Formed by former members of Sony’s Liverpool studio, who developed several games in the Wipeout franchise, Firesprite has created their biggest project yet: The Persistence. The team has experience with the platform after collaborating on The Playroom for PSVR. This time they’ve turned their hand to something very different with their rogue like horror title.
Release Date: 24th July 2018
Developed By: Firesprite
Published By: Firesprite
You find yourself onboard The Persistence, a spaceship that has clearly undergone a traumatic experience. Immediately there are hints of a grand scheme of scientific abuse at play and experiments gone wrong, amplified by the chaos caused by the ship getting caught within a black hole’s gravitational pull. When you first come across the mutated inhabitants of the ship the game’s horror genre really steps in to play. Outmatched and outnumbered, you are the hunted onboard the ship. The worst of the malfunctions, the cause of the hordes of mutants? The clone printer. However there’s an upside, the enemies may be limitless but so are you.
Every time you die aboard The Persistence a new body is printed for you consciousness to inhabit. You begin as Head of Security Zimri Eder but by the time you’re done you’ll have had several bodies with advantages of their own. You’ll explore the ship, avoid and defeat the mutants and attempt to restore various functions such as the engines and communications in order to be able to escape the perilous situation you find yourself in. The downside is the story is pretty simple. There isn’t a lot of it to uncover, there aren’t audio logs or anything like that to seek out and learn backstory from. Select crew members get some background, but it’s only about 6/7 and even then it isn’t a lot.
There are two main gameplay elements in play here. The first is the rogue like aspect. Every time you die, you’re reprinted and you start again. Some of your progress is saved though, there are four decks to discover and explore and you can return to the most recent one you unlocked after death. You lose your entire inventory, this includes all of your weapons. You do keep your currency though, which can be used to buy new weapons from vendors spread across the ship as well as upgrade your character. The upgrades are permanent and provide an excellent sense of progression. You’ll do more damage, have faster recharge on ability and have more health. It’s a simple RPG loop that is very effective.
The second main element is horror, and wow does The Persistence get this right. PSVR has been hit and miss so far with horror, many games have come out and made no impact whatsoever. Other titles like Until Dawn: Rush of Blood have great jump scares but no real atmosphere. Resident Evil 7 was the pinnacle, it merged jump scares with tension to a point of perfection. The Persistence has joined it on top. Every time you enter a room you’ll immediately feel the tension. You’ll be terrified, even if it’s only one enemy. The consequence of them turning around and spotting you is so high combined with the immersion that you’ll feel your breaths deepen. Your heart will slow down. At one point I actually jumped to my feet from fear after being chased into a vent.
The game hits the ten hour mark, which is a nice sweet spot between too short and too long. Never did I feel like I had rushed through a game but never did I feel like I was ready for the ending. Challenges and trophies extend the gameplay, as does the Survival mode. There’s an excellent moment where the game clicks with you. Suddenly you understand the ship’s layout and the gameplay loop. It comes after only about an hour into the game and you start to feel slightly more confident and powerful as you fight back the enemies. There are so many enemies that it’s impossible to stay stealthy.
Luckily then the combat is brilliant. In your left hand you have your shield/parry technique. In your right, you have access to numerous weapons with varied functionality. There are grenades that target multiple enemies. Several different guns from a revolver to an SMG. Melee weapons like the riot baton. Gadgets which introduce gameplay modifiers such as the ability to turn invisible, and finally the DNA extractor. Sneak up behind an enemy, press square and you’re treated to a graphic animation that rewards you with credits to upgrade your character. Everything works well, aiming using your head and sight is satisfying, disappearing and sneaking behind an enemy works and parrying with your left hand before beating in a mutants head with your right is excellent. The different mutants keep combat interesting as well. From the hulking berserkers to the skulking creatures that swiftly move across the floor, each is equally terrifying when they have your scent.
The Persistence itself is the star of the show. Which every death and restart each floor randomizes. The basic layout is similar, but the rooms you’ll encounter and their positioning will be different every time. This means every repeat has a new level of tension as you don’t just automatically know where to go. Filled with electrified floors to push enemies into, vents to crawl through and hide, teleporters to aid your escape and plenty of hidden secrets, it really is an incredible trip to explore. The game is very reminiscent of Bioshock and Dead Space in this regard. You’re always on edge, there’s always something interesting going on and there is a constant layer of tension. Even in each floors medical bay, essentially soft checkpoints 75% of the way through the area that has no enemies, you don’t feel safe.
Graphics and Sound
The game is very pretty. I was also impressed at the performance, never did a texture look out of place or was there anything jarring that broke the experience. Each enemy looks terrifying at distance and close up, there isn’t any silly blurring when an enemy gets too close that makes them look wrong. This is the same for all the objects in the game, as you examine everything (because you can) you’ll notice that effort has been put in to make sure it all looks real. The lighting effects are incredible. You’ll feel true darkness and use it to your advantage in stealth. You’ll risk capture when you use the torch and you’ll recognize how potent the light is. The sound is equally impressive. You’ll hear enemies and be intimidated by their moaning and growls. Every footstep will lift your heart rate. This really is a high quality virtual reality experience.
You’ll pick up objects simply by looking at them for a couple of seconds. This works really well, it isn’t a short enough time that you’re picking up things constantly by accident but it’s long enough that you know exactly what you’re getting and can control your inventory. Combat works really well, you look where you want to shoot and it is incredibly satisfying to pull off headshots this way. There are also a ton of control options available. You can use the analog sticks to walk like any other game, or you can teleport from spot to spot. Or both. You can even blur the edges of your sight while you turn. Only once during a set piece where you have to quickly maneuver through obstacles did I feel any motion sickness.
On the other end of the immersion end there’s actually a really cool multiplayer element introduced via an app. A second player gets a top down view of the map, they can open doors or lure enemies around the environment. They can help you by giving you more items and distracting enemies or they can hinder you by turning enemies to your attention or spawning more. It’s a fantastic addition to the horror experience.
The Persistence is a must own PS VR title. With so much Bioshock and Dead Space in its genes, mixed with rogue like gameplay and the immersion of virtual reality it really is an achievement it manages to be something fresh. There is so much included in this title, so much going on gameplay wise it would be impossible to uncover it all. There’s something special about the sense of exploration and discovery, I haven’t even mentioned some of the weapons because using them for the first time is an experience that doesn’t deserve to be spoiled. Seriously though, the Grav Hook. Amazing. If you like horror titles this is a must own. If you like PSVR, it is a must own. If you like exploration must own. Dead Space fan? Must. Own. If you don’t like those things, The Persistence won’t persuade you, but it’s still a fantastic title in its own right.