Even since virtual reality started its modern day resurgence, we’ve been dreaming of a VR experience like those portrayed in the movies. The Matrix, Ready Player One, Spy Kids 3…okay, maybe not that last one, but we’ve been dreaming of those VR experiences that are so good, you can’t tell the difference between the real and the virtual. Unfortunately, while current VR tech is incredibly immersive, it’s a long way off from those experiences portrayed on the silver screen (at least without spending a fortune on a VR treadmill, cutting edge haptic equipment and a whole host of peripherals to go with them). It has been up to the video game designers to overcome the relative limitations of accessible VR hardware and no game, in my opinion, has portrayed such an understanding of how to overcome these hurdles, and even use them to their advantage, than Blood & Truth. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a tour de force in VR games design and an essential purchase for anyone with a PSVR headset. Allow me to explain why.
In Blood & Truth, you play the disembodied Jazz Bands* and voice of the main character Ryan Marks, a highly trained soldier and Currant Bun** of a mob boss. Much like London Studio’s The London Heist, you control the hands of your character via PSMove controllers or with the Dualshock 4 (although this is a far less immersive option – if you’re going to play this, get the PSMove’s out) to do all manner of things like pick locks, climb ladders and scaffolding, pull yourself through vents, open draws and, of course, wield an array of firearms. Unlike The London Heist however, you’re not static here. As you look around, white arrows appear which you can move too with a press of the Move button on the controllers. You can also strafe left and right using the X and Circle buttons between cover when available. The game is played as if you’re part of an invisible wall that proceeds through the level as you do. This means all the action is happening in front of you rather than requiring you to spin around (something which often causes the PSMove controllers to lose tracking in other games that have tried it) and look backwards.
When Ryan has to return from active duty to London due to a family tragedy, he gets embroiled in a hostile takeover by another Lemon and Lime*** family. The Marks family, Ryan’s brother, sister and mother, decide to fight back. While the first half of the game is played out through flashbacks, Ryan describing recent events to a mysterious CIA agent, the game eventually catches up to itself for an ever more explosive and impressive series of set pieces. For the most part, Blood & Truth has you proceeding through various environments (a casino, a dilapidated tower of flats, an aircraft hangar, a high end apartment building and loads more) taking on thugs and soldiers. As you move forward, enemies will spawn, preventing you from proceeding until they’ve all been put down. There’s an adequate array of foes to take on in Blood & Truth’s 5 hour length, from well armoured heavies to laser sighted ranged foes but the game mixes up what you’ll face at each juncture so that it doesn’t become too repetitive. You can also avoid some fire fights by going in stealthily – before a mission, you get to customise the weapons you’re taking in, including adding a silencer. Take out guards or soldiers quietly without them getting alerted and it’ll often mean that fewer grunts will show up to take you on.
Everything in Blood & Truth is designed to make you feel like an action hero without having to put in too much effort. At any one time, you can carry up to 4 weapons, 2 in holsters that hover where Ryan’s legs would be and 2 stored on your shoulders. Put your hands close to one of your weapons and the PSMove contollers give a little vibration to indicate you can grab them without looking. Dual wielding pistols until their clips are empty then sliding them into the holster’s before grabbing a pair of machine guns from your shoulders to go full Akimbo down a corridor is so easy to do in this game that it’s simply exhilarating. Grenades, something you can’t carry with you but can be found lying around most of the levels, can be thrown singlehandedly or cooked by pulling the pin with the other hand to reduce the time between launching it and the kaboom. By pressing the 2 Move buttons on the PSMove controllers, you can trigger a slow motion sequence too – while in this mode, targets appear on harder to kill foes, much like in Time Crisis, indicating weak points. Pop a bullet in all 3 of the weak points and the enemy will go down. Something as simple as reloading is designed to make you feel like John Wick. Ammo, stored in a belt that floates on your chest, can be grabbed and slid into a weapon even when both hands have a gun in them. When you get really co-ordinated, you can throw the ammo in the air and have it slide into your pistols. Even the relatively mundane aspects of the game, like picking locks or manipulating circuitry to open doors, is recreated in an action movie fashion.
Blood & Truth isn’t just action though. Between gun toting, your treated to a few narrative based sequences that are well written and tightly executed, never outstaying their welcome. In one diversion from the shooty-shooty-bang-bang, Ryan and his brother break into an art gallery owned by their rival and decide to break stuff. While this section is deeply cathartic in relation to the plot, it’s also a master class in VR games design, leveraging elements from art house VR projects right through to the scariest horror titles to make you feel a lot of things in a very short space of time.
It’s the little touches that really make Blood & Truth such a compelling game though. The way characters maintain eye contact when speaking to you, something some VR games get very wrong. The little paper basketball hoops that play a ditty if you throw a crumpled up ball through them. The way you can chomp through a biscuit you find on a desk by picking it up and putting it where you imagine your virtual mouth is. The collectables, found in hiding places or draws in a number of levels, giving a nod to London Studios VR Worlds or to the vaping craze that has taken over the UK are just lovely little touches. Blood & Truth is filled with those moments of surprise when you attempt to do something and the game allows you to do it, as if designed around the desires of the player and what they want to do in this lead soaked VR playground.
When Blood & Truth goes big though, it goes really big. Imagine everything in The London Heist dialled up to 11, add a parachute, sprinkle on a grenade launcher or 3, add a few more explosions and your imagination will still fall short of how engrossing and frankly breath-taking some moments in this game are. I won’t spoil them here because they’re best experienced without any prior knowledge, but you’ll know those moments I’m referring too when you reach them. I lost count of the number of times I said “Woah” out loud while playing Blood & Truth but I’m sure I did Keanu Reeves very proud.
A hand full of bugs are the only things that sully an otherwise exemplary game. At one point, when riding in the back of a van, the Slice Pan**** started to twitch and shake rapidly which was quite disorientating. It had obviously got snagged on some scenery or something similar but as soon as I stepped out of the van, the shaking stopped. In another moment, my view point got locked facing towards the right, rather than forward. After making it to a lift and pressing the button to call it however, the viewpoint snapped back to forwards again. Neither of these bugs are game breaking but need mentioning nonetheless.
While we wait for the next generation of VR hardware to make our Spy Kids 3 dreams come true, Blood & Truth is a game that is leading the charge in smart, player centric, accessible and enjoyable VR games design. From the comfort of my couch, I’ve been made to feel like a highly skilled soldier for 5 whole hours (and more, thanks to the time trials now available), pulling off impossible feats while requiring just the right amount of effort to keep me immersed without making me feel like a passenger. An enjoyable narrative, the opening chapter to what I hope is a long running series from Sony’s London Studio, is brought to life in an incredible VR world by a pitch perfect performance from a talented cast. If you’ve lucky enough to own a PlayStation VR, Blood & Truth is a Lemon Squeezy***** recommendation. If you don’t own the VR headset just yet, this game should be the final straw in your decision to buy one.
Did I mention you can catch grenades and throw them back? So cool.
(I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist putting in some Cockney rhyming slang)
Blood & Truth is available now for PS4 (reviewed on a base PS4 with a PSVR headset)
Developer: SIE London Studio
In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy please go here.
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