Platforms: PlayStation VR (reviewed)
Blood and Truth is a PSVR exclusive from London Studios, the developer behind The London Heist, a short but intense VR experience that launched as part of Playstation VR Worlds a few years back.
The London Heist was packed with high speed car chases and solid shooting mechanics that captured just enough movie magic to put you right in the seat of a classic action narrative. Blood and Truth is what happens when you take the best parts of The London Heist and develop it into a full-length action movie experience that lets you go boots on the ground as Jason Bourne or John Wick.
It’s addictive tactical espionage that despite a few technical issues still manages to shine the way a triple A PSVR experience should.
Fire in the hole
Blood and Truth puts you in the shoes of Ryan Marks, a soldier home from deployment after the sudden death of his father, the patriarch of the largest European crime syndicate on the CIA’s radar. With your father’s death, things spin out of control and you’re forced to act against a rival crime Syndicate as they try to hunt down you and your family in violent, vindictive fashion.
Although the story in Blood and Truth is mostly your standard action movie fare, it’s delivered well on the PSVR with both quality voice acting and animations that take advantage of the cinematic perspective offered by the platform.
Blood and Truth isn’t trying to tell a deep emotional drama, it’s an action-oriented VR experience with simple, well-executed story goals that manage to keep you motivated through the eight-hour experience. You’re a soldier in a war between two crime families, and you’re all set to go in hot and kill the bad guys in blockbuster, over the top fashion with a dash of tactical espionage for flavor.
Character development is straightforward, and although some of the events are just a shade off from cliché, they managed to keep me emotionally invested and ready to move on from each level to the next even with my heart racing from the previous scenes.
It’s quite a feat considering Blood and Truth has a certain love of stealing your breath with over the top action sequences that rarely stop to smell the roses.
Graphically London Studios takes full advantage of the perspective offered by VR and does a lot to play with cinematic shots that are meant to wow and impress as the scene unfolds in front of you.
Gunfights, explosions, and chase scenes are set up to be impressive both up close and personal and in wide panoramic shots that look excellent on the PSVR. Blood and Truth is full of moments that are meant to get a jaw dropping, movie quality reaction and it usually delivers on these moments, barring any technical issues.
These technical issues can range from glitches in tracking to timing problems with specific scenes and the player location. One scene in particular sends you flying through the air to catch a ledge that you then need to pull yourself up on in order to continue, but consistently my hands would lose tracking on the ledge as I went to perform the motion, sending me plummeting back to a loading screen. These technical issues occasionally turned cool and interesting scenes into frustrating battles with the tech, which was a speed bump on an otherwise relatively smooth ride.
That said, these technical issues were rare enough that they’re more speed bumps than actual barriers to play. Blood and Truth manages to make up for it with crazy action movie style stunts that you won’t see anywhere else in VR, which are worth experiencing even if you have to fight for it a bit.
Point, shoot, move
Blood and Truth dips into a pretty wide range of VR concepts to create an interesting blend of gameplay that feels skill based and intuitive. Expect to be scaling buildings, picking locks, and solving electrical puzzles with full motion tracking across the board. All of which is just to give you a break from the fast-paced combat that will have you flicking your guns around the room aiming for headshots like John Wick’s caffeinated cousin.
Gunplay in general feels smooth and natural, while the tracking and FPS manage to keep up well during gunfights even when explosions and full auto weapons are filling your vision from every angle.
Blood and Truth is a great example of why VR shooters are such a perfect fit for the platform. When VR gunplay is done well it feels like one of the most natural things in the world, and there’s no doubt that Blood and Truth does it well. For someone that usually play VR shooters on the HTC Vive, things feels surprisingly smooth and easy to use even compared to a PC VR experience.
When paired with Blood and Truth’s action movie aesthetic, the gunplay quickly puts you right in the shoes of your favorite action movie hero as you gun down bad guys, kick off massive explosions, and occasionally shift into bullet time to pull off superhuman feats of speed and accuracy.
Unfortunately, movement in Blood and Truth is much less flexible. Normally you would expect to see some kind of basic locomotion or teleportation in a game like this, but instead Blood and Truth uses an advanced rail system that allows you to move from one location to the next at a leisurely jog.
Although this system takes a lot of the control out of the players hands, it does keep motion sickness to a minimum even when rapidly moving between different pieces of cover. London Studios also put a lot of effort into giving the player plenty of options for where they direct the rails mid-combat. Strafing to nearby cover can be done using buttons on your controller, or by swiveling to look at specific travel points and hitting the button on the center of your motion controller.
All in all, the system might be a little old-school, but it’s done well enough that it doesn’t detract from the overall experience and instead gives you more time to focus on shooting enemies, ducking behind cover, and returning grenades to sender when they land at your feet.
As a bonus, many of the levels are built with different paths that let you change up your approach from playthrough to playthrough. These alternative paths happen frequently and often lead to different weapons, ammo, and situations that you may need to tackle with your tools rather than your guns.
It’s a nice touch of replay value in an otherwise short, 8-10-hour VR experience.
Unfortunately, although there are a lot of things that Blood and Truth manages to pull off, there are a few technical issues that you should be aware of that can affect your experience.
Most of these are tracking issues, and we found that it was especially important to make sure that your Playstation Camera is set up about six feet from your headset with a good wide angle of your play area. The sheer number of angles you’re reaching for in Blood and Truth means that you need to be able to see your feet and ideally the tops of your hands on the tracking camera to pull off stunts that require a bit of extra cardio on your part.
Even then, grabbing grenades off the ground can be a practice in frustration, and occasionally the various mini games for lockpicking or disabling a panel will break entirely and you won’t be able to get your tools to function as advertised. The latter was much more common if I was revisiting a level or after respawning at a checkpoint, which often made frustrating deaths even more aggravating.
Reloading also needs work, because although the current system is functional, it also binds the button for grabbing a new mag or holstering your weapon to the trigger, which as you might have guessed is the same button for firing your weapon.
This wouldn’t be that big of an issue, but there are multiple missions where you’re driving in a car with one of your relatives during intense shootouts where misfires can be a problem. Shooting the person driving your car instantly sends you back to a loading screen, and if you’re holding two guns when you reach down to reload, you’re likely to accidentally fire your gun right into the driver’s chest instead of grabbing a mag. It’s an issue that popped up more than once that again, ruined an otherwise cool chase scene for me.
A lot of this is the kind of thing most people have come to expect from VR games, and you can usually work around it one way or another, but for what could arguably be considered a triple A VR game it’s a little disappointing that the experience still has these little hiccups that can break your immersion entirely.
Despite these issues, Blood and Truth is a fantastic VR shooter that’s worth the frustration for when things gracefully fall into place. Each level is carefully put together to give you as much of a cinematic experience as a challenge to your skills as a player.
When things go smoothly it’s easy to forget that you’re strapped into a headset at all because you’re drawn deep into the narrative and the action presented. Combine that with some action movie shots that’ll make you wish you had a stunt double and you’re left with a truly memorable VR experience that any fan of classic narrative shooters will enjoy.