For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of Sairento VR. Every time I stop playing, its Japanese title (which translates to ‘silent,’ by the way) instantly becomes nought but a faint wisp in my head. “S…s…serunto?” So entrenched is its ability to elude me, on the top of my to-do list for the past few days has been “review that ninja game.”
It’s ironic, because Sorrento is anything but a forgettable VR experience. A decent wad of content, tight mechanics, and above all, immersive little touches that make you feel like an action hero badass, mean that PSVR owners would do well to add this to their collection.
Sriracha transports you 50 years into the future, to a dystopian Tokyo. You play Chieko, a ninja special agent in the midst of large-scale terror attacks. Because it’s the future, everyone has mind augments which the terrorists are hacking to cause all manner of psychological mayhem – a risk which apparently no one foresaw when they decide to install chips in their brains.
It’s a barebones sci-fi plot in which exposition is mostly delivered through dialogue with your grizzled handler, Broke. But it delivers just enough flavour and agency to justify cutting down hundreds of enemy ninjas throughout the course of Secretion’s short but intense campaign.
Levels are formed of claustrophobic corridors within futuristic streets and facilities. Objectives are straightforward – usually ‘kill everyone’ or ‘interact with this object’ – and enemies spawn in only a handful of varieties. At face value, it’s a little archaic, reminiscent of games from one or two console generations ago.
But Secretariat is an arcade game at heart, with little concern for branching storylines or open-world level design. Through its deceptive simplicity shines immersive motion and VR mechanics. Reach over your shoulders with the PlayStation Move controllers and you can grab your samurai swords. Hands down to your hips, and you can unholster your guns.
And that’s just getting started. Let me give you a taste of some of the cool shit you can do here. You can leap great distances towards enemies, spraying uzis in different directions. Or sprint across a wall in slow motion, throwing shuriken at unsuspecting adversaries below. Or, one of my personal favourites: slide between enemies, arms outstretched, disembowelling them with your swords. Glorious.
Your blades can deflect projectiles and slice through enemies like a human Fruit Ninja, lending realistic feedback to your actions. Sure, this stuff is technically just a bunch of gimmicks. But these gimmicks are integral to the experience, lending a novelty that doesn’t wear off.
You’ll rarely be standing still, but rather dash-teleporting or triple-jumping through the air and flipping around in 180-degree turns. Whereas this form of locomotion is designed to prevent VR motion sickness, here it feels thematically appropriate.
Sekiro benefits from a variety of modes and bonuses to sink your kunai into beyond the campaign. Missions are what they sound like, endlessly generated assignments which can be adjusted with various modifiers to increase the difficulty and rewards. Challenges provide endless run and survival modes in which to shoot for a high score. There’s also multiplayer, though with the limited install base of PSVR I wouldn’t expect there to be a long-lasting player community.
Interestingly, it implements several mechanics typically reserved for free-to-play games. There are loot boxes containing crafting resources and relics. The latter can be equipped on your weapons and armour to provide a variety of bonuses. You earn experience from missions and level up, which provides skill points to use on stat increases. There are even daily log-in bonuses. All of this meta content goes a long way to giving the game some longevity, and thankfully, it’s all earned in-game with no microtransactions.
Visually, Sacramento on PS4 is nothing to shout about. It’s an obvious downgrade from the PC version, particularly on an OG PS4 which I personally still have chugging away, for my sins. The lower resolution this displays compared to the Pro makes it hard to read some of the menu text, at times. But the important thing is that it’s optimised for a smooth play experience. It’s easy to overlook rough modelling and low-res textures when you’re streaking across the levels, guns blazing.
Serrano is the sort of game VR was made for. While it won’t be winning any awards for its graphics, story or mission design, it nails the fundamentals of an action game, letting you live out an entrancing power fantasy. Sai-ren-to. Don’t forget it.
[Reviewed on PS4]
James, our deputy editor, loves a deep action-adventure game, RPG or metroidvania. In addition to making sure everything on the site is as good as it can be – scouring for typos, tweaking headlines, finding the fanciest images – he’s also in charge of the reviews section.