It’s a sentiment I proposed in my review, but I wanted to elucidate the point a little bit more: Returnal needs a photo mode. Its stunning landscapes, unique enemies, and myriad particle effects are just begging for amazing shots at any moment. From a quiet reflective vigil atop a desert pillar to a last-second dodge of a wave of deadly neon projectiles, pretty much any frame in Returnal could provide the context for an amazing image. A Returnal photo mode would allow players to appreciate the finer details present in environment and enemy design, details that can often go overlooked as players are busy blasting away and trying to survive.
Add to that a suite of Photo Mode options to really finetune our images, and Returnal is the perfect playground for digital photographers. After all, who doesn’t want to capture images of an alien landscape and the fauna that call it home? It would be like having the ability to fly a camera the greatest sci-fi classics. Haunting imagery of Selene standing beside or over one of her own corpses from a previous cycle.
To be honest, Returnal’s lack of a photo mode was a big surprise, considering how big of a feature it’s been for most PlayStation exclusives in particular. It’s also become a staple feature on many third-party titles, including being added to the upcoming Mass Effect Legendary Edition trilogy of games.
I first really thought about the need for a Returnal photo mode not when looking at the landscapes or enemies, but when noticing how detailed Housemarque went on Selene’s suit. The wear and tear over time, the different environments impacting it in different ways. How it gets caked with dust in the desert, and appears covered in snow and ice in colder regions. There’s also the fascinating ways some weapons interact and almost fuse with Selene, like the Spitmaw Blaster that wraps its tendrils up her forearm.
Fortunately, Returnal provides plenty of quieter moments alongside the action to observe these details, even if you have to awkward twirl the camera near a wall to get the close-up. You could take a basic screenshot, I suppose, but I’d really love to see a proper opportunity to stop and enjoy the visual treat the Housemarque created.