The Persistence made waves as a PSVR horror fest, getting players cautiously navigating a decrepit sci fi environment with danger lurking at every turn. We go hands on with a preview build of the upcoming console port, dropping Summer 2020.
Following a fairly gentle tutorial, The Persistence wastes no time throwing you into a blender of taught encounters, uninviting corridors, and slamming doors which we're somewhat ashamed to admit provided far too effective jump scares.
Aggressive entrances aside, this is a title that doesn't mince words, setting a deliberate pace and stripping back combat to a simple block / parry system.
Owing in part to its virtual reality origins, you won't be sprinting to victory; picking your path, choosing when to employ stealth, and gingerly exploring each new procedurally generated segment ensures the tension remains pretty consistent. However, the jump to TV has unearthed creeky elements of the design that don't necessarily translate as smoothly as intended.
Although UI elements are pleasantly integrated into gameplay, ensuring you're spending as little time as possible buried in menus, it's abundantly clear that their layout and presentation is optimised for a VR, head tracking experience.
They appear a little too exaggerated here, and in the heat of the moment feel obtuse and chunky. The return of the teleporting mechanic is weird in a non-VR title, allowing you to skip ahead a few feet. This likely began life as a comfort option to prevent motion sickness induced tailspins, but here it creates a disconnect from the action and feels out of place.
When so much effort has been made to create unsettling audio design and dour graphical ambience, these choices stick out for the wrong reasons.
However, it's important to also acknowledge what The Persistence achieves, despite likely coming together on a considerably smaller budget. Voice acting is effective, and creature animation, even in their undisturbed, idle states, is nuanced and smooth. Combat is rudimentary, but a well timed shield block will a force a satisfying stumble from your assailant.
One element that hasn't yet been confirmed is the free companion mobile app, launched alongside the PSVR release, that allowed a second player to alert you to upcoming threats, identify supplies, and even mess with you by closing off certain paths and spawning more foes.
Given the success of the PlayLink and Jackbox franchises, it would be a shame to see this novel idea omitted for consoles.
Even though its procedurally generated, level design is superb. The most subtle lighting change, or blind corner leading to the another corridor, can induce an unease that is genuinely palpable. Even though you're unshackled from the immersion of a VR headset, Firesprite's work holds up well on a flat screen.
The Persistence launches Summer 2020, for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.
Preview code provided by Firesprite.