When the PlayStation VR first released, one of my favorite experiences was The London Heist. As a part of VR Worlds, it was one of the examples of multiple ways in which the virtual reality medium could immerse players, not just in unique gameplay, but in unique moments. While it took some notes from arcadey gallery shooters, The London Heist was especially notable for its smaller details, like allowing you to flick open a lighter and slowly suck on a cigar while getting a mission briefing. Cinematic character moments like these allowed you to really become the action hero, not just play as one.
Using the concept of The London Heist as a launching point, Blood & Truth takes that brief 45-minute experience and expands it to something more feature length. Clocking in at about 4-5 hours, it’s truly a full VR summer blockbuster action flick on the level of something like The Italian Job, the Bourne series, or Mission Impossible. You play as Ryan Marks a soldier who is called home for the funeral of his father. It’s quickly revealed that Marks is part of a family business that’s somewhat less-than-legitimate (everybody loves a good anti-hero). Now that Ryan’s father is out of the picture, another gangster begins moving in on the family turf, trying to take over what’s supposedly one of the biggest data network and web of assets in the world.
Being a story about family, the game wants you to really get to know Ryan Marks’ mother and siblings. It also wants to make sure you know the villains that you’re fighting against. Marks and his family may not be angels, but Blood & Truth wants you to know that these villains are far worse. The brilliant production values mean that you’ll be looking all of these characters right in the eye. You’ll get to know them in a way that games on a TV screen simply can’t convey. You’ll come to loathe some them in the same way. And it makes some of the moments of raw emotion land that much better.
One Ocean’s Eleven-esque missions had me briefing for a heist while also playing out the parts of the plan that I was being briefed on. Some of the game takes place as flashbacks while being interrogated by an unknown authority. The story takes some genuinely enjoyable twists and turns that had me along for the whole ride, with an ending that’s just screaming for an even more intense follow up.
In video games, cutscenes can often wrest control away from the player, and while you don’t always have full locomotive control, Blood & Truth’s VR medium means that you’ll always feel like you are Ryan Marks. Even the quieter moments are full of raw intensity. The action here takes place between you and the characters, whether it’s talking to your mother about the family business, or staring into the eyes of a cold and calculated killer. Subtle details like being able to drink a beer while chatting with your brother lend an air of authenticity to those scenes. Even when the game places a gun in your hand, it feels very deliberate, but some of the best moments in the game don’t involve bullets at all. Don’t worry though. There are still plenty of moments that do.
Blood & Truth Review – Action-Hero Badass
Blood & Truth is at its best when it’s exploring those cinematic nuances that really make you feel like an action-hero badass. From leaping through a window in slow motion to casually taking smoke breaks with the scattered e-cig units that act as the game’s collectibles, it’s these little details that really sell the immersion into the experience. Of course, that’s all underlined by shooting loads of bad guys. Whether it’s moving through a casino with a silenced pistol or lobbing grenades out of the back of an armored vehicle, there are loads of bullets and explosions to be had.
One shootout takes place in a dance club where you can control the mix and even scratch a record while perforating waves of bad gentlemen with lead. Another sees Marks sliding down a rooftop while fighting multiple enemies and a dangerous helicopter. It’s like each of these huge action set pieces were pulled straight from the imaginations of people who love and just want to be right in action movies. And every time the game launched into slow motion, I couldn’t help the enormous idiotic grin that appeared on my face. Slamming clip after clip into an SMG that I pulled off my back in slow motion while sliding down the sloped roof of a building is pretty much living that action hero fantasy.
In order to help that action intensity, Blood & Truth’s flow is always forward moving. Instead of full locomotion, you get nodes that you can move to. That catch is that you can’t go back to previous nodes behind you. Occasionally, it will just take full control and put you on a roller coaster headed towards your next objective, like chasing a gangster boss through the halls of a hotel.
At first, the restricted movement annoyed me a little bit, but the longer I played, I realized that it helped to set the pace and tone of the story. This isn’t a meandering video game that allows the player to just wander wherever. It’s a cinematic playground, a guided tour of the action, narrative, and moments that Blood & Truth wants you to encounter. Sometimes less is more, and the game is better for taking control of the player’s movement and pacing. The restricted movement does have the adverse effect of creating some awkward combat chokepoints, however, leading to what I felt were some unfair deaths due to the fact that I could only strafe slowly among a few certain nodes. These scenarios were few and far between though, with combat and movement largely playing well together.
Without having to focus on movement, you can instead focus on the gunplay. Equipped with two holsters on the hip for handgun-type weapons and two back holsters for things like SMGs, assault rifles, and shotguns, there’s plenty of hardware to play around with, and you can constantly shift among them to mow down those baddies in true action hero fashion. You’ll even find things like grenades lying around, a grenade launcher at one point, and even the ability to toss back a grenade that gets thrown at you, for plenty of explosions to add to the hail of bullets.
Blood & Truth Review – More Blood, More Truth
Once all is said and done, and the credits have rolled, there are plenty of reasons to dive back in too. There are collectibles scattered throughout the levels, like the e-cigs I mentioned before as well as trophies from VR Worlds, among a few other items. There are challenge modes, including time attack, and SIE London Studio plans to keep supporting the game by adding in things like a harder difficulty, new game+, additional challenges, and much more.
The biggest downside about Blood & Truth has nothing to do with the game itself, but it does really start to highlight the limitations of the current PSVR hardware setup. Playing on a standard PS4, I couldn’t help but pine for the potential of better visuals from a Pro (or just imagine what it might look like running through a PS5). Developers manage to get around the Move controller’s inherent limitations through clever game design, but it does show how the controller peripheral is really held back be a limited design. That all actually makes Blood & Truth even more impressive, considering they managed to design a game around these various constraints and still make an awesome experience.
Blood & Truth isn’t doing anything completely revolutionary for VR, particularly because we saw many of its own bullet points back at the PlayStation VR’s launch. However, it packs these ideas into a cinematic package whose presentation can hardly be rivaled. If you want to step into the shoes of an action hero a la James Bond or Jason Bourne, Blood & Truth lets players live those experiences. From high-octane explosive thrills to intimate emotional moments of character connection, it exemplifies everything that an interactive VR action movie should be.