I’m not going to lie, my PSVR went from being one of my more used gaming items to being a bit of a dust collector in the corner of my games room, only really being brought out when we had guests who hadn’t tried VR before. We’d drop them into the big showcase games like London Heist, I Expect You To Die and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes but really in terms of my own enjoyment it was just broken out for the occasional dip into Star Trek Bridge Crew multiplayer with a couple of friends. One of the main reasons I started pulling back from it was I found myself becoming incredibly lonely in VR. I’m not going to pretend I usually have an audience whilst I sit playing ‘flat’ PS4 but I have my phone near by, I have my wife within earshot somewhere in the house and I usually have my cat asleep near me. When in VR, in the claustrophobic little bubble, it’s amazingly easy to feel isolated even in a world as vast as say Skyrim VR. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes and the Playroom games have done a little bit here and there with the concept of ‘Asynchronous Multiplayer’, basically multiplayer where you are both having a different experience, but I can say nothing has effected me in terms of immersion and in terms of removing the isolation of VR as The Persistence has. Don’t get me wrong, this is typically a single player game and I will talk about that, but going in, let it be known, this has jumped right up there into my ‘must show’ VR games, and multiplayer games, I have experienced. The Persistence is that good.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, you wake on a space ship drifting through nothingness, the ship has fallen into disrepair and most of the lights don’t seem to work. In a first person perspective you must find out what happened and reclaim the ship from evil creatures. Obviously I’m being quite reductive there but it’s hard not to quite quickly glaze over the story of the Persistence, it’s just there to enable a logic to the world, it’s not really the thing that’s going to be keeping you playing. A nice touch is that every time you die you lose all your possessions like in most other rogue like games but the story justifies it all away by having you be a printed clone of a security officer. Your companion through this is an engineer who has survived the chaos of a nearby black hole and is guiding you through the ship with how to kickstart the engine back up and save yourselves. The issue has come from that same clone printer that has gone into overtime printing zombie like abominations that are out for nothing but your shiny your meat suit.
There are essentially four levels in The Persistence, each with it’s own objective. From your spawn room you head over to a lift that will take you to the location you require but each time, due to the technological weirdness that’s going on, the layout will be different, rooms will be shifted and enemy layout varies. I’ve started falling out of love with Rougelike games of late, the loss of progress basically requiring ‘one perfect run’ mentality just isn’t something I’m usually willing to invest my semi-valuable time into. The Persistence however seems to respect the player and their time, certain elements will carry over between runs. When it comes to enemies there are a couple of ways to deal with them, the first is to tackle them head on with a gun or melee weapon, or you can do a sneaky sneaky approach and suck their stem cells out of their neck and use those to permanently upgrade your clone flesh sack and in turn stand a better chance on your next run. You’ll also be spending a lot of time scavenging, firstly because of the want to pick up the currencies to purchase new weapons and items but also because the process to pick things up is to look at the item for a second or two to perform the action, at first this is fine but if you’re farming items it becomes amazingly tedious to perform.
You have the ability to purchase a few different weapons and items on your journey through the dark corridors, some are just pretty standard guns that always felt like they missed the point of the game but others are absolutely genius additions that if nothing else are great for alleviating some of the fear by simply being so perfect and dumb. My personal favourites were the Ivy Serum that when injected into an enemy turns them into a buddy that will follow you around attacking anyone you come into contact with. Despite them trying to kill you moments prior to this change of heart it’s hard not to feel oddly protective of your new groaning friend. The other weapon of choice is a gravity gun that causes the enemy to float in place and then follow to where you’re looking, as such you can just look up and down and in turn smash their corpse on the ceiling and floor in quick succession before firing their body across the room to paint a wall red. It doesn’t always seem fitting with the world or the fear levels, but it can be a moment of fun respite in a game that is pretty relentless in it’s fear and darkness.
The game is controlled with the dual shock 4 and whilst I know a lot of PSVR fanatics will be horrified by that idea it actually plays out quite nicely and for me personally, the game controls perfectly fine without move controllers. Graphically the game holds its own in comparison to other FPS VR titles on PS4, the textures are clean and although the enemies designs are all a bit standard the effective use of lighting does make for some incredibly atmospheric locations. The game excels however in it’s audio. Much like when you’re in your house on your own and a radiator clangs for no reason in another room, the ship you are stuck on creaks and groans and clatters at those moments when you are most vulnerable, crawling down a corridor scared to alert anyone to your presence.
As I mentioned at the start of this review; the peak of this game for me is actually the companion app that you can download from your mobile phone store of choice, for reference I used the iPhone version. This produces a digital representation of the map with a live view of the action. With a separate app based levelling system a second player can sit and watch the main player go on the TV whilst having this overwatch role at the same time on a phone or tablet; alerting you to items, turning lights off an on and spotting enemies before you’ve even entered a room. Their is the moral choice for the second player as to whether they want to be good or evil, they can alert you to who is in the upcoming room either by just telling you or if they’ve levelled up highlighting them through walls. Alternatively they can choose the dark side and tell the enemy where you are. Though even telling one of say 3 enemies in a room where you are isn’t always a bad thing as this means you’ve pulled one of a pack away to deal with alone. This kind of support from a second person is wonderful, not only in terms of aiding the main player in completing the game but it also finally gives a non-VR person something to do other than just get motion sick from watching someone else play the game. As I said at the start of this review, VR is lonely to me, but my wife giving me intel like someone watching security cameras turned the game into a fascinatingly joyous co-op VR experience and one I hope many other developers look at for inspiration.
The Persistence will run you about 10-12 hours from start to finish and there is a good amount of replayability on top of that. Especially as recently there was a big free update that added various new modes including a couple of challenge maps, the first requires you to do a perfect stealth run through a level, another basically gives you only one health meaning a single enemy hit will drop you. On top of that there’s the obviously impossible permadeath option that as the name implies just gives you one clone body and finally there’s the classic new game plus. The Persistence is a complete package for me, a great game with great atmosphere, plus the addition of the pseudo-co-op gameplay can not be recommended enough. This is the game that should be front and centre whenever anyone talks about PSVR games, it’s the turning point for me and is the game I’ll compare other PSVR games too. This isn’t ‘just’ and experience, this is an all out game that is fully realised and not just gimmick laden. This isn’t just a good VR game, this is a great game full stop.