The Matrix Redeemed

HIGH Chaining wallruns to kill a room full of gunmen in super slo-mo.

LOW The game crashes all the time.

WTF Headshots keep the head in place while the bodies go flying.

Sairento VR wears its influences on its sleeve proudly — it’s a Ghost in the Shell-style Asian cyberpunk future full of robot ninjas and dangerous conspiracies experienced via wallrunning and time dilation. It’s all about the experience of free-flowing movement in VR, letting players slice their way through enemies while deflecting bullets or leaping through the air while raining lead on them without ever leaving the comfort of their chair.

It works better than I could have ever imagined.

Sairento casts the player as a cyborg ninja who’s called into action when a series of terrorist attacks strike Japan. They’ll have to slide through clouds of bullets and sail over deadly blades while blasting foes to pieces, and it’s startling how effortless Sairento‘s movement system is. The idea that a VR game would be the one to nail sci-fi parkour seems absurd, but the proof is undeniable.

Players use the right move controller to aim their leaps, and create conditions based on the angle and destination they choose. Point at wall and the player leaps up to it, prepping a triangle jump. Point at that same wall from a sharp angle, and suddenly they’ll be wallrunning. Aim at a low angle and be instantly transmitted a few meters to one side. Arc it up slightly and just enough momentum will be gained to transfer into a slide.

Time dilation is the secret ingredient that makes all of this work — holding down the ‘leap’ button sends the player into slo-mo, giving them a moment to plan their moves as incoming bullets slow to a crawl. Slo-mo isn’t just for planning, though. It can be triggered at any moment with the push of a button, draining a chunk of ‘Chakra Energy’ which fuels the player’s powers. Whether they’re flying through the air or sliding across the floor, the option to slow things to a crawl ensures that slices are perfectly angled and shots are perfectly aimed.

Sairento‘s ten-level story mode is solid enough, but it’s basically an extended tutorial. It also wraps up just as the villain’s plot is being revealed, suggesting a sequel that will open things up. It’s not disappointing, though, since the hour and a half I spent with the story taught me everything I needed to know about combat and navigation. By the end of it, I was fully prepped for Sairento‘s true showpiece — an endlessly replayable set of randomly-generated missions where players can farm loot and unlock the skills to perfectly customize their character’s playstyle.

Sairento offers a glut of weapons to play with. Bows, swords, throwing weapons, rifles, shotguns, pistols, and each one has its own skill tree and equippable relics that completely transform how they’re used. While a sword might start out as a way to gut foes that get too close, players can able to transform it into a lightsaber that bounces bullets and knives back at attackers. I’d prefer it if Sairento let players choose their own weapon upgrade path instead of relying on random loot, but the loot is so plentiful that I can only be mildly annoyed.

Perhaps Sairento‘s most elegant accomplishment is how it handles co-op, since time dilation is tricky to pull off with multiple players. Being subject to a teammate’s slow-mo can be incredibly jarring, so many titles elect to omit those mechanics altogether when going from SP to MP.

Sairento‘s solution is beautiful in its simplicity — each player has their own time dilation field. Instead of halting the entire level, they simply slow everything to a crawl within a sphere that projects out from them in all directions. Any enemies trapped within it are locked in place, and any bullets fired at the field come to an abrupt halt. Meanwhile, the other player is free to flit about the level while dueling their own foes. It works so well that I can’t believe no one’s come up with it before.

Sairento does have two drawbacks, though. The first is that it’s incredibly hard on people with motion sickness.

This is a game about darting through levels in first-person, and playing it effectively will require constant manipulation of time and field of vision. The potential for disorientation is incredibly high.

The second issue is that Sairento is (at the time of writing) very unstable, and there’s a chance that it will crash any time a new level is loaded — I’ve personally seen more than a dozen crashes. Amazingly, this isn’t much of an inconvenience since it autosaves at the end of missions. So, even if it crashes when the player reloads, they’ll find themselves right back at the results screen of the mission they’d just finished. The only real issue is the Gauntlet challenge mode which sends the player endlessly through the various levels, one after another. If there’s a crash there, all progress will be lost, and that can mean a huge amount of experience points and loot lost, too. It’s not a deal-breaker, but I hope the developers get a handle on it sooner rather than later.

Endlessly replayable with great multiplayer, fantastic combat, and a movement system that should be the envy and inspiration of every developer, Sairento is an absolute must-play for anyone who can handle the action. Hopefully the developers are already at work on the promised sequel, because the only thing Sairento left me wanting is more.

Sairento VR was released in North American retail stores with a physical version for PlayStation VR on Aug. 13, 2019. Two PlayStation Move Motion Controllers are required. The PlayStation VR version is fully compatible with the foot motion controller “3dRudder”. The game is also available digitally on the PlayStation Store, and both digitally and physically in Europe.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Mixed Realms. It is currently available on PSVR and PCVR. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 15 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 2 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, and Strong Language. Keep the kids far from this one. Beyond the horrific decapitations and blood spurts that happen constantly, there’s lots of swearing and a bunch of scantily-clad women on billboards that the ESRB didn’t even notice!

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played a few missions without sound and had real problems. There are lots of enemies with ranged weapons, and if the player can’t hear them firing and immediately dodge, they’ll be at a huge disadvantage. On the lowest difficulty level damage can be soaked up and the player will have time to figure out where the attack is coming from and respond appropriately. On higher difficulties, the game may be unplayable. All dialogue is subtitled. The subtitles are not resizeable.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. The game is played with two Move controllers. Both are used to pick up and wield weapons, with the face buttons handling movement. One controllers handles leaping, turning, and slow-motion, with the other dealing with walking and quick reversals.

Daniel Weissenberger
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