New Returnal trailer reveals more about the PS5 exclusive’s story

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony Interactive Entertainment has released a fresh look at Returnal, the upcoming PS5 exclusive from developer Housemarque, with a brand new gameplay trailer.

Following hot on the heels of last month’s Returnal trailer, which gave a better look at the setting of Antropos, this trailer delves into the game’s story, offering some insight into how different aspects of the game will come together to help players unravel the mystery of Selene and Atropos.

First announced at Sony’s Future of Gaming event in June 2020, Returnal is a third-person science-fiction shooter which will combine elements of psychological horror and roguelikes. 

The trailer (embedded below) gives an overview of the game's story, which revolves around an ASTRA scout named Selene who crash-lands on the hostile alien planet of Atropos. In her search for the planet’s “White Shadow” broadcast signal, Selene will die and be reborn multiple times and players will find the game world, and the location of the “White Shadow” signal, to be slightly different each time. 

A death and rebirth cycle can make telling a straightforward story quite difficult but as this new trailer shows, and as the game’s Narrative Director, Greg Louden, explains in a new PlayStation blog post, Returnal’s story is one which players will "piece together".

According to Louden, players will use “environments, sound design and pure story elements” to unravel Returnal’s central mysteries, with the aim of blending gameplay and story together. 

The trailer hints at one way players will uncover story details, showing a shift from third-person action to first-person exploration. Louden explains that while Returnal is “primarily a third-person action experience”, there’s a farmhouse location in the game which players can enter to experience “atmospheric first-person story sequences where [Selene] confronts strange and familiar events inside that you need to piece together.”

A matter of perspective

Changing perspectives seem to be key to Returnal as Louden also says that it’ll be possible to see the game’s story “from another point of view” entirely, with players able to use statues and writings in the game world to uncover the story of Atropos’ alien civilisation.

A central point of the trailer sees Selene discover her own dead body and Louden expands on this in the blog post, revealing that it won't be a one-off thing. While Returnal is a single-player game, players will discover Selene’s corpse across Atropos and, thanks to "online systems", these corpses will sometimes give an insight into another real-life Returnal player dying in-game. 

According to Louden, bodies will “feature projections of other players’ deaths…or Scout Audio Logs that are left behind by other versions of Selene, that she cannot remember recording.” It’ll be up to players whether they want to scavenge the remains or avenge the body’s death, thereby “triggering events that are best discovered when you play.”

There’s not much longer to wait until the release of Returnal: it’s coming exclusively to PS5 on April 30 2021. 

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.