It only took 179 real-world cycles, but Returnal, history’s glossiest Blue Öyster Cult music video, will finally let you close the game without erasing your progress. Developer Housemarque revealed the news of a “suspend game” option — easily the most-requested feature among fans — in a video detailing a big 2.0 update for one of this year’s marquee PlayStation 5 exclusives. Also: photo mode.
Returnal, which debuted on PS5 back in April, is among the lonely crowd of next-gen-only games. You play as an astronaut, stranded on a hostile exoplanet after a crash. You quickly learn that the planet is afflicted by an Edge of Tomorrow time loop, so you have to fight your way — roguelike-style — to safety, mostly through sequences of zippy, platforming-heavy third-person shooting. Critics praised everything from its eye-popping particle effects to its truly unique use of haptic feedback, but players found the game’s save system — or, rather, the total lack of one — utterly maddening.
See, runs in Returnal can easily last several hours, particularly if you’re the type of player who meticulously combs every chamber for upgrades. You could unlock permanent upgrades — like new weapons or a grappling hook — between runs, but there was no way to preserve the progress of any run you were currently on. Switch to a different game? Lose your run. Turn off your PS5? Lose your run.
Housemarque’s official word on the matter was that you just could put your PS5 in rest mode, but even that wasn’t a panacea: If you had automatic updates activated on your console — as you should, since it’s quite a convenient feature — then Returnal would close automatically, eliminating your progress. (I learned that one the hard way, partway through a run that I described at the time as one I had “a good feeling about.”)
Opponents contended that Returnal’s stark lack of save options ramped up the tension and preserved Housemarque’s intent of creating a relentlessly challenging game.
Back in May, Housemarque’s Mikael Haveri told Axios reporter Stephen Totilo that the studio was “very actively” looking into a solution, but demurred on offering any specifics, for instance a timeline. Housemarque had been largely silent about the matter since.
How to suspend your game in Returnal
Now, there’s a solution, available following today’s 10.8GB update. Are you ready? Pop open the pause menu. Select “suspend cycle.” Voila! Far more simple than some of the fan-suggested solutions, including the possibility to only suspend the game at various safe rooms and healing stations.
There are some ground rules, though: You can only suspend one run at a time. And when you pick up where you left off, the cached save data is eliminated. (Bad news for anyone hoping to spam this feature for save-scumming.) While testing it out this morning, I found that you have to clear a room of enemies first; if enemies are nearby, the “suspend cycle” option is grayed-out.
Otherwise, I found it works swimmingly. And you don’t get zapped back to the beginning of whatever chamber you suspended the game in: You start in the exact position you stopped. And Returnal still cold-boots — the time from clicking on the dashboard tile to actually playing — in less than 15 seconds.
Returnal’s 2.0 update also adds a photo mode, conveniently in time for game-of-the-year season, when critics will need to include screenshots of this brilliant, beautiful game in their roundups.