Have you ever wanted to feel like a badass action-movie hero? Have you ever wanted to run through a room fool of goons – with a shotgun in one hand and a pistol in the other, pumping hot lead into every single one of them without being shot yourself before jumping through a window, shards of shattered glass cascading all around you as your feet find purchase on an improbable foothold?
That’s the sort of action hero stuff you can expect from London Studio’s delightfully thrilling Blood and Truth, a PlayStation VR exclusive that’s as good an excuse to buy a PSVR as I’ve played. If you’ve ever played the London Heist bit of the PSVR’s tech demo collection VR Worlds, then you’ll know what you’re in for. With the release of that short, half-hour experience, many wanted more. Blood and Truth is that; a fully-fleshed out, narrative-driven game.
It’s a narrative that borrows just about every contrivance and cliché as is possible from both the cockney crime capers and modern Mission Impossible, Bond and Borne-esque movies it clearly draws inspiration from. It manages to largely pull it off without being hackneyed because it never takes itself especially seriously. As but one example, there’s a moment where you’re at the DJ booth in a London club – empty save for the gangsters trying to shoot you – with a gun in one hand, while you’re twiddling knobs on the deck with the other. The story hits on the usual beats; familial bonds and relationships, revenge; that sort of malarkey.
In it, you play as Ryan Marks, an elite SAS soldier who’s returned to London after the untimely passing of his father. He’s back on home turf to reunite with his family as they take on the less-than-savoury family business. What should be a bitter-sweet reunion is interrupted when a rival in London’s criminal underworld decides to muscle in and claim the business for himself. Marks becomes embroiled in a factional war in the world of organised crime, that even has CIA involvement. The cinematic story’s largely told as a series of flashbacks, which lets it jump between times and locales without feeling too disjointed.
The story, as important as it is to the package, is still secondary though, because Blood and Truth’s real strengths come in its gameplay and how it feels. It’s a genuine delight to play because there’s tactile feedback to just about everything you do. Best played with a pair of wands to simulate Marks’ hands, squeezing the triggers on the things makes you feel like a weapon, carved by years of military service. It’s positively badass, right down to reloading your guns.
To reload, you grab a cartridge from an ammo pack on your chest, manually thrusting it into the gun, something you must do even when you’re dual wielding. It’s such a simple thing, but it’s flawlessly executed, making you feel like you really know how to handle a gun, even if you’ve never held one before in your life. Aiming is good, and for the most part, I had few problems making sure my bullets hit their intended target. Like some other VR games, you can look down the reflex sights if your gun has them, giving you a projected target, but I found it a bit too floaty to use, making sniper rifles and single-shot rifles a wash. I stuck, instead, to shotguns, assault rifles and SMGs which let me kill by brute force and sustained fire.
Sometimes tracking would be off as well, making me shoot in the general direction of enemies, instead of at them. This happened especially with guns that required you to hold the front of them with one hand. By putting one Move wand in front of the other, as is necessary to operate pump-action shotguns and sniper rifles, the tracking goes haywire.
Movement in the Blood and Truth takes a little getting used to, especially as many games have shifted towards allowing for full control and exploration. Blood and Truth isn’t like that. Instead, it plays a little more like the on-rails light-gun games of yore, only you control when you want to move. It uses a node system, so you just look at where you want to go, and if it’s one of the pre-determined nodes, you can move there at the press of a button, funnelled along towards mission’s end. It’s not straight teleportation, as your character still moves – which could make VR newcomers a little queasy.
That allows you to take multiple paths through levels, which have a bit of variety in them beyond that. Some might see you against a veritable army in a dilapidated, crumbling building, while others will have you shooting at armed bikes, all interspersed with the odd stealth mission. You’re also not just shooting at stuff all the time either, as you also have a toolkit that lets you pick locks, cut electrical wiring and break into access control systems. It’s a curiously performative, surprisingly unrestrictive game.
It’s also the work of a studio that’s obviously comfortable and confident with VR, who knows what works and what doesn’t in a medium that’s not completely opened its wings. It lets you tinker and play around, gesticulating and gesturing (even letting you flip the bird), with the realisation that immersion’s at its best when that sort of irreverence can be embraced. The whole affair’s buoyed by incredible performance capture, great voice acting and facial animation – plus a Grime soundtrack that captures the essence of London’s dirtier underground.
There’s not an awful lot to do once the game’s wrapped up though. When you’re done with the 7 hour long campaign, you can replay missions looking for the hidden stars, collectible statues and vape modes you may have missed, trying to better your scores. There are also timed runs and challenges, with the vague promise of more “coming soon.”
Last Updated: May 28, 2019