The Active Reload in Returnal Should Feel Better

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ronindrummer200

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Edited By ronindrummer200

originally posted on my blog at https://justis.zone/posts/post_20210512-active-reload-should-feel-better/

I’m only a couple hours into the video game Returnal and I’ve come to a strange realization - The active reload is using the wrong stimuli for how my brain works. Specifically, the noise that comes from the controller, the specific way the controller rumbles, and the information presented on the screen is all wrong for what I find intuitive with a modern video game. Housemarque (the developer of Returnal) should have used the new fancy controller to provide this information in a better way. I want the new controller to bump me when it’s time to press the button.

When I am firing the gun in Returnal, the game already utilizes the triggers on the PS5 to add some pressure when you squeeze the trigger button. They also add a specific “bump” on the left trigger for the alternate fire of the weapon you are currently using. When I am using the primary fire, I squeeze the trigger until the gun is empty and then leave my finger squeezed until I want to fire the next round. While this is definitely not proper trigger etiquette, it’s a video game, I don’t care. This becomes a real problem with the active reload window appears.

The active reload window starts when the gun is empty. It is a meter that fills up under your aiming reticle and then a larger bar is inside of the smaller bar. You need to squeeze the right trigger during this window to successfully utilize the active reload and reduce the time you wait for your character to fire the gun again. The controller goes through multiple phases of rumble while the meter is filling. It does a light shake, shakes less during the active reload window, and then shakes a bit more when you miss it.

Pulling the trigger during the active reload window is specifically a problem for me because I still have the trigger squeezed until I want to fire the next round. To accomplish the active reload I need to:

  • unsqueeze the trigger
  • squeeze the trigger
  • during the right window

This is a real issue as my brain does not even acknowledge the first activity until the window has already started.

What I would love to see is Housemarque utilize the new mechanics in the PS5 controller and provide more information directly into my hands with either the controller lightly yet forcibly pushing my index finger back into the firing position after every shot or just doing that for when the clip is empty. There could also be better ways to implement the specific rumble of the controller to do this than the path they’ve chosen as well. The rumble changing during this window is too subtle. The visualization is also hard to see when I am focusing on a 65 inch screen and not looking directly at the right location while I move my character away from bullets and monsters while not falling off of platforms.

I listened to Episode 685 of The Giant Bombcast where host Jeff Gerstmann specifically describes issues with his ability to see and follow the active reload. This is proof that I am not alone in my ability to follow the prompts as displayed on the screen. Housemarque missed the mark on ensuring the information was clear on exactly what to do to engage with the active reload system.

I would need to go back and play some Gears of War to remember how they communicate the active reload window as well. If my memory is correct, they used a separate reload button on the controller. This would potentially ease the mental gap in the squeeze/stop/squeeze-again as it would be a new cognitive action for the player to utilize. I don’t know if that is better or worse but, I distinctly remember hitting the active reload all the time in Gears of War and it feeling amazing.

I have to assume that there may be some regulatory issues with how much force a controller can apply to your finger as forcing back someone’s tense muscle could be a potential for injury. I also don’t know if the controller can apply force on the trigger once it’s already been pulled. Either way, there are better ways to communicate this mechanic than what they’ve selected.

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yates

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I really dislike that it's the same button as fire to execute it, it doesn't feel natural. You can't rapidly fire your gun to empty your clip without paying very close attention to how many shots you have left otherwise you end up accidently missing the active reload when trying to shoot. I've now resorted to just holding down the fire button for pistols because it was such a regular occurrence for me (and that in itself presents the unsqueeze and squeeze-again issues you've highlighted).

It just feels like they were trying to be too clever with the triggers here. It's current implementation steals too much of my focus at key moments during combat.

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Efesell

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Feels like these are the growing pains that we’re gonna see with those triggers. Like everyone frantically trying to find the best way to use the touch button before sighing and agreeing that it’s just the map button.

The triggers are real neat though so I’m hoping for more creativity even if it does miss like this sometimes.

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ThePanzini

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Given I have haptics and rumble turned off I'm just tapping right trigger to fire again slightly quicker, it feels more like a cool down mechanic to me than active reload for me.

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djredbat

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It just takes some getting used to like the alt fire at first it felt bad but I am glad I didn't change the control's cause now it feels great. The active reload is only a problem for the pistol so get rid of it asap I don't like anything about it until then don't even use active reload just tap the trigger a bunch of times and let the ammo come back naturally the worst thing you can do is miss it cause it locks you into not being able to sprint or dash.

Some tips I can give are

Those stone gates that you can see a chest behind can be opened just aim your gun by them and you will hear a pulsing sound that gets louder the closer you are to the device that has flashing light then just shoot it.

All health items can be resin if your at full health so might be a good idea to not pick them all up and come back for them when your health is full.

If you got the item that you use the square button for its great for the turrets, the dog like creatures you first encounter and anything that is stunned.

Don't bother with malignant chests or items they are almost never worth it.

Some of the artifacts that you should always get are the one that restores integrity when at low health and the one that gives you 5% health on damage dealt per adrenaline level.

Stay away from parasites that have bad negative affects like reduced repair, increase dash cool down or suffer damage when picking up items or using keys

Before you go fight a boss press start and go to settings then gameplay and set the to sprint option to always sprint.

Try to avoid killing enemy's at long distances cause you will miss out on all the obolites.

Last tip is just don't give up Returnal can be frustrating I spent 10hrs in the first biome before I reached the second one and was getting so annoyed I almost gave up but good thing I didn't. Now 60+ hours later and completing act 1 and 2 more then 4 times each it's one of my favorite games and I am still unlocking new weapon traits, new consumables and artifacts, finding new rooms I never seen before and am one step from finishing act 3 and getting the secret ending.

Good luck.

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djredbat

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@thepanzini: Wow the alt-fire must feel horrible with no resistance on the left trigger, I'm guessing you remapped it to a different button. Returnal is the first game since Astro's Playroom that makes good use of the PS5 controller I can't imagine turning that stuff off but it's good they let you for those that don't like it.

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ThePanzini

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#6  Edited By ThePanzini

@djredbat: Yeah the classic control scheme has alt-fire on L1 and items on R1, because ads is usless anyway its much quicker I've never used the left trigger. Using the haptics which are neat is just slower.

It was and always will be a non starter, resistance and rumble are quite painful for me after a short period. 15min Astro Bot with rumble/haptics on light is still too much and I have to walk away.

Also because reloading slows you down slightly I find in many cases its better to just run and avoid damage and wait.

Also the high malignant chest may contain an artifact they are defo worth it, especially early game when the malfunctions are pretty easy to clear.

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noboners

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#7 noboners  Online

@djredbat: wow all great tips! I've been stuck on biome 3 for the past 7ish hours but your post was just the motivation I needed to stick with it. I just hate how long it sometimes takes me to get there!

I agree that the "active reload" is just so much better on every weapon other than the pistol. But I do wish that it was an alternate button press. Or if there was more trigger feedback or something when you run out of ammo. I try and hit it most the time, but it also definitely has been put on the back burner as running around and staying alive is so much easier if I don't have to pay attention to the UI. I think the colorblind options actually help a ton of stuff in this game, but for some reason it doesn't affect the reticle/active reload? Or if it does, it's not enough of a color change to help me...