I’ve said it before but virtual reality and horror are a perfect match. Sure movies or traditional horror games can creep us out and scare us but when you actually feel like you’re in the game world, that atmosphere is on another level. Resident Evil VII so far has been the best proof of this on PlayStation VR but there is now a new contender that aims to scare the pants off you. Developer Firesprite, the team that brought us Playroom VR, has just released their new game The Persistence on PlayStation VR and horror fans need to check this one out.
The Persistence is a sci-fi, survival horror, roguelike, first-person shooter set aboard The Persistence, a colony spaceship that has badly malfunctioned. The entire crew is dead except for you, Security Officer Zimri Eder, except you’re not actually her but rather a clone. You see the ship has a clone printer and you actually play as a clone of Zimri. Since this is a roguelike game, every time you die you are then printed again as a new clone. Unfortunately, the damage to the ship has caused this clone printer to also print mutated versions of the entire crew that now roam the ship. Your mission is to fix the ship and head back home to earth, but it won’t be easy with these mutants roaming the spooky corridors.
The thing about most horror games is that once you play them once you end up not being as scared the next time you jump in as you already know where all of the scares are going to come from. The Persistence being a roguelike doesn’t suffer from this issue as every time you play it will be a different experience. Every time you die in this game pretty much everything changes up including item and enemy spawns and the entire layout of the ship itself. You won’t be memorizing anything here and this design leads to a constant string of new things to terrorize you. Now I like this part of roguelikes but the part that usually turns me off of them is losing all of my progression when I die. Here again The Persistence surprised me with how it changed this formula up and made the experience much more enjoyable. When you die everything that you unlocked while playing such as credits and upgrades are kept. Getting quite far in the ship and dying was a pretty big bummer but retaining access to my upgrades and such made jumping back in for another run much more enticing and welcoming.
The ship has a total of five decks to explore with dozens of connected rooms on each. Every room that you explore may have items to collect, crates to loot and of course enemies waiting to kill you. There are also fabrication stations spread about and these are where you make all of your progress to yourself. They contain weapons ranging from various guns to melee weapons as well as grenades and other things. Erebus Tokens are used here to unlock and upgrade your gear and fab chips that you can find are used to craft ammo and such. There is a catch though as when you do craft something at one of these stations it then shuts down for a pretty lengthy amount of time. Another thing you collect is stem cells which are used at the Recovery room to upgrade your stats. As you can tell there is a lot of room for making your character stronger and you’ll need all of it to accomplish your mission.
The weapons themselves in the game have lots of variety making it fun to experiment and try new things out. The Grav Hook lets you lift enemies and slam then all around while a gravity bomb sucks all nearby enemies in. I had a great time trying different ones out on my various runs. You lose access to all of your weapons when you die but since you keep your credits and blueprints it doesn’t take long to arm yourself again on a following run. The entire game is played with a Dualshock 4 with no option sadly for PlayStation Move or the Aim Controller. It works well with the Dualshock but I would’ve loved to Aim controller support. Aiming is done by moving your head while the left stick controls your movement and the right stick the camera. The game offers multiple control options for those who may get sick from one. I didn’t encounter any sickness issues while playing but know there are options there if you do.
When you encounter the mutants in the game you can try to avoid them but of course sometimes you will have to engage in combat. Now when first starting before you have a gun you do have a shield and DNA extractor. Using these you can parry the enemies and then extract DNA from them. Sneak up behind them with this weapon and you can take them out with one blow. The combat was one of my favorites parts of the game and it really blends the action and stealth elements magnificently. For my first playthrough it probably took me eight hours but of course your time will most likely vary. Finishing the game then unlocks a Survival Mode where you are given a total of ten lives and tasked with finishing as fast as possible. Not an easy task to achieve at all.
When it comes to the visuals in the game It’s one of the better looking games on PlayStation VR even if it is dark. While the rooms of the ship themselves aren’t anything original the lighting system and the enemy design are really outstanding. I was constantly unnerved while playing as I explored every room dreading when the next enemy might just pop out of nowhere to send my heart into a beating frenzy. The sound design here just further helps nail the atmosphere with things creaking and enemy groans coming from all over.
Another neat little extra that can extend your playtime is a companion app that you can download on your phone or tablet. This allows up to three other people to interact with the person wearing the VR headset. They can help the person by showing them where enemies are and also freezing them so that you can easily take them out. The ability to tag item locations and open doors is another thing they can do to help out. Of course there is the option to also hinder the VR player and doing so can give the mobile player XP on the companion app. It’s funny because the VR player can also do things to hurt the app player as well such as attack them with viruses. It’s a neat and fun extra addition to the game that already has a ton of replay value.
The Persistence isn’t anything original but everything it set out to do it pretty much nails. While I wasn’t drawn to the story so much the combat and constant variety of new ship layouts kept me engrossed and saying I’ll give it one more run. It’s a tense, unnerving and action packed romp aboard The Persistence and any fan of horror owes it to themselves to give it a go.
*The Persistence is out now on PlayStation VR. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by Firesprite.