Blood & Truth Review
Battle through the crime-ridden London underworld as elite soldier Ryan Marks in your deadliest mission yet… to save your family from a ruthless criminal empire.
Felix Scott, Amy Bailey, Steven Hartley, Jason Cheater, Jay Taylor, Natasha Little, Bryan Larkin, Klariza Clayton, Colin Salmon
Developer: London Studio
Design Director: Iain Wright
Writers: Iain Wright, Colin Harvey, Rick Porras
Director of VR: Stuart Whyte
Technical Directors: William Burdon, Mark Lintott
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PSVR (reviewed on a original base PSVR unit and PS4 console)
Running across a building's rooftop, I leap off the edge towards the balcony below. A helicopter may be hot on my heels but as I land everything goes into slow-motion around me. I draw my pistol while simultaneously flipping the bird at the closest enemy as I fire off a bullet. Boom, headshot.
Blood & Truth from SIE London Studio was originally being built as a continuation of their long-dormant franchise The Getaway, which hasn’t had an entry since 2004. Eventually, it lost that banner and connection, becoming its own thing, but the London underground setting and tone still definitely feels like a Getaway game.
You play as Ryan Marks, a trained operative with a family involved in the dirty and grimy London underground. When Ryan’s father dies, he returns home to attend his father's funeral and to be with his remaining family which includes his mother, sister and brother. Soon after burying his father, a hostile takeover over the family’s territory is attempted by a rival underworld member named Tony, which kicks-off the adrenaline ride that is Blood & Truth.
That name, by the way, annoys me. You could argue there are several truths in the game’s narrative as they’re revealed, but the game features zero blood. Shoot a dude, no blood. Stand over a body, pop the head a couple of times, nothing. Just saying.
With an equal measure of action sequences taken from a Bond film and the characters and rough language from an early Guy RItchie movie, Blood & Truth stands out as the only big action blockbuster on the PSVR system at the moment. Over the 6-8 hours it takes to see the story through, it feels like the PSVR’s most equivalent title to something like the Uncharted franchise. It’s a blockbuster that feels like playing a movie, which is something a lot of VR naysayers have been asking for.
Blood & Truth’s story is serviceable with a mix of stereotypical London gangster stuff thrown around a secret service story, with the former primarily being delivered by the always great Colin Salmon as Carson. You’ll flick back and forth between Caron, who is interrogating Ryan, to the past days’ events as they’ve unfolded, which you’re playing out. Most of the more secret service, MI6, MI5, what-have-you stuff is also mostly set-up for a potential sequel, so if you’re more keen on the British gangster stuff that’s what’s primarily on show here.
When I say “British gangster stuff” I mean the good-stuff too. And by the good stuff, I mean scenes of dialogue and characters that would make Alan Ford proud. Getting to be amongst all these characters is, of course, the strength of a VR title. The story is fine, but the characters -- although not memorable in a Nathan Drake kinda way -- are a lot of fun to be around.
If you played The London Heist, which severed as a tech-demo of sorts on the PSVR Worlds compilation and also is the smaller idea of which Blood & Truth has expanded on, it's very similar in tone and overall gameplay.
Delivery of great, if sometimes hammy performances elevate what could have been boring and at times stereotypical characters. Ryan himself isn’t super interesting, but he does speak so you’re not playing a silent protagonist. All of the cast performed really well though and I enjoyed all of the core characters quite a bit.
Character models are animated wonderfully and although the indoor environments look good, Blood & Truth seems to be pushing the PSVR hardware quite a bit. The shootout scenes in more open and elongated areas, like shooting out of a moving vehicle, showcase the hardware’s capabilities a lot with enemies on bikes in the distance becoming hard to shoot as they appear as blurs until much closer. Similarly, at one point a character points out how “beautiful the city is” in the distance, but it made me chuckle as it’s a rather blurry mess.
Although there are a few big action moments that take you out of control and play out like an on-rails shooter, the majority of Blood & Truth does allow some level of freedom. You can move from point-to-point by looking at one of several predetermined locations (usual behind cover) and click a button to move to them. When you’re in firefights you can strafe left and right and also switch cover points. You never have the option for full locomotion, but it doesn’t feel as restrictive as a lot of other titles that use similar options.
You can choose to play with either a DualShock or two PS Move wands, with the DualShock option being playable, but non-exciting fare that splits the DualShock in half to control both arms. It’s weird, but works. Play with Move controllers to play the game as it was designed.
Gunplay in Blood & Truth can be hard, but when you get the hang of it you will feel like the ultimate bad-ass. There is no on-screen cursor to show you where your gun is aiming — unless you unlock the laser sight modification, which requires finding a bunch of collectables — so it may seem hard to hit targets at first for those less experienced in VR gunplay. You have a variety of guns thrown throughout levels so you can switch them up to suit your playstyle which ranges from heavy automatic weaponry to pump-action shotguns. Spraying and praying is a decent strategy, but so is using your side arms to efficiently pop off some amazing headshots. After the first couple levels you'll have a ridiculous amount of guns on your person as well. Two side arms on your hips and two heavier guns thrown over each side of your back. You can draw and holster whatever you please as necessary. You’ll also need to reload each gun manually by grabbing a clip from your chest and placing it into your gun. Pistols easily enough slam a clip into the bottom but some guns like a double barrel shotgun require you to also slam the gun closed. The reloading can become annoying if you set your ammo pouch too high or low to your chest, but you can re-calibrate that at any time.
Gunplay can feel bad-ass when it’s working and not so much fun when it’s not working. A couple of times a stubborn clip stopping me from reloading caused my death and another was even caused by a grenade which chose to lands 2 cm in front of me after I threw it.
Between all the action you’ll have to pick locks on doors, which I found tedious more than anything, and also cut wires to turn off security cameras, for example. There are also some sections of traversal that require you climb monkey bars, poles, ropes and ladders which require rotating movements of your arms which some may find extraneous over long play time.
My favourite level in the game has zero combat involved. You’re simply making your way through a museum with your brother but along the way you get to stop and interact with different objects and displays. The banter between the brothers paired with London Studio obviously just throwing in some fun VR stuff works great as a palate cleanser as well as a brotherly character building section. Sections like these are brought in a couple of times to break-up what is mostly a full-on journey.
There are several options to help with any locomotion sickness if you struggle, and there is also a cinematic mode that -- if I didn’t care about unlocking PSN trophies -- would have been my preferred way to play. Similar to my feelings when playing an Uncharted game, I don’t think Blood & Truth is fun if you’re dying. I hate having that cinematic moment kick-in and then you die halfway through the awesome firefight just to start again and I did die several times throughout Blood & Truth. It’s a mood killer, so I’d suggest playing on cinematic mode and enjoying the experience at ease.
Blood & Truth has a few bumps and technical inconveniences holding it back from fully achieving the blockbuster it yearns to be, but it’s nothing short of an exhilarating, at times smirk-inducing ride from start to finish through the London streets and underground. A cinematic experience that joins the ranks as one of PSVR’s must-own titles.
(Blood & Truth code provided for review)