Returnal (PC) Review


Return of the Mac? Not quite.

Returnal is one of the best titles on the PS5, and it finally makes a long rumoured debut on PC. With all of the DLC, and potentially more horsepower available, how does the game handle? Is the love/hate relationship still there? And ultimately, is it worth the cost of entry for either a double dipper, or the first timer aboard the Helios?

Well, our original review can be found here which sums up our original thoughts. It’s safe to say that Returnal is still one of our favourite games on Sony’s latest console, and I tend to go back into it for the odd run quite frequently. The recent endless DLC added some more replayability options into the mix on the PS5, and they’re all here on PC as well. This review will be a bit shorter than our regular ones, but will focus primarily on the improvements found on PC.

Sony’s first party PC releases have been pretty impressive for the most part, but this is the first time a PS5 exclusive is making the jump. With the console being heavily dependent on extremely fast storage, I was intrigued to see how well things like level transitions and other general loading worked. I was pleasantly surprised. I installed the game on a SATA SSD, and the transitions between world definitely hitched a little, but there were still no loading screens. If you have a fast NVME drive in your PC, then you might find it similar to the instantaneous loading on console.

Of course, the biggest upgrade that can be found, much like every PC port, are the graphical options if you have a hefty enough rig. Returnal has a pretty comprehensive 2 minute long benchmark, which splits into seven sections and tests all graphical aspects of the game. Of course, there are Ray Traced shadows and reflection options to toy with, alongside a suite of other ones to really push your system to its breaking point. My PC is built around a Ryzen 3600X and an RTX 3080 and running the game at a native 4k with literally everything cranked up to the max resulted in a surprisingly high set of results, with frame rates hitting the high 40s at their worst. Which is better than I expected given the sheer amount of stuff that’s going on at any one time!

On the whole, the gameplay experience running at 4k, either with or without DLSS, proved to be quite a bit sharper than the PS5. The overgrown ruins were bristling with detail, and I even managed to get some ray tracing on the go without much of a hit to the performance. It’s a well optimised PC port, with patches throughout the review period increasing the performance all the time. My preferred setting was 4k with DLSS on quality, with RT on Medium or High. Even with all this hammering my 3080, I was able to consistently achieve well over 60fps during regular gameplay. It’s a revelatory experience, with everything looking exceptionally sharp and smooth. There were a few hitches here and there during my early going, but following some further patches, these have been ironed out, and the game pre-loads all of its shader compilations on first load to avoid any stutter in-game, which is a nice touch.

The big question that we had going into the review was around the Steam Deck though. All of the other PlayStation Studios titles have been Deck compatible, but as mentioned earlier on, this is the first PS5 native title to make the jump to the PC. And… Well, to quote Andy when we gave it a spin on his Steam Deck “It runs, but it runs like I would run a 10k”. That is, badly. For the most part, running at the lowest settings, it hits somewhere in the region of 30fps when traversing the levels. The problem is, when it gets busy, the frame rate takes a horrendous dive and doesn’t really pick back up until it calms down again. I should state here that at no point has it been confirmed that Returnal is Deck Ready, but we thought we’d give it a try anyway and see how it holds up.

It then leads me back to the original question. Should you buy Returnal on PC? Quite simply, if you’ve not got a PS5, then you should absolutely pick this game up. A big budget Rogue Like with some fantastic ideas nestled inside of it, Housemarque knocked it clean out of the park.


Honestly, there’s really not much more to say about Returnal’s PC release. There may be the odd hitch between levels if you don’t slap it on a blazing fast SSD, but everything else was remarkably smooth for me. It’s a shame that it’s unable to run on Deck, but that aside, it’s an accomplished PC port of an exceptional game.

Editor-In-Chief - NGB. Started writing for NGB in 2013, 3 years later I was running the show. I love what we do here, if you want to get involved, get in touch! PSN/Xbox LIVE/Steam - Winstano


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