The Persistence Enhanced offers a decent upgrade to the unique sci-fi horror roguelike FPS, but certain aspects of its design are fading. Also: no VR.
The Persistence went multi-platform last year, adapting its VR delights to flat-screen play, and this new upgraded version bumps things up a bit further in the visuals department. As a unique roguelike FPS, The Persistence Enhanced still wears its boldest inspirations on its sleeve and blends a numbers of clever ideas into a satisfying experience, yet one where certain gameplay systems shine brighter than others. For those delving into the ever-shifting bowels of its titular spaceship for the first time, this is arguably the best-looking way to play it, even while vestigial remnants of its VR origins persist.
Security officer Zimri Elder is already dead, along with the majority of The Persistence’s crew, thanks to anomalous damage due to the ship’s proximity to a black hole – it’s certainly got a touch of Event Horizon, but is more science-grounded overall. Either way, this has caused the cloning machine to go haywire and replicate all manner of mutated crew members to fill its claustrophobic hallways, even constantly rearranging the very rooms of the ship itself, enabling the procedural level design. Players take on the role of a repeatedly cloned Zimri, guided by a departed coworker repurposed as an AI, and they embark on sojourns through darkened decks to obtain resources and bring certain ship functions back online.
It takes a few solid runs to figure out what The Persistence expects from the player. There’s a reliable roguelike grind, of course, and the gameplay is very considerate in doling out nominal upgrades as salves for even the worst runs. Fabricator chips and stem cells feed shop purchases and permanent upgrades, respectively, and each deck generously doles these out to dutiful scroungers. After only a couple of hours, different clone bodies can be unlocked to give Zimri various buffs, and preferred weapons can be activated and leveled-up with Erebus tokens, a rarer currency. The multi-use stem cell harvester functions as a quest item, melee weapon, and stealth insta-kill tool, and a temporary activated shield can parry and block, a satisfying technique to slowly master over the course of the game’s eight or so hours to credits, with bonus challenges and arcade modes to extend that runtime.
Of course, the original Persistence is now three years old, and while its recent update opened it up to more platforms, The Persistence Enhanced is primarily a paintjob at the end of the day. Its boasts of ray-tracing and updated particle effects sound great on paper, but it’s hard to describe it as meeting other modern games on equal footing. Any graphical improvements are honestly offset by considerable grit and enemy models, holding back its grasping for next-gen distinction. It also maintains the simple layouts from its PlayStation VR life, only much shinier, though it’s worth mentioning that it has completely eradicated any loading times, which feels great in a roguelike. Melee remains stumbly and clunky and the overall action may look like Dishonored in screenshots but is much clumsier in practice.
The game also leverages the DualSense controller’s more refined rumbling capacity with all its activities, though this trumpeted aspect is hardly noticeable during intense sessions. A move-to-aim function fares decently, but neither quality feels like they’re making the best case for the PS5’s controller tech. With a good set of headphones, audio still steals the show in The Persistence Enhanced, even more than the updated graphics; a suite of terrifying spaceship groans, hissing steam pipes, electrified exposed cable sizzles, and the non-stop horror mutterings of the mutated crew.
The quickest reference point sure to enter the conversation is the PS5-exclusive Returnal, yet The Persistence Enhanced can somewhat stand on its own two feet with its curious blend of survival horror and narrative-heavy roguelike. The combat is still a bit clunky, the grind is still a bit too much, and certain encounters are still downright unfair. Most distressingly, PS5 players do not even get the option to incorporate any VR functionality whatsoever, but the game’s newest life does seem to be squarely planted in flat-screen territory, so it’s hardly surprising. Previous owners of the last release receive The Persistence Enhanced as a free upgrade but, for anyone who hasn’t tried it until now, this is arguably the finest way to experience it without a headset.
The Persistence Enhanced releases on June 11 for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X. A digital PlayStation 5 code was provided to Screen Rant for the purpose of this review.
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