Death, constant and cruel, is a major part of this blockbuster action-shooter. You will fail and die a lot and when you do, you will lose all of the fancy new weapons and upgrades you have just discovered on the game's gorgeously inhospitable alien planet.
You will then be planted back at square one. You will curse and you will wail and you will try again hoping that this run through the game's ever-shifting and rearranging levels will be the one that sees you break its repeating time-loop cycle to emerge triumphant.
Chances are high that it won't be...
Returnal is a unique game. Its gameplay blends the randomly generated level structure of roguelikes with the frantic bullet-hell gameplay of arcade shoot-em-ups while its narrative is an ultra-creepy, sci-fi survival horror story.
Its incredibly high production values, both visually with its hellish alien creatures and audibly with its simply incredible 3D sound design (wear headphones) work to create a spine-chilling atmosphere. This is only interrupted by its hectic and intense shoot-outs as the game's towering enemies flood the screen with a fluorescent tsunami of bullets, orbs and lasers that require nimble reflexes and controller mastery to avoid.
While it's punishingly difficult and its Groundhog Day experience of kill, die, repeat-back-at-the-very-start can frustrate, as can the oblique nature of some game aspects, it's also supremely addictive.
Its mysteriously unnerving story, the arcade rush of its frenzied firefights and its brilliantly disturbed and eerie visuals compelled me to keep suiting up for just one more run.
Platform: PlayStation 5
Rating: M (Mature themes and violence)
Verdict: Frantic, unnerving and punishingly difficult, but also highly addictive.