I loved The London Heist, it was the standout part of PlayStation’s VR Worlds and I spent hours enjoying the Guy Ritchie inspired gangster caper. It’s only problem was that it was so short. This must have been on Sony and London Studio’s mind over the last couple of years because they’ve developed a spiritual sequel to it in Blood & Truth. Exclusive to PSVR, it’s possibly the most high profile VR release of the last couple of years and promises to put the player in the shoes of an action hero… but we’ve heard that before. What this needs to actually deliver is a lengthy experience that leaves us feeling satisfied and with a renewed faith in the ability of virtual reality to deliver quality titles, and fortunately it does just that.
Ryan Marks is a soldier, and a good one. You find this out in short order because he’s on a one man rescue mission out in the Middle East that serves as a training level. This is his life and one that he’s clearly happy with, until his Dad dies and he needs to return to London for the funeral. Of course, the family business is vulnerable with the head gone and it’s only a matter of hours between the Marks’ family leaving the funeral and the local gangster dropping by for a hostile takeover. Here starts a tale of vengeance that sees you heading across the UK’s capital city searching for the man that’s brought chaos down on himself and his organisation. It’s a reasonably familiar tale that’s been trod ad infinitum in movies and in other games, but the distinct selling point here is that you are at the centre of the action in a way that’s not been done before.
Blood & Truth’s hook is that it makes you feel like a bad ass taking on the world. A huge variety of weaponry and some decent set pieces are thrown at you throughout the roughly 5 hour campaign, and aside from getting across a decent story with some solid acting, it manages a number of thrills along the way too. Leaping from cranes in the heart of the city? Check. Double gunning machine pistols in a hotel lobby? Check. Diving out of exploding buildings? Check. There are loads of points where you spot an action movie trope, though usually only when it’s actually happening to you. Being at the centre of the maelstrom generates an adrenaline rush that’s hard to match, and when things start to ramp up there’s a sense of urgency layered on. Fortunately the mechanics of the game are designed to be as immersive as possible and still keep that sense of awesome in play… I mean, where else can you throw clips in the air to reload?
Whilst it’s possible to play Blood & Truth with a DualShock 4, it’s better if you use the Move wands and have the independent control for each hand. This is an interactive adventure and the tangibility of touching, grabbing and holding comes across much more naturally when your hands aren’t bound to a controller, though that method is surprisingly more accurate for shooting, even if it does feel wrong. Interaction comes not only from having a weapon in each hand and firing at anything that moves, but also from a fair amount of playing in the environment. Marks’ adventure requires his skills learnt in the army that include lock picking, electrical engineering and being able to traverse assault courses, and each is performed by mapping the movements to each hand and physically performing them. This means grabbing ledges, pulling yourself through vents and sliding down ropes. There’s a fair amount of focus on shooting, yet it’ll surprise many on the puzzle and interactive elements that you need to get involved with.
What comes across best in VR is the ability to just dick around with everything that you can find, and London Studio have delivered here on numerous levels – both in the “cutscenes” and in the actual gameplay. Whether it’s grabbing files and pictures to take a closer gander at, spinning a pistol around your finger, or giving the AI characters a thumbs up just as you shoot them, there’s an awful lot to discover. Collectables form a key component for earning stars that will enable modifications to the guns, and these range from picking up unique items to taking down static targets. The interactivity goes beyond the simple handling too with audio integration. Pick up a cigar or vape device, put it to your lips and make inhaling sounds and it’ll light up; then blow out and you’ll see a stream of smoke appear synced to the noise. It’s not great for discouraging smoking, but it really is next level immersion.
The whole of Blood & Truth is presented brilliantly with just the right blend of cinematic framing and action, it’s possibly the best looking PSVR game out there right now. There are a few familiar faces with Colin Salmon probably being the most recognisable (and he’s tall… unless our hero is simply Tom Cruise height), and the performances are suitably menacing from the bad guys – when they get right up in your face it can be a bit unnerving. The pacing isn’t bad, though there are a lot of lengthier exposition sections early on, but when it kicks into high gear from the midway point it rarely lets up, and the soundtrack shifts gears with it as well. From a comfort standpoint, even though the locomotion is smooth there’s little in the way of motion sickness, and there are options to help for those susceptible. Sitting or standing works equally well and tracking on the controllers is spot on for the most part, even when things get serious and you’re reloading with guns in each hand.
What doesn’t work that great are the two handed weapons. Without anything tangible to link the Move’s together the tracking drifts a bit and it’s hard to aim with a rifle, and it’s deadly with a pump action shotgun when you’re under fire and can’t chamber the next round. It’s a real shame because it means you tend to steer clear of the more powerful options and stick with what’s reliable. Those using the DualShock’s won’t see this problem. It’s a bit buggy with the rest mode, tending to load into a level and glitch in some way that prevents progress. A quick reload fixes it, but I’d have expected it to be more stable. There’s also the low level of additional content on hand at launch. The campaign is replayable to go back and find more items and earn more stars for customising weapons, but outside that there’s only 5 time attack modes that are short shooting ranges. There’s free content coming like more time attacks and a new game +, but you can’t help but feel they should have been in at launch.
Bits missing from Blood & Truth or not, this is so far the best and most engaging VR title I’ve played. It’s got all the elements that work together to bring a blockbuster film into your living room and it oozes character. One moment summed up the game and how it made me feel – a shoot out in a nightclub where you start in the DJ booth with a working set of decks and a mixer. The immediate thought wasn’t what was needed to survive, it was ensure I was cutting back and forth between the records for each kill. It’s a sandbox shooter as much as it is anything else, even when it’s funnelling you along, and it’ll quickly become the game that showcases what the PSVR can do. Brush up on your rhyming slang and get ready for a tour of London that’s far more interesting than riding on an open top bus.
Blood & Truth is out now exclusively on PSVR for around £30 depending on the retailer.