When you ask someone what their favorite classic horror movie is, there’s a good chance it’s either The Exorcist or something like it, or Alien. If the latter is your answer, Returnal is a game for you. While it probably wouldn’t be described as horror first and foremost – its action-heavy third-person shooter gameplay sits front and center – a couple of hours with it reveals that it’s deeply rooted in the sci-fi horror that makes Alien scary over 40 years later. Returnal is about an astronaut stuck in a time loop. She crashed into an alien planet with nothing but a pistol on her person, and she must fight through hordes of hostile alien creatures and bosses to progress further and further. If you die, the loop begins all over, with little if any items carrying over from your previous run. Your one goal is to figure out what’s happening, and you do that by inching further and further toward the game’s thought-provoking ending. Returnal’s gameplay is excellent, but the horrors of the alien planet, the exotic yet dreadful atmosphere, and the mysteries contained within a reappearing and deceptively mundane house will keep you saying, “just one more try.” Don’t expect jump scares, demons, ghosts, or straightforward storytelling, but much in the same way that Alien thrives on keeping Ripley as close to death as possible at virtually all times, Returnal stresses how lucky you are to be alive, with just a pinch of health left, after every encounter. | Our Review
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