Virtual reality is still proving itself. Sony London even proved that it is still proving itself with PlayStation VR Worlds, a collection of proof of concepts that launched with the PSVR. BLOOD AND TRUTH is the byproduct of those experiments, stemming from the London Heist demo that was the highlight of that compilation. Despite its humble origins, Blood and Truth goes far beyond tech demo territory and grows into a solid shooter that intelligently uses the technology it’s trying to prove.
The game sheds its tech demo cocoon by feeling like an actual video game, which is also reflected by its higher than average price point. It’s a full five or six-hour campaign with a shocking commitment to narrative as well as collectibles and upgrade systems. And while a harder difficulty, New Game Plus, Time Trials, and more are coming at a later date, there’s just enough here to give it the prestige that most VR shooting galleries don’t aspire to have.
Blood and Truth Review | A layered cake
Blood and Truth may not be a bunch of shooting galleries but it still leans quite heavily on its gunplay. Weapons fire where you’re aiming the Move controllers and are the controls fairly standard for shooting in virtual reality. A strong mechanical base is important for something with a one-to-one control method but the game succeeds with all of its little touches that augment that foundation.
These additions run the gamut from gameplay enhancements to cosmetic flourishes. Reloading is, excuse the cliché, visceral because of how you have to take the ammo from your pouch and insert it in the gun manually. Slapping clips into a submachine gun or shoving the shells into a shotgun before physically snapping it back is much more tactile than merely pressing a reload button as is bringing the controllers to your face to aim down the sights. Swapping weapons is also similarly involving as you have to reach to your back or holster to pick out the appropriate firearm.
Basic actions that mimic their real-world counterparts naturally make the gunplay more enjoyable especially since you’ll likely begin to realize what’s possible as you progress. Picking up more tactics is how the game facilitates more advanced play and where it dips a little toe into the fantasy of being a smooth, John Wick-esque assassin.
Blood and Truth Review | Two smoking barrels
Holding a clip in one hand and a gun in the other can speed up reloads, especially if you toss the clip in the air and slap the gun into it. You can even dual wield two full magazines while holding two guns, which cuts down on reload time as you can pop in two fresh ones more quickly than refilling each individually. And even though it doesn’t do anything, you can also twirl your guns around your fingers and do your best Revolver Ocelot impression. It doesn’t do anything but it helps assist the aforementioned fantasy.
Other weapons have different, more practical tricks too. For example, the pump-action shotgun requires that players remember to cock it back after each shot and the strong assault rifle can only reach its full potential for those willing to use both hands to offset its recoil. Finding and mastering these little shortcuts adds a learning curve to each weapon individually while also injecting more life into the admittedly standard arsenal as a whole.
Pressing buttons would rob these weapons of their charm and is why playing with the Move motion controllers is the way to go. It’s playable with a DualShock but also less interesting. Aside from aiming, most of the mechanics are tied to button presses and that automates many of the natural, manual actions. DualShock support opens the game up to more people, which VR needs, but it comes at a heavy cost.
The motion controls do work incredibly well but they also have some blind spots that are sometimes literal. Picking up stuff on the floor can be a bit jittery since your real-life floor might be higher than the in-game floor, granted your camera even sees you reaching down that far. This makes it a lot harder to pick up live grenades, thus deflating most of the utility of the throwback mechanic.
Reloading and holstering weapons can also be finicky as your hands have to be in specific areas to do either context-sensitive action. Both are dictated by the trigger button as well as shooting, meaning it can be hard to reload or swap in the heat of battle without accidentally firing off a round or two first. Using two-handed weapons also can be a bit unwieldy at times since your hands can drift apart since you aren’t actually holding on to a real object. None of these issues are frequent or dire enough to overwrite the thrilling firefights nor does the game require overbearing precision but they noticeable enough when compared to the otherwise stable and exciting gunplay.
Blood and Truth Review | Virtually there
But even though it does have solid shooting mechanics, Blood and Truth goes the extra mile in giving you other ways to interact with the world that utilize the VR medium. Climbing ladders, picking locks, hanging on monkey bars, cutting wires, and whole host of other mundane tasks all combine together and become more than the sum of their parts. None of them are that impressive on their own but they combine to make it feel as though every aspect was thought of to take advantage of the perspective.
This even extends to some of the mission objectives and set pieces. Some levels don’t even have shooting in them and solely lean on nonviolent VR implementation without forgetting that it’s also an interactive experience. The combat-free museum stage is a particular highlight as it incorporates VR gameplay without breaking fiction or using typical firearms.
Set pieces are also riveting and use the perspective as a way to amp up the stakes while also having players grab ledges or ropes to land safely. Just watching these explosive scenes play out would be a missed opportunity and Blood and Truth does what it can to involve the player in ways that work well in VR.
Blood and Truth Review | Bound by blood
While note as strong, the game’s narrative also benefits from this holistic mindset that places importance on the non-shooting aspects of the game. It follows Ryan Marks, a former Special Forces soldier who gets tied up in the criminal underworld in London as he attempts to save his family’s “business” from a hostile takeover.
Channeling its British crime film influences, Blood and Truth attempts to tell a story about a huge crime syndicate while also focusing on one particular family and it’s more successful than it initially lets on. The fast-talking opening speeds through exposition too quickly to catch and the introduction to the characters make each of them seem like one-dimensional cutouts. This is shown most clearly in the brother since he is introduced by being calling you a “twat” at the airport and vaping in the car; unfortunate characteristics that work as shortcuts for tryhards.
But the following missions slow down a tad and allow you to focus on their solid performances that are aided by the motion capture and the platform’s intimacy. Remarkable facial animation and the close-up viewpoints place you into story in a way that helps it get past its fumbled intro and generic premise. The writing also begins to sharpen up later on, which is best shown in the combat-free stages and mission briefings where the characters get more screen time. Its cast won’t likely be memorable outside of this lone game but they do just enough to hook you into the story.
The characters have to do the heavy lifting because the story doesn’t do itself any favors. Rushed preambles combined with twists and changing motives make the individual beats hard to follow and it often feels preoccupied with a more widespread story that’s not told in this game. Hints at a larger conspiracy seem to take center stage in a surprising way and while building lore is usually a good idea, it often overshadows the smaller story about a family fighting back a rival gang. This groundwork may help the implied sequel but this specific entry just isn’t long enough for this wide of a focus.
Blood and Truth’s minor story issues don’t overshadow its widespread successful commitment to VR. Firefights are frenetic because of the intuitive gunplay mechanics that use VR intelligently to make normal tasks more involving while also going above and beyond in some instances. Other non-shooting aspects of the game also benefit from this initiative as exploring the levels and experiencing the story have specific virtual reality mechanics that take advantage of the medium it is in without feeling cheap. There is still a novelty of playing a bigger shooter in VR that isn’t a shooting gallery and Blood and Truth undoubtedly coasts on some of that novelty. But it doesn’t solely depend on it and that is the bloody most brilliant part of it all.
GameRevolution reviewed Blood and Truth on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.