Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5 (reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Release Date: May 25, 2021 / September 6, 2022
Plagued by performance issues and graphical glitches, THQ Nordic's Biomutant launched last spring to mixed reviews. On top of its technical shortcomings, the open-world action-RPG received criticism for delivering a merely average gameplay experience, which failed to stand out in the competitive genre.
Just over a year later, the kung-fu-fueled, post-apocalyptic adventure returns with a fresh coat of polygons on the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. The souped-up title also squashes bugs, delivers peppier load times and even makes the rodent-like protagonist's fur look more realistic. More than an incremental update, Biomutant's current-gen version represents the definitive edition of the title.
While both current-gen consoles benefit from the updated perks, Biomutant brings a bit more to the PS5. Specifically, the game leverages the DualSense controller, upping the level of immersion via the device's adaptive triggers, haptic feedback and built-in speaker. Read on for our full Biomutant review.
Biomutant review: Next-gen upgrades
Like many games that debuted on last-gen consoles, Biomutant received an upgraded version for current-gen consoles. And as with similar titles, its update is a free download for players who previously purchased the game on Xbox One or PlayStation 4.
Whether you've already played the game, or are discovering Biomutant for the first time, you'll enjoy a consistently smooth and graphically impressive experience. The first thing that struck me was the fur covering my post-apocalyptic protagonist. This fur could give Ratchet's soft, supple coat a run for its bolts. Slick lighting and detailed textures look equally impressive, doing their part to bring the game's vibrant, varied world to life.
This all comes courtesy of the game's new 4K resolution, HDR enhancements and faster frame rates. The PS5 version offers three modes: Quality (30 frames per second at 4K) Quality Unleashed (40+ fps at up to 4K) and Performance (60 fps at 1440p). I stuck with the middle, best-of-both-worlds option, and felt more than satisfied with the visual clarity and frame rate speed.
The game's DualSense integration also works well, producing plenty of sounds and vibrations. Biomutant makes liberal use of this tech, during everything from chaotic combat, to quiet puzzle-solving challenges, to dialogue-heavy character encounters. However, the DualSense features still don't pack the detail or depth I've experienced in other games. There are some nuanced exceptions, such as the satisfying rattle of an old projector's film reels from the speaker. But overall, the feedback feels a bit generic and superfluous.
Beyond the aforementioned upgrades, Biomutant also seems more stable. I never experienced a crash or progress-blocking bug. Even minor, occasional glitches – such as graphical pop-in and clipping — weren't prevalent enough to pull me out of the experience. Toss in lightning-quick load times, and the PS5 enhancements generally work as advertised.
Biomutant review: Setting, story and characters
Biomutant's world, its inhabitants and their ecological survival tale were some of the original release's best elements. The story wasn't deep, nor did it add anything to the real-world conversation about corporate greed and the consequences of ignoring earth's pollution problem. But the game still offered a relatively novel take on the post-apocalypse.
Trading the genre's typical "nuclear annihilation" plot for humanity's planet-neglecting irresponsibility not only set the stage for fresh storytelling, but also informed the look and feel of the world and its denizens. The furry, pawed population in Biomutant is more aesthetically creepy than cute, but I nevertheless enjoyed the dystopian setting, full of creatures who have survived and thrived, evolving into humanoids with special powers, abilities and smarts.
In addition to featuring a clever cast of anthropomorphs, Biomutant organically ties its bizarre characters to the story, world and gameplay. The Sludge Soaker you battle early on, for example, hasn't just lived through an oil spill; it's adapted the hazardous substance to thwart threats. Other baddies have made similar adjustments, such as using the doors of abandoned vehicles as shields.
The sorry state of the world benefits the player as well, as the protagonist continually exploits it to power special skills and abilities. Oversized mushrooms can launch the hero upward or send foes flying, while other mutations leverage toxic waste and radioactive materials to deliver serious damage. These examples only scratch the surface, but the game does a great job tying its polluted-planet setting to its story and characters.
The look of the world follows suit, forgoing the usual muted color palettes for a varied, vibrant map that doesn't make the end of the world seem so bad. Sure, there are dilapidated cities that wouldn't look out of place in the Last of Us' dreary world. But among the destroyed buildings and abandoned cars, you'll spy colorful banners and billboards, complete with cute mascots, such as a smiling bowl of ramen. Biomutant's world might be destroyed, but it's not depressing.
As appealing as the presentation is, it does have some immersion-breaking flaws. Long-winded dialogue exchanges feel more tedious than charming. Characters also speak in a gibberish your robo-insect companion translates for you. It's an inventive touch, but one that will make you want to spam the "skip" button.
Cutscenes also lack polish, containing awkward, jarring edits, as well as clunky transitions in and out of gameplay. For all the graphical and performance improvements that the current-gen makeover brings, it seems to have entirely skipped over refining the second-rate cinematics. I also encountered several audio issues, such as complete silence when my hero was flailing its arms in the water.
Biomutant review: Gameplay
Biomutant is brimming with systems and mechanics, from myriad combat options to a staggering array of RPG features. The game is undeniably ambitious, but also feels like it shot for the stars, only to just barely clear the clouds.
Battles, for example, encourage you to unleash a creative, combo-driven variety of melee, ranged and magic-like abilities. Mixing and matching the various skills is fun in the game's early hours, when the upgrade systems and character progression paths still hold so much potential. But after hours of leveling up, unlocking weapons and abilities, and investing the game's various currencies to evolve my build, I found that simply utilizing the same few moves over and over was just as effective.
Most fights don't pack much of a figurative punch. Targeting is imprecise, attacks lack impact and the controls feel loose. Combat feels light and floaty, rather than weighty and sticky. Toss in a camera that frequently gets caught behind objects, and battling the large cast of mutated enemies just isn't as much fun as it could be. Boss battles offer glimpses of potential, but in general, combat lacks the same creativity and polish that went into building Biomutant's inspired world.
Other elements of the game feel similarly uninspired, from its mission structure and morality system, to its puzzles and various upgrade paths. It all works, but it rarely delivers anything novel or unexpected. There are exceptions, such as a crafting system that captures the feel of cobbling together post-apocalyptic scrap. But most of the time, you're merely going through the motions, engaging in activities that other games have done better. None of it is terrible, but the systems rarely rise above "adequate."
Biomutant review: Verdict
Thanks to a PS5 upgrade that improves the game's performance and prettifies the presentation, Biomutant looks and runs better than ever. It also offers a fresh twist on post-apocalyptic tropes. This welcome approach not only informs the story, but also spawns an imaginative world full of colorful characters and creative creature designs.
However, the gameplay in Biomutant rarely lives up to its promise. Clunky, repetitive combat is the worst offender, betraying the potential of the many character-building options. There's also a smorgasbord of RPG systems and mechanics that tick the expected boxes, but do little to stand out from the crowd.
Biomutant is an ambitious offering, clearly built by passionate developers. And while it pales in comparison to genre giants, such as Ghost of Tsushima or Horizon Forbidden West, it also comes from a significantly smaller team, at a fraction of the budget.
It's not a bad game, but Biomutant would have benefited from more polish and less lofty aspirations. Despite its warts, it's a serviceable, occasionally inspired, action/RPG will capably scratch the genre itch until God of War Ragnarok hits.