Returnal represented the real leap in quality for Housemarque, the Finnish softare house which, following the success of the Sci-Fi action game on PS5, has officially joined PlayStation Studios .
The results obtained with Returnal are the fruit of hard work, as Harry Krueger, the director of the project, revealed at GDC 2022. To get to package a layered and satisfying experience, Housemarque first had to familiarize himself with the Unreal Engine 4 , and then finally give shape to his idea of arcade-style gameplay in a completely 3D context.
“It was really just adapting all the time, and that was a real challenge as well,” Krueger says. “Everyone was underestimating the complexity of the project.”
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that for half of the game’s development time it was unplayable,” Krueger says. “We were learning how to use the engine, we were breaking things, creating dependencies that we didn’t understand […] we were just learning as we went.”
“We were trying to make a 3D game feel as simple as a 2D game, and that was never going to happen,” Krueger says. “I think that’s why the game feels very hard for players, because trying to shoot and do anything else at the same time is incredibly demanding. And that’s why you end falling off ledges and getting killed by cheapshots because you spent all of your time trying to shoot enemies.”
Krueger then revealed that the original intent of Housemarque was to include both a Photo Mode and the multiplayer sector at the launch, both of which came for free post-launch. By the way, we refer you to a gameplay video of Returnal Ascension in 4K to discover the multiplayer novelties recently added to the 3D arcade game of Housemarque.