Reviews - Updated on April 16, 2022

It seems that surprise releases of free updates for PlayStation exclusives are becoming a tradition. Either Ghost of Tsushima will suddenly add a multiplayer mode that no one knew about, or Returnal will receive a major patch with fresh content. This update is interesting for two reasons at once: it not only introduces a cooperative mode into the game, but also offers new entertainment for those who have already completed the main campaign.

Two surprises

It is worth briefly talking about the cooperative right away, since it does not stand out in anything special. A sphere has appeared at the starting location, with the help of which you either cooperate with a random partner, or invite a friend to your session. Everything that was available in single player mode before the release of the update can be played in tandem with someone. A great way to either get acquainted with the game for the first time if you haven’t played it before, or help a friend who doesn’t play such action games very well – there is even an opportunity to raise a wounded partner.

Much more interesting is another innovation – “Sisyphus Tower”. In the same starting location, you need to turn right and use the grappling hook to climb up to the door. Behind it, the player is waiting for a new entertainment, which is a series of arenas with ever-increasing complexity.

Played Returnal: Ascension

All audio diaries are translated and voiced in Russian, as in the original.

The Housemarque team ate a dog on funny arcade shooters, which are not only amazing in terms of gameplay, but also look spectacular. There are many examples: Resogun, Nex Machina, Alienation – the handwriting of these developers has always been recognizable. However, such entertainment turned out to be not very interesting to the public, and the studio publicly stated that it would no longer deal with such projects, since their development hardly pays off and the genre is generally dead.

Curiously, the Sisyphus Tower mode is very similar to what Housemarque did before Returnal. The plot part has not gone away – dozens of audio recordings have been added here, 20 new cipher samples can be found on the walls, and in the event of a character’s death, never-before-seen footage is shown. Plus, there are episodes with a first-person view – the same chamber and creepy, only the scene has changed. Otherwise, this is an even more dynamic, fun and spectacular action game than what the story campaign offered.

Played Returnal: Ascension

Several alien archives have also been added.

Arena after arena

The passage is divided into phases, and each phase consists of 20 rooms. Some rooms allow you to take a breath – for example, there is a store there or it is proposed to open a couple of chests. But the vast majority of floors require you to destroy all enemies – only after that you will be able to stand on the translocator and move on.

The enemies are mostly the same as before, but the locations are fresh. And most importantly – the rooms are noticeably more compact than in the “plot”. These are small arenas, each of which has the ability to use a hook and quickly move from one end of the map to the other. The bestiary is used in its entirety: either turrets that fire different projectiles, or bats, or dog-like creatures, or teleporting swordsmen.

Played Returnal: Ascension

Pay attention to the mini-map – there is not much room for maneuvers.

You clear locations quickly, so that the pace does not slow down. Killed everyone, ran to the right place, moved to the next area – and there the enemies had already begun to crawl out even before you appeared. The combo counter in the corner also encourages you to rush – if you do everything quickly, they will give bonus obolits (this is the local currency), and they are very valuable in this mode. Yes, and in the world table of records I want to take a high place.

Many gameplay elements were transferred to Sisyphus Tower from the original, but changed. Calibrators still increase weapon proficiency, but now it levels up much faster. The number of consumables and artifacts has noticeably decreased, leaving the most useful bonuses for this mode. Sylphia is much more common, which is logical – you want to increase your maximum health as soon as possible. Parasites have not gone away either, and in some cases they do not even have negative effects.

A funny new use has been found for opponents that look like white octopuses with many tentacles. In story mode, they break up into oboliths if you have time to shoot them. Here they leave behind a portal leading to a location with a couple of valuable items and a key that will come in handy to open a door or chest. These enemies still disappear a few seconds after you arrive, and the portal isn’t open forever.

Played Returnal: Ascension

Sometimes it is necessary to choose one of two items in order to advance further. Even if you don’t like any of them.

New rules

Extractors can now fall into consumable slots. They replace the main weapon for a few seconds and deal massive damage. One shoots a swarm of homing projectiles, another emits a beam, and so on. Out of habit, you forget about the presence of extractors in your inventory, but if you use them in difficult situations, opponents fall apart in a split second. Once I got into an uncomfortable room with a swordsman and a dozen flying enemies, which would be painful to clear with a conventional machine gun, but with an extractor, all targets were eliminated in an instant.

Extractors are cool.

Another innovation is irreversible failures. Normal glitches remain in place and still require a simple task to get rid of them, but irreversible ones will disappear only after death and a full restart of the run. On every 20th floor, the boss “gifts” them to the player, and they will have to exist throughout the entire passage. There is a lottery here: some will remain invisible (the character in the air does 50% less damage), some are unpleasant (oboliths disappear faster), and some can ruin the entire run (enemies counterattack when they take damage). Apparently, in the first phases, the game tries to throw up more or less harmless failures – at least it seemed to me so.

Speaking of the new boss. In my opinion, among all the bosses in Returnal, this one is the simplest in terms of design. Just an elongated creature with a big eye that shoots a lot of projectiles and shoots beams. Dodging all this is quite easy, and you can’t call the battle atmospheric – you definitely shouldn’t expect a second Hyperion. In the first phase, the boss has only one “life”, and in the second and third, their number grows, along with which he gains new abilities. The third form is considered final, but the race does not end with this victory – the tower is endless.

Played Returnal: Ascension

Always would find such parasites.

The main advantage of “Sisyphus Tower” is that in it the advantages of the gameplay become even more noticeable. Increased dynamics makes firefights more spectacular: statues fall apart into small particles, coolly animated enemies seem even more dangerous in small rooms, shooting from different guns is a pleasure. And the DualSense gamepad still vibrates every rustle, better immersing us in the atmosphere.

Perhaps, as a “bagel” Returnal really lacks the stars from the sky and loses to competitors. But as a fun third-person action game, it’s at least good. Now you can go through the main story in co-op, and then go for an addition to the endless mode, which is no less exciting in terms of gameplay. An excellent free update, once again reminding why Returnal is so loved, and showing how it can be made a little better.

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