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Returnal guide: Adrenaline level

Gain a buff every three kills

The main character of Returnal stands in front of an explosion Image: Housemarque/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

Staying alive in Returnal involves dodging dozens of bullets with few permanent items to help you survive between playthroughs. However, if you can keep your kill count going without getting hurt, you’ll be rewarded with adrenaline boosts.

In this Returnal adrenaline guide, we’ll explain how the adrenaline system works, explore the conditions required to raise your adrenaline level, and explain the buffs you can expect when you succeed in avoiding damage.

What is adrenaline?

The adrenaline system is a mechanic in Returnal that rewards you for defeating multiple enemies without getting hit. The in-game tutorial explains it like this:

Your Adrenaline level is raised for every 3 hostiles you eliminate up to a maximum of level of 5. Upon taking any damage, however, your Adrenaline level is reset.

Each level provides a unique effect which stacks with each other.

After defeating three enemies without taking any hits — or getting hurt from a hazard — you will gain one level of adrenaline. An orange prompt appears at the bottom of the screen telling you you’ve raised a level, along with a description of the random buff you received.

The adrenaline system in Returnal
The bottom center of your HUD is all about adrenaline
Image: Housemarque/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

The bottom center of your heads-up display (HUD) shows you information about your adrenaline level. Here you’ll find:

  • A pop-up banner that appears when your adrenaline level increases. You’ll see the level and a description of the buff you received.
  • Your current adrenaline level.
  • Icons that represent which buffs you have.

There are five adrenaline levels, each of which provides a different enhancement. They always unlock in the same order. Here is what you can unlock:

  • Level 1 — Enhanced Overload makes the it easier to perform the powered-up reload by enlarging the target area.
  • Level 2 — Enhanced Vision allows you to see enemies through objects (as represented by a red, pulsating wave).
  • Level 3 — Enhanced Melee Attack reduces your melee cooldown time.
  • Level 4 — Proficiency Rate +50% increases the rate you gain proficiency with your equipped weapon.
  • Level 5 — Obolites +50% increases the number of obolites you receive from defeating enemies.

While adrenaline enhancements are helpful, your adrenaline level resets the moment you take damage. Making use of these buffs feels great in the moment, but don’t rely on them to help you survive.

For tips on getting farther in the game, check out our Returnal beginner’s guide and collection of 11 things the game doesn’t tell you.