Returnal now has co-op in the latest update of the game. Returnal has been one of the many critically acclaimed games for the PlayStation 5. It even recently won as the Best Game in the BAFTA Awards 2022. With the Ascension update that was dropped in March, it brought along the new Coop feature for the game. I returned to Returnal to take a closer look on how the Co-op plays out and if it’s any benefit for anyone playing the game.
How to play Co-op in Returnal
Playing Co-op in Returnal is actually very easy to do. As long as you have an active PlayStation Plus subscription, the Coop feature is available for you to use. One thing that’s needed before you get to activate co-op is that you will have to die at least once in the game before it becomes activated. After you die, you will then get to see a terminal at the beginning of the game that you can activate to enable Co-op. You can choose whether to host a private game or a public game. This only means that if you host a private game you can invite your friends to play with you. While a public game means you invite someone randomly to join your game.
Once the game matches you up with a co-op partner. It will automatically enable the game chat allowing you to communicate with the player. This is all good and dandy if you are a very outgoing person. But for introverts like me, it kind of forces you to communicate even when you don’t feel like to. Most of the time though, this feature isn’t really being used as players will usually join in with either no mic or mute themselves.
The Co-op Experience in Returnal
Suffice to say, I thought I would be enjoying the Co-op experience but to my surprise it was very disappointing. I have not had very successful encounters with other players. Whether it’s my lack of ability to play a game like Returnal or the player that I get matched up with doesn’t really feel like cooperating.
For one thing, items that are placed in the game can be picked up by anyone and can only be picked up once. This means that if there’s a health item in the game, only one of you can pick it up. Combined with not being able to communicate properly with your teammate, this can lead to your teammate hording all the health items while you are already on the brink of death. This feels more like a painful journey rather than an enjoyable experience. It made me want to give up on co-op altogether. This selfishness that the game brings up to you makes you selfish as well and just want to beat that other guy from getting all the items in the game. Leaving them to die when they need the health item more than you do.
If this was the game’s way of balancing the game, this surely feels unbalanced and unfair for those who are struggling to get by in this game. I get the part where you can’t level up your character or that the cooperator cannot progress their game while they are in yours but I would have at least thought that the items will be available to both players. This makes me feel that Returnal is first and foremost an individual game rather than a cooperative game in co-op mode. That other Selene is not here to help you but rather hinder you from completing your journey.
Perhaps that also means the Co-op is part of the story itself? That the reason why this Selene is naturally selfish is because they really have no intention of helping you. Maybe they are your adversary after all. Maybe that’s not even a copy of yourself but an enemy in disguise. One thing is for sure, co-op is not as fun as you’d like it to be unless you are playing with a friend because at least a friend would really look out for you in a game that as punishing as Returnal.