PSVR has had some astounding titles to its name in recent memory. What was at first just a fancy device with a lot of cute tech demos has evolved into something more worthy of respect. Its games pave the way for VR innovation and while the progress has been gradual, it has been very successful. Another success story they can add is Blood & Truth, an action extravaganza that tilts the entire concept of a shooter on its head with its mechanics and really shows us what the PSVR is capable of and I’d even dare say a glimpse into the future of gaming.
The game draws a lot of inspiration from London-based heist and action movies. The perfect comparison is with the movie Snatch. Loud British men with deep gravelly voices calling you a wanker, sharp cockney jabs and disses, a dash of dry British humour and an excessive amount of shooting and rampant murder. A grand old time, in other words. But instead of looking at the action through the screen, you’re the action.
The story follows Ryan Marks, whose shoes you are literally in this time around, who is ex-special forces and a member of the Marks family who has ties to the London underground. Along the way, we meet the various interesting members of the Marks family, the previously mentioned gravelly voiced geyser and some special agents that are all entwined in a grand conspiracy.
This allows you to essentially become John Wick.
The overall narrative is slightly spotty in places, but it serves as a perfect framing device for the game’s various locations. Not to mention the character interactions are incredible to be a part of. Usually, cutscenes play out and you sit back and stare at a screen for a while. This game’s cutscenes have the characters so close to your face it feels like you can smell their breath. You can look into their eyes as they threaten you, you can celebrate along at the end of a climactic scene. You cannot look at this game and say it isn’t immersive. That’d be a paradox.
The game goes on for about 6 to 8 hours. That seems short, but there are so many phenomenal experiences tied to those hours. From start to finish, I was just having so much fun. It cannot be overstated how much joy this game gave me and I’d wager it’s the most fun I’ve had in years, period. The entertaining and immersive story helped, but it wasn’t even close to being the main attraction.
Keanu be damned
Blood & Truth has some truth, but it mostly has blood. The game can quite accurately get compared to something like a Time Crisis or any of those arcade cabinets with the brightly coloured guns that you just hope doesn’t have some sort of plague on it. You move from cover to cover by hitting the big button on your Move controller or you can strafe left and right to points of cover. Enemies will pop up in a shooting gallery fashion as you move through the stage and you have to take them out as you duck behind cover and quickly move to avoid bullets.
The shooting mechanics are where this boring description gets interesting. You have two holsters on your hip for pistols and two holsters on your back for bigger weapons such as SMGs, shotguns and assault rifles. When you hover over your holster and press the trigger, the weapon snaps to your hand, ready to fire. You aim down the sights like you would a weapon in real life and you can even use two hands to steady your weapon or just go akimbo and rock two weapons on both hands. You reload by pressing on your chest, taking a clip out and having it satisfyingly snap into the gun in one fast, fluid motion.
The thing about all of this is that it feels completely and utterly natural. I barely got out of the tutorial and I was already handling these guns like it was second nature. They allow for full freedom of movement in whatever way you like and the animations and models look so polished they might as well be real weightless guns in front of you. When you hold the Move controller close to your face, you can see quite clearly down the sights and the digital sights have a surprising level of depth and detail to them. You can even twirl your pistols like a cowboy and it works exactly like you’d hope.
This allows you to essentially become John Wick. You can do anything your heart desires with these guns and the game will indulge you. It wants to capture that action movie aesthetic, so why can’t you be a little creative with your arsenal? We’ve got sniper rifles, assault rifles, auto pistols, silenced pistols, pump shotguns, revolvers, SMGs, grenade launchers, the works. Pick your flavour. By the way, you also have bullet time.
It’s so unnecessarily detailed in the best possible way. You can fan hammer your revolver if you choose by hovering your other hand over the hammer. You can reload a shotgun by flicking it up like all the action heroes do. You can shoot your dual SMGs from side to side like you’re raining down death to an entire room. Whatever your little violent heart desires, you can do. And it’s so incredibly fun.
The combinations you can do astounds me. I keep coming up with new ways to murder people in the most stylish way possible and it’s something you will never, ever experience in a traditional FPS. It is so unique to this game and it is one hundred percent the best shooting game I’ve played yet on PSVR. And that’s just the shooting.
Hold my beer
Since the game already nailed the shooting aspect, it’s also time to nail the level design. Blood & Truth takes full advantage of everything the PSVR is capable of. Firstly, it’s gorgeous. The environments look so real and literally if you squint it feels like a real place. Each level in the game has a unique look with unique assets, meaning nothing ever gets repeated.
The lighting effects, in particular, are the best I’ve seen yet on PSVR and really brings in that extra realistic punch that was missing with a lot of VR games. The character models, as mentioned, look incredibly realistic with stellar animations done to the faces of all of them as well as phenomenal voice work.
The shooting gallery description I gave earlier is apt for most combat encounters, but that’s certainly not the only way you’ll encounter enemies. The game loves its setpieces like any good action movie does. Big grand displays and exciting adrenaline pumping moments that are happening right in front of you and to scale. Car chases aplenty, mad dashes through enemy infested areas, diving through windows, falling off buildings and all manner of insane stunts that you don’t just see, but experience for yourself in full effect. I’ll even give a warning to the motion sickness folks here because the game’s movement does get very hectic, but there is a comfort mode that helped me out a lot since I get affected by motion sickness as well.
The shooting feels revolutionary and I have no idea how they managed to pull it off so beautifully.
Then we get to the game’s other strongest feature, the PSVR specific actions. There are tons of little things that happen in action movies all the time. Picking locks, cutting wires on camera boxes, climbing scaffolding, planting explosives, crawling through vents etc. All of the things just mentioned are in the game and you get to do them in real time. Lockpicking requires you to gently twist the Move controllers until you find the sweet spot for the pins. You feel like a real saboteur when you cut the wires with wire cutters or plant charges manually. The thing is, all these little actions are so well implemented and work so fluidly that you’ll constantly get giddy when you try them out because they’re so cool.
I had no idea that climbing was possible in VR, but there I went, climbing an entire scaffold fluidly by using my two hands and climbing like I would normally climb. I wonder if I can hang on with one hand and shoot guys while I’m dangling? Oh, of course I can, I should have known. The game is simply a technical marvel on all fronts when it comes to its VR-specific implementation. This is a VR game made for VR from the ground up with a big vision and budget. This is the golden standard, right here, for all PSVR games moving forward.
Blood & Truth is one of the most exciting games I’ve played in a very long time. The moment I realised I really did enjoy it was when I was laughing for a second time after a shootout because of how much fun I was having and the amount of adrenaline running through my veins. Its tight and compact story set in a gritty and violent London is the perfect backdrop for this bloody tale of stylish violence. Each move was methodical, each piece placed there with meaning. The shooting feels revolutionary and I have no idea how they managed to pull it off so beautifully.
8 hours was plenty and it’s untold of to see a VR game of this scale be that long and keep being entertaining throughout. But it wasn’t enough for me. I was just having too much fun, I just wanted more. More clever VR puzzles and interactions, more Keanu Reeves fantasy reenactment and more massive setpieces making my mouth go agape. But what we received was sufficient to make me state that this is the PSVR’s killer app. This is why you buy a PSVR right here. Truly incredible.