So, Is It Safe To Play Returnal Now?

So, Is It Safe To Play Returnal Now?
Screenshot: Housemarque / Sony

Over the past 24 hours, Returnal, the PS5-exclusive action game about getting repeatedly bullied by space tentacle monsters, has weathered a serious patch of turbulence. Two patches in 12 hours. Myriad reports of corrupted save data. Me, getting killed over and over again by an irritating boss. OK, fine, maybe that last one’s not Returnal’s problem, but still: The situation’s a mess. Here’s everything you need to know.

OK, so, what the hell just happened?

Yesterday, developer Housemarque released patch 1.3.3 for Returnal. Though this wasn’t the first patch — like many games, Returnal received a day-one update, and was also updated this past weekend — it’s the first time the studio has released detailed notes about changes. All told, the patch was relatively thin, but it tried to address persistent crashes and increased the number of corpses you could run into. (Returnal features a Souls-style feature in which you can interact with the desiccated corpses of fellow failed players.)

Then, some players noticed an issue: A PS5 error code, CE-100028-1, would pop up sporadically during gameplay. Officially, CE-1000028-1 means your console doesn’t have enough free space on your SSD. Save data for Returnal measures less than 100MB, so obviously players weren’t suddenly running out of space. Still, the popup indicated something awry with Returnal’s save data, with players reporting corrupted save files (and, in some cases, even with hundreds of GB of free storage). Some players reportedly lost everything — all story progress, all items, all permanent upgrades, the whole nine yards.

Housemarque quickly pulled the patch and reverted Returnal to a previous version. Following the withdrawal of patch 1.3.3, Housemarque suggested uninstalling/reinstalling Returnal so the game would run on the previous, stable version (1.3.1) until a fixed patch is available.

At around 6:45 a.m. ET this morning Housemarque released patch 1.3.4, which restores the stable 1.3.1 build and makes it so “all save games are safe” to play. It also addresses a vague “keyboard exploit,” likely a reference to users who found they could plug in keyboards to access debug cheats. (When reached for comment, Sony, Returnal’s publisher, pointed Kotaku to the blog post detailing the patch notes.)

How do I know if I was affected?

Easy: You saw the CE-100028-1 error pop up.

If I lost data, how do I get it back?

It depends. If your save data is 0KB (uh-oh) and you have PS Plus, you can try to download a backup Returnal save from your PS Plus cloud storage. (You can check the file size of your save data by opening up your settings, going to the Storage menu, and clicking on “Saved Data.”) A key factor will be if you’ve manually backed up your save or set your PS5 to automatically upload save data to the cloud. One more thing: Make sure to update Returnal to 1.3.4 before downloading any backup saves from the cloud.

Without cloud saves, you’re probably screwed. Housemarque says save files that ended up at 0KB as a result of the 1.3.3 patch are “effectively ‘deleted’” and “not directly salvageable by patch 1.3.4.”

If your save data retained its file size you’re likely all set, even if you ran into some degree of save data corruption. “Some game saves will have become corrupted with patch 1.3.3, but maintained their file size. Players with those save games are able to safely continue their progress after installing patch 1.3.4 without the need for using a backed up save game,” read today’s patch notes.

Is it safe to play now?

Tepidly, yes. Housemarque says so. Over the past few hours, social media chatter around Returnal seems to have returned to the tone from earlier this week, bemoaning the lack of a save feature and sharing LOL-worthy game moments.

It’s easy to check which version of Returnal you’re currently running. On the PS5 dashboard, hover over the game’s icon. Hit the Options button. Scroll down to “Information.” You’ll see a smattering of, well, information, including a line item for “Version.” If that reads “1.003.004,” you’re up to date with 1.3.4.

I played a bit this morning to test things out. I didn’t run into the CE-100028-1 popup at all. My progress, both in terms of narrative and run-transcendent unlocks, appears unaffected.

But I’ll square with you: This entire debacle has left me somewhat rattled. To date, I’ve put north of 40 hours in Returnal. I’ve unlocked every suit augment, stored up a decent bank of Ether, and sourced a whole bunch of data cubes. (All of those are indicative of permanent progress.) Right now, I’m bashing my head against the sixth biome boss. I can taste the credit crawl. I’d really hate to lose all that progress, and will certainly approach Returnal with some measured caution when future patches are released.

Cool, I think I understand. Any idea on when a save function is coming?

Ha! Good one.

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