Returnal PC Review: Rinse & Repeat

The challenging rogue-lite title makes its way to PC with an impressive port and incredible performance. Here's our review of Returnal's PC version.

Returnal was one of the few PlayStation exclusives that could only be played on the PS5; however, it is now available to players who’ve been wanting to experience Returnal on PC. While the rogue-lite game has made its mark on Sony’s latest console, it might be a different story on more powerful systems — for better or worse. So even though Returnal is considered a titular title for the PlayStation 5, the new PC release might make it a must-have game for the PC as well. Here’s what we think about Returnal’s performance on the PC and why it could be the ultimate way to play in 2023.

Returnal PC: Story & Setting review

Selene Holding a Pistol in Returnal PC

At first glance, Returnal might seem like a spin-off of one of Ridley Scott’s movies due to its 80s sci-fi movies vibe. However, once you start playing the game, you soon realise it’s far more than a generic sci-fi horror game. You play as Selene, an astronaut who crashes on the planet of Atropos, looking to find the source of a mysterious signal. As soon as you land on the planet, Selene notices the planet’s creepy and eerie nature, which contains luminous plants, enigmatic doors, and weird enemies ready to stop her from discovering the planet’s secrets.

Since Returnal is a rouge-lite game, players will experience their first death very soon and notice that Selene is transported back to her ship and re-experiences the crash all over again. It is very reminiscent of Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow; however, in this case, Selene has the ability to learn and retain new skills that will help her progress further than her previous run. It is also worth pointing out that levels are procedurally generated, meaning players cannot learn each biome for progression and must figure out how to clear each biome in every run. There are six biomes in total that are totally different from each other, featuring different types of challenges, upgrades, enemies, and collectibles. 

To make their chances of survival higher, players will need to explore every biome and acquire upgrades that make them proficient at certain skills. With these upgrades, players will find it slightly easier to beat the game since there is no scope for saving progress to continue later. While players will lose some upgrades with each death, certain unlockables and skills get carried over for the next run. However, players must be ready to struggle again and again until they get proficient with each weapon and start getting used to facing tougher enemies.

Returnal PC – Gameplay review

Returnal’s gameplay is the definition of a twitchy shooter that requires players to be on their toes at all times. While basic mechanics such as dashing and gunning while running is present, it’s how players use them to their advantage that makes a difference. For starters, if players use a DualSense or DualSense Edge controller, they will notice that pressing the L2 trigger halfway lets them aim down the sights. This is because the adaptive triggers implement a resistance system when players reach that threshold. However, if players press the L2 trigger all the way down, it will result in Selene using her alternate fire mode, which is beneficial for tacking multiple weaker enemies. This mechanic is a clever implementation of Sony’s DualSense controller technology which is hard to find in other titles.

Selene using a laser to take down drones in Returnal PC

While this nifty trick gets old very fast, the key to surviving Atropos’s hostile world requires endurance and the right gear to beat every biome. In addition, players will often go against enemies that fill the entire screen with various attacks, which Selene has to avoid using skills available to her and a bit of ingenuity. While Returnal is definitely a challenging game, progress is never far out of reach, making the journey more important than the destination.

Returnal PC – Performance review

Returnal’s performance on the PC is a sight to behold, especially if players are running anything above RTX 2070. Sure older graphic card users might not be able to play in 4K with 60 frames per second, but the game still looks absolutely stunning in 1080p and 1440p resolution. Needless to say, players with the new RTX 30 or newer GPUs will be able to run Returnal at 60 frames per second at 4K without any hiccups. In our testing, Returnal ran exceptionally well on the RTX 2080ti at 1440p resolution, even though the GPU is not the most powerful in the market. With ray-tracing, High settings, and DLSS turned on, our testing rig could push an average of 70-75 frames per second; however, after tweaking some of the graphic settings, it was possible to achieve ten more frames per second. There are slight dips in frames, especially when enemies fill up the screen with colourful attacks, but it shouldn’t sacrifice much of the performance compared to open-world games. 

Selene looking at a boss with attacks that look colourful in Returnal PC

Players with RTX 3080 or newer GPUs can expect to achieve 4K/60fps with ease and even higher frames if they reduce the resolution to 1440p. However, it is recommended to have 32GB DDR4 memory and at least an Intel i7-9700K (8 core 3.7 GHz) or AMD Ryzen 7 3700X (8 core 3.6 GHz) processor if players want to enjoy the game in 4K resolution. 

What’s impressive is that players can enjoy the game without a powerful rig. For example, players with GTX 1060 (6 GB) or AMD Radeon RX 580 (8 GB) can also run the game at 60 FPS, albeit at 720p resolution. While this is not the most ideal setting to enjoy the game, with some tweaking, players can run this game at 1080/30FPS. It is also worth reminding that developers will continue to work on the game even after launch, especially when it comes to optimising the game for less powerful machines.

Selene lsurrounded by many eemies in Returnal PC

Finally, it is important to mention that Returnal has been adapted to suit different types of aspect ratios. While we didn’t get to test this first-hand, Returnal supports Ultrawide at 21:9 and Super Ultrawide at 32:9 monitors. So if players prefer a more cinematic experience in these formats, it can enable them in the settings menu. However, whether it negatively impacts performance has yet to be discovered.

Overall, Housemarque and Climax Studios have done an incredible job of crafting the PC port of Returnal. While the game still looks stunning on the PlayStation 5, it looks and performs a bit better on the PC. Of course, it goes without saying that Returnal on PC is currently the best version of the game, and the experience is even more enhanced if players use Sony’s DualSense or DualSense Edge controller.

The Final Verdict 

Co-op mode with an additional player in Returnal PC

Returnal on PC is a marvel to behold as it delivers the complete experience, much like previous PlayStation Studios releases on the platforms. With challenging gameplay, incredible replayability, and a suspenseful storyline, Returnal is a must-have for your PC library if you like the rogue-lite genre. 

Rating: 4.5 / 5


  • Stunning Visuals
  • Incredible Performance
  • Amazing DualSense Features


  • Frame Rate Dips During Tense Battles
  • No Lower Difficulty Setting For Newcomers