The truth is that Sony has another great PSVR adventure on its hands.
I think it was the third time I shouted “This is so f*****g” cool!” during one of Blood & Truth’s many enthralling glide-and-gun sequences that I realized just how much I had wanted an experience like it for the PlayStation VR. Taking the tense, engaging shooting galleries of an arcade light gun game and marrying it with a cliched but well-acted spy story, Blood & Truth overcomes a couple of technical limitations to deliver one of the best PSVR games to date.
As a former soldier whose family is embroiled in an underworld crime war, Blood & Truth’s protagonist battles through a collection of shooting galleries and interactive cutscenes with a welcome amount of depth. Yes, you can break the immersion by tossing around loose clipboards and inappropriately flipping the bird at characters (a button on either the Move controllers or your DualShock 4 is dedicated solely to different, silly hand gestures), but the supporting cast is full of enough enjoyable performances – including Steven Hartley’s hammy Tony Sharp and Colin Salmon as the stoic Carson – that I was willing to play the part. SIE London Studio built on its work with the impressive PSVR launch game London Heist (the highlight of the PlayStation VR Worlds package) to give life to every acted role with nuanced facial animation. The distinct glee of a certain villain or the slowly dawning sadness in a companion frequently struck a chord with me.
The cast elevates a fairly predictable but well-scripted crime story that seems to know it’s trafficking in cliches. And often, Blood & Truth’s best story moments are the ones in which it toys with genre tropes. One particular sequence I loved apes the familiar Ocean’s 11 format of playing out each step of a plan, cutting back to the person describing it as it simultaneously happens. But getting to actually play out each of those events was a joy as I waited to see when each step would begin and end. Similarly, a non-gunfire-focused mission has you investigating bad guy Tony’s art gallery so you and your brother can double back for a character-focused stealth mission. It’s fun and novel just to actually be a part of scenes that I’ve watched play out in movies and shows a couple dozen times. Blood & Truth has a story to tell, to be sure, but you can inject bits of your personality throughout, and the world design thoughtfully played to much of my VR curiosity.
And, even despite some of the predictability of it all, that fully acted cast allows for a lot of heart to come through as characters plead, joke with, or interrogate you. Yes, it’s what VR should deliver, but bundled in a blockbuster package it’s consistently rewarding to be directly part of the action. That immersion is in large part helped by how well London Studio has done with the little details of this adventure. Yes, there are the standard VR shenanigans of paper airplanes and crumpled paper balls to throw into wastebaskets (my new favorite VR trope because I have to stop and succeed at every. single. one.) But amidst all the action, London Studio has peppered so much fun interactivity into its world, whether it be with character moments or playing with the environment (particularly in that art gallery) in amusing ways.
But action aplenty there is. While there is no lack of scene-setting conversation, Blood & Truth’s five or six-hour campaign is full of supremely satisfying gunfights. You’re equipped with the fairly standard VR shooter options for two convenient pistols by your belt or two larger weapons on your back, and you can reload from an ammo stash attached to your chest. Because you’re ostensibly holding realistic weaponry, I found a lot of joy in experimenting with what weapons suited my style best — the oomph of a shotgun worked far better for me than the spray of an SMG, though both are effective enough. Levels are always great about supplying you with an appropriate array of weapons depending on the scenarios they create. So if you find yourself without a shotgun in a close-quarters level, chances are there’s one lying around a few rooms ahead.
Each gunfight level — which make up the bulk of the 19 story missions — finds you slowly making your way through various buildings, both dilapidated and pristine (though they usually don’t stay clean for long) with some particularly tense and fun battles in casinos and nightclubs. Enemy AI is simple to predict, but the scenarios are often so well laid out that the joy comes not in how difficult the enemies are but in how methodical you can be at dispatching them.
I felt cool so many times, sitting in my living room with this hunk of plastic and lights on my head, either sneaking through a London apartment building to silently dispatch enemies or charging my way through an airplane hangar, guns blazing. Several of Blood & Truth’s levels end in the aforementioned glide-and-gun scenarios — instead of moving from one location to the next, you’re fully put on rails and propelled through a level, but you’ll only actually make it through if you’re gunning down as many baddies as you can. Each one is an absolute thrill, even if your character is just sort of smoothly gliding through any given location.
Blood & Truth’s thoughtful level design makes for thrilling setpieces.
One particularly thrilling sequence had me tearing through a beautiful apartment complex, peeking around pillars as they passed to gun down enemies before being thrust through a window onto an opposing apartment’s terrace to take down a few more foes. In moments like this and other on-rails sections, London Studio smartly instills a sense of escalation to each gunfight, raising the stakes while always maintaining the tension. The level design of Blood & Truth is one of the shining stars of its many moving parts, elevating VR gunplay that could feel familiar into blockbuster territory.
And it actually benefits you to experiment with guns. While some can be dual-wielded, you may find your skill improves when you’re using both hands to steady your pistol by placing the Move controllers close together or my using your spare hand for a rifle with a scope on it onto the secondary grip to steady your aim. There’s a satisfying oomph to the larger weapons, while dual-wielding pistols is a delight as I tried my best to pick off enemies two at a time. Upgrading guns with new add-ons like silencers and laser sights further expands the experimentation options. Though I inevitably settled on an ideal loadout, it didn’t come until the last handful of missions because I enjoyed finding what worked best in every possible scenario.
Your movement through each level is really the only aspect that I wished could live up to the immersion the rest of the gameplay consistently delivers. While using two Move controllers as your hands you can look at and slowly walk between points, constantly moving forward into a level and never back. Learning to use cover well to avoid enemy lines of sight and bullets is key, but you’ve largely confined to the spots you choose to walk toward. Some of the more complex firefights do allow for horizontal strafing back and forth between points, which offers a nice bit of variation and a chance to test out several vantage points. The movement adds to a little sense of floatiness that can seep into the otherwise-engaging scenarios, but it rarely gets in the way of just how fun hurtling through these gunfights can be. (There is a “Comfort Mode” option that adds blinders to the sides as your character moves through an environment, but the limiting sense of awareness in my periphery wasn’t worth the tradeoff given my low level of motion sickness when playing.)
You can use a DualShock 4 if you don’t have or like the Moves, but I found the control scheme much more cumbersome, and simply less fun and immersive. You’ll move between points using the thumbsticks, and shoot with the controller’s triggers, but the more confined set-up is definitely not a preferable way to play.