PlayStation 5's Returnal was the big winner at the 2022 BAFTA Games Awards last night, winning awards for Best Game, Music, Audio Achievement, and Performer in a Leading Role for Jane Perry as Selene Vassos.
Returnal is a third-person shooter roguelike video game developed by Finnish firm Housemarque and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It was released for the PlayStation 5 on April 30, 2021 and follows Selene, an Astra scout who lands on the planet Atropos in search of the mysterious ‘White Shadow’ signal and finds herself trapped in a time loop.
In terms of the audio, the game takes advantage of the PlayStation 5's DualSense controller and Tempest Engine to support advanced haptic feedback and 3D spatial audio, enhancing the player immersion experience.
Helping secure the game’s win for best audio were Returnal’s supervising sound designer Loic Couthier, principle technical sound designer Simon Gumbleton, senior sound designer Ash Read, senior sound designer Peter Hanson, sound designer Lewis Everest, and senior sound designer Harvey Scott.
The game’s supervising sound designer and audio lead, Couthier explained how the team brought their 3D audio expertise to the game in order to achieve the most immersive experience on PS5, showcasing Tempest audio and Dualsense haptics:
“The overall direction was to craft an unconventional and unsettling atmosphere, as well as satisfying gameplay with lots of feedback to help the players make sense of the challenging combat situations,” he explained.
“‘Unconventional’ meant an exploration of creative ways to express the soundscape of Atropos, avoiding any comfortable stereotypes, while still guaranteeing believability of the world. It was a collaboration between the sound team and the Housemarque directors, who pushed us to go well beyond the ‘safe’ zone!
“The believability and physicality of the world is expressed through detailed sonic textures that can make the game feel very tactile and 'crunchy', through the creation of ASMR source material and the combination of sound with haptics. It all comes together as a nuanced and tactile experience, which blends and compliments well with the abstract nature of the atmosphere, music and narrative.
“On top of bringing the game's unique aesthetics and gameplay to life through sound, we wanted to craft a tasteful showcase of the latest audio advancements coming with this generation of gaming,” he added.
“3D audio immerses the players into the experience, but is also naturally acting as a central element of the gameplay (as opposed to a gimmick). It intuitively helps the players to be better and survive in a truly difficult game. There is a lot of verticality in the level design and combat, which is a perfect match for a three-dimensional audio experience!”