Returnal on PS5 already has a crashing problem — what you need to know

Returnal crash PS5
(Image credit: Sony)

Returnal is the first big PS5 exclusive of 2021, and it’s decidedly not for everyone. Unlike most PlayStation exclusives, Returnal isn’t a third-person cinematic action/adventure game. Instead, it’s a weird, brutal roguelike, which relies on player skill and reflexes to overcome a hostile alien world — or die trying.

However, since Returnal has no save system, the game’s infrequent crashes are a big problem. Developer Housemarque is working on addressing them, but suggests that the problem may be on Sony’s end.

The information comes from the game’s official Discord channel, as transcribed by Push Square. Housemarque issued an official statement on various game bugs (and one complaint that’s decidedly not a bug), addressing Returnal’s crashes in particular:

“This is an issue with the platform,” a Housemarque representative stated. “We’ve sent our report to [Sony]. Specifically, it has something to do with the pre-start system.”

The pre-start system is pretty much what it sounds like: a series of commands that gets a piece of software ready to launch. Naturally, anything that goes wrong during the pre-start system can shut the whole program down later down the line.

Returnal: No save system, no safety net

In most games, crashes are an annoying problem, but not a devastating one. With the prevalence of autosave systems, players stand to lose somewhere between five minutes and an hour or progress. However, Returnal has no save system, forcing players to either put their PS5s in rest mode, or else start a new run each time they sit down to play the game. That’s fine when it’s a player’s choice — it’s less fine when the game forces them out.

The Tom’s Guide staff encountered a few Returnal crashes, both during our preview and our full review. Whether a crash is annoying or devastating depends entirely on how far you’ve gotten in the game. All we can say for the moment is that Sony and Housemarque are working on the issue, and players should stay tuned for the next big patch.

Other Returnal issues

Otherwise, Housemarque has promised to look into a handful of other complaints about Returnal. Some players can’t interact with doors while wearing pre-order suits; others encountered audio issues; others had problems remapping controls. Housemarque has recommended temporary fixes for these issues, and will continue to work on the root causes for future patches.

One area where the developer seems unwilling to change, however, is the save system. In response to complaints about the inability to save during Returnal runs:

“The game team is aware of the issue,” a Housemarque rep stated. “There’s no need to bring it into our attention anymore.”

Love it or hate it, the “one run per session” rule seems to be by design. If you want to beat Returnal, set aside a few consecutive hours for it.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.