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Why Returnal Is Dividing PS5 Gamers

Housemarque's "Returnal" for the PS5 has finally crawled out from the darkness, and gamers are — for lack of a better term — shooketh. The action-adventure title, which combines elements of bullet hell, roguelite, Metroidvania, and horror gameplay appears to be a smash hit with critics, currently holding an 86 Metascore. It also happens to be one of the few games out right now that takes full advantage of the PS5's DualSense controller, and that's always a plus when it comes to gaming immersion. That said, there is one particular ingredient in this bombastic, genre-bending broth that has some critics less-than-blown away: the game's punishingly long runs (basically, uninterrupted gameplay that lasts until victory or death — usually death) and its merciless save system.


According to a tweet by IGN's Brian Altano, in order to complete a run in "Returnal," you're going to need to carve out a good few hours of free time. Altano tweeted, "I am VERY excited for 'Returnal' but reading that the average run can last 90+ minutes and there is no way to save midway (aside from Rest Mode) makes me really wish that PS5 had Xbox's Quick Resume feature." Even so, he added that the game looks "awesome," so he'll get over his gripes.

Sure, while everyone's stuck inside, sinking two or three or 10 hours into a sparkly new PS5 game might sound like the worst thing — but, as Altano mentioned, compounded with the time-consuming runs in "Returnal" is the fact that players can only save their games between said runs. For comparison's sake, Game Rant reports that runs in 2020's "Hades" — another critically lauded roguelike — lasted around 40 mins, allowing for breaks between gameplay as needed for, well, life.


Fan response to the reported length of the runs in "Returnal" — and its save system — has been mixed, with some gamers praising its unforgiving gameplay elements and others condemning it, with a few people even suggesting that it isn't "parent-friendly." For instance, Twitter user @Brimah314 decided that "Returnal" was not the game for him, considering his family life. He wrote, "Sadly it's enough for a dealbreaker for me. I have 4 sons and a run might have to stop at any moment. Hope a quick save can be added in an update."

Another user echoed @Brimah314's sentiments with a twist, writing, "I have all the time in the world rn — no spouse, no kids, no job — and even I think this is a stupid idea. I hate not being able to quickly save and stop a game for whatever reason."

The implementation of some kind of quicksave system via patch seems to be a common request among would-be players — however, as Game Rant reports, Housemarque apparently has no intention to add a quicksave feature in its day one patch.

Still, it seems that some gamers are hyped about being able to play "Returnal" in chunks. One excited gamer tweeted that they "love when games can be blocked out in increments like that," referencing "the idea of only having maybe a couple hours to play a game at night[.]"


Somehow, because gamers are gamers — and the console war never changes — the replies to Brian Altano's original post eventually devolved, at least partly, into a minor melee in the console wars. Twitter user @thebizzle413 used the discussion as a way to pit the PS5 against the Xbox Series X, first writing, "The PS5 is about making you sit and endure with games like 'Demon's Souls.' It wants you to commit time and effort." They then joked, "The Xbox is about pick up and play.... backwards compatible games."

Brian Altano also brought up the differences between PS5 and Series X. When a Twitter user asked why gamers were averse to putting their PlayStation 5s into rest mode in order to basically pause the game between playthroughs, Altano replied that rest mode wasn't reliable, and that it apparently fails sometimes, causing players to lose full runs. In contrast, Altano later noted in a different reply, "I've been playing a bunch of roguelikes/roguelites on my Series X and using the quick resume feature mid-run ... is a godsend. It makes a nice difference for that genre."

As mentioned previously, critics seem to be having a blast with "Returnal," despite the polarizing nature of its roguelite elements. The creepy-crawly alien frag-fest has amassed quite a few positive reviews from big outlets, including GameSpot (9/10) and IGN (8/10). IndieWire went as far as to call it "Housemarque's masterpiece," adding that it is "without question the best and most promising game of the brand-new console generation for the time being."


"Returnal" is out today, April 30, exclusively on the PlayStation 5.