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A Plague Tale: Requiem is an excellent example of what a sequel should be: similar to its predecessor, but bigger and better in virtually every single way. Asobo Studio was so close to something quite special with 2019's A Plague Tale: Innocence, and its PS5 sequel turns that potential into reality. For fans of narrative-focused titles, the rat-infested follow-up is a must-play.

Expanding on the events of the first game, this direct continuation has an even better story, with new characters to meet and so many more places to visit. Its combat and stealth mechanics are much improved, to the point where getting spotted no longer spells an instant game over. The amount of rats on-screen during certain sequences is frankly absurd, and matched with stunning visuals and vistas, they make for a game that's great to look at no matter how grotesque it can be.

There's a welcoming sense of familiarity to go with it, though, as siblings Amicia and Hugo return alongside their mother and sidekick Lucas for a campaign that explores the De Rune family's Macula curse and its history. Hugo's having dreams of a cure hidden away somewhere on a tropical island, but his sister is the only one willing to listen. As such, the pair decides to take matters into their own hands in search of the elusive remedy.

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What follows is a cinematic campaign just north of 20 hours in length that elegantly interlaces gameplay with cutscenes and dialogue. Taking a leaf out of the Naughty Dog playbook once more, it's a game just as much about what's happening when you're not pressing buttons as when you are. Detailed in its design, every interaction feels deliberate; every sequence delicately crafted.

It's what Asobo Studio does best, and A Plague Tale: Requiem sees the French team reach new heights. The narrative remains gripping throughout, and the new characters cement themselves with either fun personalities or hidden motives. A fantastic journey fans of the original will immediately groove with.

Someone will always want to put a stop to Amicia and Hugo's antics, though, so traversal has been updated with new ways to get about the environment while stealth and combat both feel just as viable as the other. With a crossbow part of her arsenal and more ways to use the sling, Amicia puts up much more of a fight. She can counter enemy attacks — even stabbing them to death if she has a knife in her inventory — and wield better control of the rat horde through one of Hugo's new powers.

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The larger combat arenas lend themselves well to shifting between aggression and retreat, killing some enemies and then falling back to cover or some tall grass to break line of sight. Getting spotted doesn't mean you've got to reload a checkpoint anymore as Amicia is fit for purpose on both fronts this time. You'll probably still fall into that trap occasionally — to save resources once you've found a better route through the area, for example — but the sequel does a much better job of letting you approach encounters the way you want. That is except for the frustrating instant-fail stealth sections. Thankfully, they're fairly few and far between, but there are just enough to put a slight dampener on the fun.

They're a mere footnote in a game with so many highs, however. While A Plague Tale: Requiem doesn't reinvent the wheel, what it does remains of a high quality. Its blend of stealth and action, placed in between stretches of puzzle-solving and resource gathering, is an incredibly enjoyable loop. With the plot always at the forefront, you'll rarely catch yourself doing one thing for too long.

As ugly as they might be, the rats themselves should probably be considered another star of the show. There are more rodents on-screen than Innocence could ever dream of, particularly during the late game. Asobo Studio said its tech can put up to 300,000 rats on a TV set at any one time, and those concluding chapters prove the developer right. It's impressive stuff.

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It's almost as admirable as its commitment to supporting the PS5 DualSense controller, which does so much for general immersion. Haptic feedback is put to use whenever the rats are nearby; it's like you can actually feel them scurrying around in your pad. Furthermore, chase sequences feel so much more intense when the rumble features and adaptive triggers kick into overdrive as a guard legs it after you. It's fantastic to see studios continue to take advantage of the controller's capabilities, with A Plague Tale: Requiem demonstrating just how effective those features can be when implemented correctly.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the game's performance. It's really difficult to work out what frame rate the game is even targeting. A choppy frame rate and significant drops during action-heavy scenes are common, and without any graphical options to speak of, there's no escaping them. With the day one patch applied, general gameplay seems to hover around 30 frames-per-second, sometimes more and other times less since it appears unlocked. Of course, the title is more than playable from beginning to end — the slower, cinematic sequences are particularly stunning — but those hooked on locked 60fps action won't come away satisfied.

Far more worrying, though, is how the more egregious frame rate drops appear to be directly linked to the game completely crashing on itself. While it was a rare occurrence, gameplay would suddenly start to chug until it came to a standstill, thus crashing the PS5. Backing out to the system's home screen and reloading a checkpoint remedies the issue, but it's still something in need of a fix. Fairly sparse these headaches are, though, so your investment in narrative stretches and enemy encounters won't be interrupted too much.

Conclusion

At its best, A Plague Tale: Requiem is one of the greatest narrative-focused experiences on PS5 to date. Technical limitations get in the way some of the time, but with improved stealth and combat mechanics, this is a really well-rounded game that excels at nearly everything it does. Innocence demonstrated Asobo Studio's potential in bursts; Requiem has absolutely realised it.