If you haven’t played Returnal yet, the PC version might just be the best place to experience this remarkable roguelike game. This version comes with some nice graphics features which aim to push your gaming rig to the limit. Of course, on its own Returnal is already a great game. In my original PS5 review from 2021, I praised the game’s excellent fast-paced gameplay that managed to deliver the most unique roguelike experience to date.
Since its release, Returnal has seen quite a lot of support. The game was updated with a new Suspend Mode allowing players to close their game without ending the so-called “run”. We can’t speak about post-launch support for Returnal without mentioning the excellent co-op mode which was released alongside a relentless endless mode.
As it stands, Returnal on PC is the full package. Sure, you can play everything on PS5 but newcomers to the game will get to play everything at once which is great. I won’t deny that I struggled to go back to play Returnal when the co-op mode arrived. Mainly because it is just one of those games that require constant attention. If you take a break for a while, you’ll likely struggle to pick up on the controls and mechanics for the first few hours. In fact, even jumping into the PC version, I struggled to remember how everything worked. This being after I breezed through my runs on the PS5.
Newcomers to Returnal need to know a few things. It is a difficult game. Like many other Housemarque projects, it relies on quick movements, faster reactions and almost instant thinking as you dodge bullets, traps and enemies. While the PS5 managed to pull this experience off, the PC version feels even better than ever thanks to the advantages of PC hardware. This means input lag and the response rate is lower than the console and you’ll be able to push your hardware further to unlock even more stability.
A quick rundown of the game before we get into the benchmarks. Returnal follows Selene who crash lands on an alien planet called Atropos. This planet is home to an ancient race and some other nasty aliens. However, the big mystery of it all is how Selene keeps dying and coming back to life over and over again. No matter what happens, Selene dies and wakes up again in her ship ready to take on the environment ahead. This is where the roguelike mechanics come in.
Selene is equipped with a fast dash ability, a powerful melee attacks and during the game, she unlocks other abilities that help her get around and discover secret locations. The weapons you find scattered across the game come in different forms too. This includes rocket launches (my favourite OP gun), machine guns, linear rifles, pistols and more.
Every weapon has two fire modes, ways to master them and their strengths and weaknesses. Selene can then equip gear too that affects her abilities and grant her buffs. She can also equip parasites that come with debuffs but also certain conditions that once met, remove the debuff and grant her buffs.
With this in mind, Returnal is all about getting through the hazards that wait in Atropos, levelling Selene up, getting better guns and gear, and ultimately, killing everything in sight. The game is excellent. I was a huge fan of it back on the PS5 and I loved it again on the PC.
I also need to mention that all the great DualSense features have been carried to the PC release too. So you can just plug in a DualSense Controller (sucks that is has to be wired) and benefit from the adaptive trigger support and haptic feedback. The triggers are especially great as they replicate each weapon’s various firing modes and produce some satisfying kickbacks when shooting.
So how well does Returnal run on PC? Well, it started out a bit dodgy. My current PC build contains the following hardware:
- Cooler Master Cosmos C700M Case
- Gigabyte Aorus X670E Master Motherboard
- Gigabyte RTX 4070 Ti Gaming OC
- 32GB (2 x 16GB) Kingston FURY Beast DDR5 Memory 4800MT/s
- AMD Ryzen 7700X CPU
- Cooler Master ML360RGB AIO Cooler Master 2000W PSU
- Gigabyte UD1000GM PG5 PCIE 5.0 PSU
With that in mind, my rig is quite high-end. According to the PC system requirements, in order to hit 4K 60FPS with ray-tracing, you’ll need an RTX 3080 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 6950 XT. Housemarque has optimized Returnal with some interesting AI upscaling techniques too including DLSS and FSR. This means even if you’re under the system requirements, you might be able to push your rig further thanks to these upscaling modes.
My first few days with Returnal were rocky. The earlier review build of the game didn’t run very well. During gameplay, I would get a “Fatar Error” pop-up and it would crash the game. I even had four times where the game completely froze my PC forcing me to restart it. This happened across multiple graphics modes and upscaling settings.
However, last night (14 February) a new update was issued for Returnal and it seemingly fixed those crashes. I also experienced much smoother gameplay using the same graphics settings enabled. So I re-ran the benchmarks again and got the following scores:
Just a note – Returnal has a cool built-in benchmark that tests all the game’s visual features in different zones. It starts with physics, and covers reflections, mech complexity and other rendering assets. Once the benchmark ends, you can even go through each of the zones to see what the PC performance was for that specific part of the test. More games need to include this.
Returnal PC Benchmarks
1440p Epic settings / RT Enabled / Epic RT Settings / VSync – Off
- Ultra Performance
- Max – 276fps
- Average – 153ps
- Min – 80fps
- Max – 246fps
- Average – 143fps
- Min – 114fps
- Max – 189fps
- Average – 128fps
- Min – 73fps
- Max – 210fps
- Average – 141fps
- Min – 75fps
- Off (all upscaling disabled)
- Max – 198fps
- Average – 96fps
- Min – 64fps
- Resolution Scaling 100%
- Max – 252fps
- Average – 96fps
- Min – 52fps
- Dynamic Resolution 100%
- Max – 182fps
- Average – 97fps
- Min – 58fps
During my testing, my GPU thermals were capped at 70C and constantly sat at 99%. Using the above settings on Epic, my VRAM was never above 8GB of the 12GB on the 4070 Ti. RAM usage during tests also stayed around 6-5GB.
This all shows that Returnal on PC is pretty well optimised. Cranking everything to the max, I was easily able to get well above 140fps across all modes. I also reported no crashes whatsoever after running all these tests again after the latest patch was deployed.
Returnal on PC is a highly technical game. Its physics engine and super-fast loading times require some heavy PC equipment but the experience is definitely the best on the platform. The opportunity to push the frame rate up to these high numbers means everything feels so much more responsive. Given the game’s fast-paced gameplay, it can only be seen as one of many benefits.
Returnal PC Review
Story - 8/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Presentation - 8.5/10
Value - 8.5/10
Returnal on PC is definitely the best way to play the game. Its advanced PC features provide excellent visuals and much better responsiveness thanks to higher refresh rates and lower latency.
Plethora of PC settings
Still unrivalled gameplay
Generally smooth gameplay
A few crashes