The Persistence Enhanced (Xbox Series S) Review

Is a fresh lick of paint enough to lure new players or seasoned veterans back to the blood-soaked corridors of The Persistence?

The Persistence Enhanced – developed and published by Firesprite – is, unsurprisingly, a visually enhanced version of their 2018 PSVR release. It subsequently got a non-VR PS4 and PC release and has now arrived on PS5 and the Xbox Series consoles.

It is a first-person, horror/sci-fi roguelike that has you pushing further and further into the labyrinthine corridors of the titular ship. The premise is simple if a little cliched: a science vessel conducting dubious human-cloning experiments encounters an anomaly near a black hole; cloning vats start churning out deranged mutants that kill of most of the crew; a solitary survivor restores the brain scan of a security officer to her cloned body and tasks her with restoring ship functions.

Dubious research vessels and black hole anomalies – what could go wrong?

Overused story beats aside, it is the perfect setup for a game structured around repeated runs through different parts of the ship. There are four major decks and a finale, with one primary objective and a few secondary tasks you can complete for bonus resources or character buffs. You start in the restoration bay and are initially able to teleport to the research deck to begin your adventure. Should you fall – to either hard-hitting enemies or environmental hazards – your brain backup is placed in another clone body.

After a somewhat slow start – which might convince you this is another stealth-focused, defenceless horror game – things pick up when you discover The Persistence has a forgiving death mechanic, plenty of resources to find on each run, an extensive arsenal of weapons (and other offensive tools), and a character upgrade system. As a result, you will find you get powerful much quicker than most games in the genre. Stealth becomes a strategic option, but it is only truly mandatory in your opening hour.

In addition to boosting character attributes, crafting gear, and unlocking new weapons, fallen crew members can be harvested for their DNA to provide a new clone body with unique perks.

For reasons barely explained, the ship shifts layouts between runs. It keeps things fresh (for a while at any rate) though you can find map terminals that direct you towards primary and secondary objectives. The basic gameplay loop involves pushing towards an objective, avoiding or killing deranged clones, and hoovering all the resources you can (stem cells for character upgrades, tokens for armoury upgrades, and fabrication kits for purchasing unlocked items at vendor terminals).

Should you die, your current arsenal of guns, grenades, and tools is forfeit, but you keep all your unlocked upgrades, collected resources, and even mission progress. As each deck is of a manageable size and, once completed, the teleport to the next deck is moved close to the starting point, The Persistence ditches most of the grind required in other roguelikes. It encourages you to re-explore decks for secondary objectives and collectables, resource caches, and – if the RNG gods favour you – a deck module that might allow you to teleport straight to one of the four decks.

I’m certain the game never explicitly tells you there is a map as it’s essential for navigating to primary objectives and hunting secondary collectables.

Moving around, aiming and shooting, switching between gear – it all feels natural. You always start with the “harvester”, able to instantly kill unaware or stunned enemies and harvest their stem cells. You can also use it on the corpses of unique crew members to clone their bodies and utilise unique passive abilities. Other offensive options include conventional firearms, grenades, injectable buffs and power-ups, and a variety of novel tools. Slowing time and running around lining up headshots is always amusing, but so is the “chainsaw teleport”, that displaces you into an enemy and gibs them.

Of course, The Persistence started life as a VR game, and this legacy means some weird holdovers in its “Enhanced”, gamepad-controlled form. There is a short-range teleport ability that would have been an essential option for playing in VR but feels both unnecessary and underutilised when using a gamepad, especially given the simple room layouts. There are also lots of interactive objects – think containers, pick-ups, control panels, and jammed doors – that now require you simply aim the cursor at them for a second, instead of using more immersive gesture controls.

You could sneak past bloodhounds, weepers, and berserkers… or you could pop a time-slowing capsule and bludgeon them to death with an electrified baton before they realise what’s happening. The Persistence Enhanced caters to multiple playstyles.

None of these quirks are game-breaking but they are a constant reminder of limitations inherited from the original VR game. This applies to the visuals as well, which rely on repeating rooms/textures given the randomised runs and the fact they needed to run at high framerates on (relatively) weak hardware. As such, the enhanced visuals and smoother performance are a plus, but the game still suffers from the limited visual variety and ugly character models (not in the conventional “horrific” sense). Xbox Series S|X and PlayStation 5 owners get a dynamic 4k/60 mode, while Series X and PS5 also get a dynamic 4k/30 ray-traced mode. All consoles benefit from much quicker load times, improved lighting, and improved particle effects.

On the audio front, the voice acting has its moments – specifically during semi-random dialogue sequences when you enter medical rooms mid-run – but often feels forced during the opening and closing sequences. Music is used sparsely, but ambient sounds and solid spatial audio do a great job of keeping you on edge. The game has several cheap audio-visual scares – think slamming doors, sparking terminals, and bursting steam pipes – but the repetitive nature of the roguelike structure ensures these lose their impact swiftly.

With so many shiny surfaces and pools of blood, the game is a perfect fit for ray-traced lighting and reflections.

Overall, The Persistence Enhanced remains an enjoyable, brisk, and rewarding roguelike that constantly gives you the sense of progression and ensures you’re equipped to push further with each run. The premise and plot are cliched, and there is residual VR baggage that doesn’t gel with the gamepad controls but creeping through the station stealthily or dispatching enemies aggressively, still feels satisfying. The visual polish and improved performance are appreciated, making The Persistence Enhanced the best choice for new players, but there are no gameplay additions or tweaks for returning players.

A review code for The Persistence Enhanced was provided to Gameblur by the publisher

The Persistence Enhanced (Xbox Series S) Review

The Persistence Enhanced (Xbox Series S) Review
7 10 0 1
The Persistence Enhanced – despite still carrying some obvious VR baggage when played with a gamepad – remains a brisk, rewarding, and moreish roguelike experience. The visual polish is a welcome addition and gives new players the best experience. However, there have been no gameplay additions or tweaks, so returning players might be underwhelmed.
The Persistence Enhanced – despite still carrying some obvious VR baggage when played with a gamepad – remains a brisk, rewarding, and moreish roguelike experience. The visual polish is a welcome addition and gives new players the best experience. However, there have been no gameplay additions or tweaks, so returning players might be underwhelmed.
Total Score
  • Story
    6/10 Normal
    There's plenty of it compared to many games in this genre, but the premise and story beats feel cliched.
  • Gameplay
    8/10 Very Good
    The combat and upgrade systems are engaging, death is forgiving, and you're constantly rewarded with a sense of progression.
  • Visuals
    7/10 Good
    The improvements, especially the ray-traced lighting and reflections, go a long way towards embellishing a game with VR roots.
  • Audio
    7/10 Good
    The voice acting is inconsistent and music sparse, but the ambient audio and distant sound of your crazed foes adds to the tension.

The Good

  • Engaging, forgiving, and rewarding roguelike loop
  • Tons of player, gear, and weapon upgrades
  • The ability to play stealthily, aggressively, or a mix of both
  • Visual enhancements and swift loading times are a plus for new players

The Bad

  • No gameplay addition or tweaks for returning players
  • Numerous control and level design quirks remind you this is a VR game port
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