pass is turning out to becoming more and more profitable releasing profitability figures could encourage competition.

I guess that the main point of this letter is to show that there are more than one side to every coin. Let’s face it, if Game Pass was to release 10 high quality exclusives a year for less than £150 per year many Sony diehards would be shifting ship. Alternately, if Game Pass cost £50 per month the balance would shift the other way. Strangely, I pretty much like things the way they are, because competition is king. Hell, even governments know this because that is why we have incredibly powerful monopoly commissions.
John A

GC: Almost everyone, including us, uses Bethesda as a synonym for ZeniMax Media, since the name is not used publicly and it’s only a holding company. It’s worth emphasising that the lack of profit information isn’t specific to Game Pass, Microsoft don’t reveal it for anything relating to their Xbox division.

Inbox also-rans
To the people who are not happy with paying £70 for new Sony games digitally from the store, you can get £70 (2 x £35) PSN credit from for £61.

Just got ending E for NieR Replicant and loved every minute of the whole crazy experience. Automata is definitely the better game but this is still amazing considering when it was made. Kainé is the best!

This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Tolly, who asks what’s the most obscure game you’ve ever played?

What game have you played that nobody else ever seems to have heard of? Did you like the game and what was its critical consensus, if any? Was the game unusual in any way or was it simply something you’d never heard of before?

How did you find out about it and did the experience encourage you to search for other less well-known games? Do you often try to seek out more obscure games and how do you make your choice of which to play?

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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