On paper, Sairento shouldn’t work. It simply shouldn’t. In this game you jump around, double jump, fall, slide, wall run, sprint and shoot – all in VR. My previous experience of doing almost all of these in various other PSVR games has often resulted in uncomfortable, disorientating game play that’s enough to force me to quit very quickly. Sairento has absolutely nailed this aspect however by making a few obvious sacrifices elsewhere. Despite the fact that you’re storming through levels like the love child of Neo from the Matrix and the entire cast of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, my stomach was not once even remotely tickled. This is an achievement in and of itself.
In this game, the titular Sairento are a peace keeping force of a futuristic megacity that also has access to an array of deadly weaponry and has been trained in ninja skills. Go figure. In the game’s campaign mode, you play as bad ass heroine Chieko Hatsuri who awakes after being caught in an explosion. It’s not long before she discovers that accompanying the blast is an army of evil cyber ninja’s who’re now roaming all over the city doing evil things. Guided by her sensei Broke, Chieko investigates the origins of these new shady ninja’s and their intentions – but not everything is as it seems.
The plot in Sairento is dialed in and predictable which is more a product of the way that it’s delivered rather than the narrative itself. There’s no cut-scenes as such, with almost all of the plot delivered in conversations between Chieko and Broke. While the voice work in this game is impressive, the audio clips are often player while your in a combat situation which means you can’t really hear it clearly. Even when it’s not, the subtitles presented to you are fixed to your head location which is quite a strain on the eyes when the text stretches quite far to the left and right. The other issue with the plot is that it ends very suddenly. Just when it starts to get good, it comes to a disappointing end.
The thinness of the plot isn’t helped by the repetitiveness of the game’s scenarios. While Sairento attempts to dress each level up as a new type of objective, the core is always the same – walk into a room, kill everything that moves, repeat until you make your way to the exit portal. Occasionally you’ll have to active something by holding out your hand over an icon. The most exciting the game gets is when it adds a time limit to the proceedings, challenging you to first find an icon and then hold your hand on it but even these are separated by fight scenes.
Thankfully, the combat itself makes up for all of these short comings. Before heading out on any mission, you can choose between a vast array of weaponry to use which you can allocate to 4 slots. Much like Blood & Truth, weapons can be allocated to shoulder slots and holsters attached to invisible legs. Reach towards any weapon with either PSMove controllers and tap the X button and the sword or firearm will snap to your hand, ready for use. Some weapons, like the bow and arrow, need both arms to use. Other weapons need to be reloaded which is achieved with a flick of the wrist. There’s a hand full of weapons which don’t need to reload but have a limit for which they can be fired consecutively until they need to cool down and, this being a ninja game, there’s a myriad of close quarters weaponry too like swords and Kusarigama too. Each weapon has their strengths and weaknesses and they each facilitate a different type of play style – like to stay back and fire from range? Go for the pistols, sub machine guns or rifles. Want to get up close and personal? Try a sword, a shotgun, a Wolverine-esque claw or some throwing weapons. Getting to grips with each of the games many weapons – in either missions or the dojo between outings – is one of the most enjoyable aspects of Sairento.
Once you’ve chosen your hardware, it’s off to battle. Using 2 PSMove controllers, you can walk/run with the press of a Move button which moves you in whichever direction you’re looking. Double tap and you break into a comfortable sprint. Turning is as simple as pressing Square or Triangle which rotates you 90 degrees left or right respectively. A press of the other, dominant Move button on the other controller displays an arc in which you can jump, triggering a few seconds of slow-motion too. This jumping is the most comfortable of its type I’ve played on PSVR. Despite being able to triple jump across maps, propelling myself in multiple directions while mid-air, it’s not stomach churning or disorientating. You can also wall run after leaping into the air, displayed as a blue arrow along the wall’s surface, and slide after landing. While the control scheme isn’t initially very intuitive, asking you to get to grips with a lot of button presses via the means of a tutorial which isn’t as in depth or as long as I’d have liked, it doesn’t take long before it all clicks into place and you’ll be pulling off super human feats of acrobatics like you were born to do it.
To achieve the level of VR comfort that Sairento affords the player, it looks as though sacrifices were made to the visuals however. Most of the environments feature lower resolution, unfocused textures when looked at from a distance with details loading in gradual stages as you approach them. This does look a little odd at times, as though there’s pop in occurring but as a sacrifice to make leaping around the game feel so impressive without making you want to grab a bucket, it’s a worthwhile compromise.
That’s because you’ll need to be moving around a lot if you want to succeed in Sairento against the handful of different foes you’ll come up against, especially in any of the difficulty modes above Normal. The ninja’s you face off against aren’t all that varied but they come mixed among another well enough to keep them feeling fresh through the game’s 5 hour campaign length. Outside of the campaign, there’s randomly generated missions for you to take on with a handful of different objectives, which again are all subtle twists on ‘kill everything and don’t die in the process’. There’s also a multiplayer mode but I’ve been able to test this during my review period with the game despite trying to get a game every day since release.
There’s one issue with Sairento that caused me quite a lot of frustration – the reuse of entire environments within the same level. I don’t usually have an issue with the reusing of assets but in this game, the replication and simple rotation of entire rooms has caused me to walk in the wrong direction all too often. One level, The Alleyway I believe it’s called, is a straight shoot from beginning to end with a number of street sections divided by doors. In this level, the first section is simply rotated 180 degrees and attached as the third section. This meant that, after leaping around a level and losing track of which way door represented forward and which back, I’d often end up heading in the wrong direction. Other levels do the same thing, mirroring sections to add length which also creating a level of confusion if you lose your way.
The core game play loop of Sairento is pure unadulterated joy – for a time. The acrobatics and plethora of weaponry on offer, the comically OTT blood spurting from defeated warriors and the slow-mo death from above are initially very entertaining. Eventually though, the repetition starts to take the sheen off the otherwise well implemented mechanics for which the narrative, which telegraphs its own twists early on, fails to alleviate. Sairento is one of the most comfortable PSVR games I’ve played, despite the high flying, high tempo nature of its content which is an incredible achievement and lays the groundwork for a sequel which can take this further. In and of itself though, Sairento needed a little more variety to its action (maybe focusing on first person platforming at times or adding more enemy types) to really send it to the top of its genre.
Sairento VR is available now on PS4 (reviewed on a base PS4 via PSVR) and PC.
Developer: Mixed Realms, Swag Soft
Publisher: Mixed Realms, Perp Games
In order to complete this review, we received a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy please go here.