The returnal’s hypothesis captures you from the very beginning. You instantly find yourself in the shoes of the astronaut Selene, who has just landed on an alien planet hostile to Atropos. Each time she passes on, she goes back to the destruction of her crashed spaceship and must get out again to unravel the mystery of Atropos. Finally, she must understand why she is trapped in this endless cycle.

The story mostly unfolds through audio recordings that she extracts from previously dropped versions of Selena herself. You’ll be able to unravel more stories in first-person sections set in a creepy 20th-century house from Selena’s past that inexplicably appears on the surface of an alien world. These clips are so weird; they even get some definition. The story certainly takes a backseat to Returnal’s gameplay, but the narrative reaches a satisfying conclusion, albeit a little hastily. There is also a “real” secret ending involving a set of post-game collectibles that can fill in the few remaining gaps.

The combat return mechanic rewards players who can dodge enemy attacks while maintaining composure. Selene builds up the adrenaline with each kill, which grants temporary bonuses such as a more powerful combat attack and a glowing aura that makes enemies more visible as long as you don’t take damage. An active reload mechanic will also help you get rid of as much hell as possible. Working with quick reloads between shuffles can be tricky given the ridiculous amount of bullets you need to dodge at once. It’s better to know when to skip a reboot than to risk delaying the next attack.

Each weapon type comes with randomly assigned perks that you unlock by killing enemies, and that continues as you run. As your weapon levels up, the weapons you find have better stats and more and more benefits. And you always have a sword, which allows you to disable the enemy’s armor and quickly send enemies close to each other. When you are strong, find a rhythm to work within any combat scenario in your build to see what else you have. Not every update is entirely a blessing.