When you buy a PS VR system it comes with a disc containing several demos. They’re good fun and certainly not a bad way to experience VR for the first time. But one of them caught everyone’s eye. It was titled London Heist and included fun stealth, tense shoot-outs and even a car chase where you could lean out the window while firing pistols. Now, developers London Studios have taken the ideas behind their demo and turned it into a fully-fleshed game called Blood & Truth. It might just be one of the best PS VR games yet.
You’ll be inhabiting the body of Ryan Marks, a soldier who returns home for his father’s funeral. Ryan’s family aren’t exactly law-abiding citizens, though, and the family business quickly gets seized by a rival who takes advantage of the situation. From there it’s up to Ryan, his siblings Tony and Michelle, and his mother to fight back.
What impressed me the most about Blood & Truth was the incredibly high quality of acting. There isn’t a single character who isn’t superbly voiced. It helps to immerse you into the world, to fool you into thinking of these virtual people as real. Small details help with the illusion, too, like how eyes will follow your movements.
Indeed, the immersion factor is strong in Blood & Truth. It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry that I’m such a colossal jerk in VR. All the hard work of London Studios is for nought because I’m busy gently caressing a character’s cheek, making rude gestures, attempting to slap people and otherwise making a complete mockery of everything. But that’s the brilliance of VR; you can take things seriously and act out the scenes, or you can completely ruin the tone by getting uncomfortably close to a character’s face. There were genuinely times when I noticed myself glancing at character’s to gauge their reaction to something that was said just like I would in real life.
The quite impressive graphics are yet another way that Blood & Truth fools you into thinking you’re really there. While it’s a little strange that the shadow you cast consists entirely of two hands, everything else looks superb. Character models are nicely detailed and environments have a lot going on in them. Sure, by the standards of regular triple-A titles there’s nothing truly impressive in Blood & Truth, but compared to other PS VR games this is some damn final production values.
Across the slightly short five or six hours it takes to get through the campaign a surprisingly fun story is told. Things are kept simple with characters having straightforward personalities. The whole thing plays out like a love letter to Cockney gangster movies It’s the kind of story where Ryan’s mum tells them not to swear, then swears herself. It’s like being inside a Guy Ritchie movie. Except Robert Downey Jr. isn’t running around as Sherlock Holmes, mores the pity.
At first, I was disappointed by the lack of true free movement in Blood & Truth. Instead, the developers at London Studios decided to have players move from pre-determined point to pre-determined point. On reflection, I think this was probably the best choice. The lack of analogue sticks on the Move Controllers makes moving in other games awkward. By having you move from point-to-point you can focus purely on nailing impressive head shots.
I should point out that the game can be played with a regular Dualshock Controller but…why? Blood & Truth is clearly built around using two Move remotes. A regular controller does the job, sure, but it just isn’t the same.
London Studios have done a good job of sprinkling the game with fun set-piece moments that make terrific use of VR. My favourite was a shoot-out in a night-club where you get to stand behind a DJ desk and play around with everything. You can reach out and scratch the record, let off blasts of confetti and more. It’s ludicrously good fun to be DJ-ing with one hand and firing off a spray of bullets with the other.
There’s even a nice section involving a modern-art gallery. Here you get to play with some great stuff, including lights that react to your movement. I wound up playing around in the gallery like a freaking child.
But what about the real gameplay? Well, given the crime theme it’s hardly surprisingly that shooting a lot of people is going to be your main vocation. You can have one side-arm holstered on each hip, plus two larger weapons strapped to your back, all of which are easy to grab and fire with. Weapon variety isn’t massive but each one feels great to play around with, from the boom of a shotgun to the joy of spraying a hail of bullets with an SMG. I personally loved using a revolver in each hand, and making copious use of the dedicated gun-spinning button. The tracking works brilliantly and so you should never feel like the game caused you to miss, rather you missed because you suck. There’s even a way to enter slow-mo so that you can line up the perfect shot.
To reload you just grab a clip from your chest and slam it home. The game helps you out a lot, to the point where you just have to have the clip close to the gun for it to work. I would have liked to have more control when reloading like in Gun Club, but my guess is that London Studios thought that would slow the action down too much. Nothing spoils the illusion of being a highly trained soldier faster than fumbling with a magazine while the bad guys watch on.
There were two times when tracking became an issue. The first was when using two-handed weapons. Since the PS VR tracks the motion controllers using light it doesn’t like it when one controller is held in front of the other. By raising the PS VR camera up to around six or seven feet you can mitigate this. Even then, though, aiming two-handed weapons was tricky.
The second time tracking proved awkward was when throwing grenades. Throwing things in VR continues to be something developers struggle with, especially on PS VR. I think I only managed to blow up a few people with grenades, while the rest were left unscathed to watch in amusement as my grenade flew out a window, bounced off a wall or just sort of limply dropped at my feet. However, I’m willing to forgive this because you can bring grenades up to your mouth and pull the pin out with your teeth.
There’s even the option to go stealthy at times. By fitting a silencer you can take down enemies quietly and big chunks of the game can be tackled this way. Pulling off a stealthy headshot is immensely satisfying in a way that non-VR games just can’t match. I just wish there was the ability to go for some close-up knife kills or something, though maybe the developers thought that would be too gruesome.
Firefights are absolutely terrific. While the PS VR doesn’t offer the biggest play space there’s still enough room to duck, dodge and hide behind cover. Combined with the movement system there’s plenty of opportunities to feel like John Wick on a rampage in Blood & Truth. In fact, the game has a couple of chase sequences that let you feel like a total badass, reacting in a split-second to enemies charging round corners or bursting through doors. The A.I. are on the stupid side, but it feels more like a deliberate choice to fit in with the tone of the game. They’ll perform silly rolls so that you can blast them before they ever have a chance to do anything.
The only part of fights I did like is when the game crouches you behind something automatically. It seems these sections are designed with the player being seated in mind, but if you’re already standing then there’s no way to pop up and unleash hell. Instead, you have to awkwardly blind-fire which hardly makes you feel like a kick-ass soldier.
Outside of shooting Blood & Truth does mix things up. Climbing is a good example, and once again everything feels superb for the most part. Clambering up scaffolding and occasionally shooting an enemy that comes wandering into view makes for a nice change of pace.
Blood & Truth also has a fascination with lock picking. Lots of locked doors stand between you and your ultimate goal, and so to get through them out comes the trusty lock picks. All you need to do is twist one Move controller, then perform a sharp downward movement with the other Move controller when you find the right spot.
There are also little puzzles where you need to cut wires, unscrew covers, maybe chuck in a new fuse and flick a switch. These sections are fun, but I wish hey were harder. Each one is overly simple. It would have been great to have to actually work out how to disable an alarm or else risk all Hell breaking loose.
But after completing the campaign what else is there to do? Well, not much, truth be told. You can replay levels using different weapons, play around in the gun range or activate a score-attack mode. It’s a slim selection, and combined with the short campaign it might be enough to put some people off, which would be a real shame. The good news is that according to London Studios there will be free content updates, including stuff like leaderboards.
It’s a remarkably polished experience, too. I never encountered a single bug or glitch during the 15-20 hours I spent with Blood & Truth.
While I don’t believe Blood & Truth is the big killer game that will make everyone want to jump into PS VR it’s still one of the best experiences available on the system. The gunplay is simply fantastic, there are some great uses of VR and it’s all wrapped up in an enjoyable story. It’s some of the best fun I’ve had in VR outside of those games that let you have naughty times with…I’ll just shut up now.
4 out of 5