SIE London Studio made quite the splash at the launch of PSVR. The UK studio, typically known for their SingStar games, developed a collection of five VR experiences titled PlayStation VR Worlds. Arguably the most memorable of these experiences was the The London Heist, a crime thriller which packed in a handful of brief interactive sequences set in the London underworld. It was fast, exhilarating and gave us a sneak peak at what a cinematic AAA game could be in VR. The resounding call for a full game in the same vein was obviously heard loud and clear at SIE London Studio, because they took it upon themselves to turn the The London Heist into a fully-fledged AAA title complete with car chases, explosions and intense firefights, all with the kind of polish the big PS4 exclusives are known for. The result is Blood and Truth, and while the name is one of the most vanilla titles I’ve experienced in any medium, the game itself delivers on almost every front. With AAA-standard production values, satisfying shooting and Hollywood-style set pieces, all PSVR owners should be looking out for this one.
Blood and Truth won’t win awards for the most creative story. You play as UK soldier Ryan Marks, on active duty until an unexpected death in the family brings you back to the motherland. Reunited with your family, you must team up with your siblings to take down a crime boss set to take over the family business now that your father is out of the picture. While the story and plot twists has been done to death, the character writing is great and the performances from the voice actors are stellar.
Standout performances help sell the drama
In fact, it’s the dialogue amongst the small but memorable cast that drove the narrative forward for me. I was surprised at how connected I felt to the characters, with constant banter and very authentic voices that feels like they were pulled right out of a Guy Ritchie film. Throughout my satisfying six-hour playthrough I rigged a casino to blow, vandalised an art gallery, pulled off multiple car chases and jumped out of a construction site in the process of being demolished. The game really puts you in the shoes of a badass John Wick-style action hero.
It wasn’t just the voice acting, but the incredible human and facial expressions of the characters that make them feel like real people. The way their eyes follow you as they talk to you really creates a sense of presence that I haven’t seen in many other games before. Outside of the characters, the game also sports some pretty high quality visuals. Textures and models of items such as weapons and furniture look positively lifelike.
There’s a pretty wide variety of locales to journey through as well, keeping things fresh and interesting from a visual perspective. There are even quite a number of cool-looking visual effects that are flexed throughout your tour of London’s underbelly of crime. This is all against the backdrop of some kickass UK hip-hop tunes that really suit the vibe and the atmosphere.
My favourite episode of Geordie Shore
Throughout most of the game’s campaign you’ll be shooting enemies from cover (taking the basic mechanics from The London Heist) while moving towards your goal. In fact, the whole game is designed around constantly moving forward to maintain the high-octane pace. Blood and Truth doesn’t support free locomotion movement but instead requires players to look at certain points of cover (nodes indicated by white arrows) and then hit the Move button to head over to that location.
Have no fear though because you can still shoot, reload and dodge bullets while moving. This doesn’t feel like your classic VR teleporting at all, neither does it feel jarring or unintuitive like the disappointing movement system in Bravo Team. The idea of this system is to keep that pace and momentum going while still being able to concentrate on firing at enemies. For this type of game it works very well, and you’ll rarely feel like your movement is restricted. You can also strafe while in cover to get a better angle on enemies, which helps in giving you at least some freedom of movement throughout the levels.
There are certain segments towards the end of some missions where the whole experience is on-rails. This typically involves some sort of chase sequence where your character runs automatically, giving you the opportunity to shoot freely. It sounds silly on paper but creates some of the most heart-pounding, cinematic sections of the game. I also appreciated that Blood and Truth’s control system doesn’t have too many button inputs, as most functions are tied to reaching out with your hands and grabbing things using the triggers.
Lock, stock and two smoking Move controllers
The shooting itself feels incredibly natural and really helps in building the immersion. Using two Move controllers you simply aim and shoot your weapon in any direction to eliminate your target. Some weapons even have sights allowing you to physically peer through to land those critical shots. You can dual-wield smaller weapons or carry larger weapons on your back. While each weapon is operated by one hand, you can also use your second hand to provide stability to the heavier weapons.
At any time, you’re able to holster your weapons on your hips (for handguns) and on your back (for larger weapons). Ammo is also located on your chest with the ability to grab ammo with one hand and reload it into the weapon in your other hand. You can even throw an ammo case in the air and try to catch it in your weapon if you’re skilful enough. There is a decent variety of weapons to choose from including assault rifles, revolvers and pump-action shotguns, all of which require a different action to reload. For example, reloading a revolver involves flicking your wrist when you load in the bullets. There are also a bunch of attachments and weapon skins you can unlock throughout the game and physically apply to your gun in the shooting range.
While the shooting feels good however, the tracking wasn’t perfect for me. There were times where I tried to peek behind cover but my gun wouldn’t fire because the camera couldn’t sense the controller. Other times I wanted to grab ammo from my chest but instead accidentally fired my gun, since both actions are tied to the trigger button and the camera wasn’t picking up precisely where my hands were. This creates some frustrating circumstances, particularly in the heat of battle. It’s not common enough for it to be a real problem, but do expect slight inconsistencies.
You won’t just be shooting the whole time, either. The game paces itself nicely by giving you other things to do. You’ll be stealthily planting C4 in a casino room, observing CCTV cameras, deejaying, vandalising art work with a spray can, lock-picking doors, rewiring circuits and more. Just like the shooting, everything is controlled with real-life actions using the move controllers. Twisting both of your hands will pick locked doors while reaching up and grabbing ledges helps you climb up the sides of tall buildings like you would in Uncharted.
Blood and Truth is an explosive ride
There are a number of fun distractions as well, mostly taking place at your safehouse, which you can return to at any time. As well as practising your shots at the firing range, you can throw a football, play some music, paint and customise your weapon with attachments, inspect and interact with the various collectibles in the games and more. SIE London Studio have given a lot of attention to the details here and it helps flesh out the game to be so much more than just a guided on-rails shooter. You will know what I mean when you puff your first cigar in the game.There is also an additional mode and challenges you can complete, increasing the replayability of the game.
While Blood and Truth doesn’t have an incredible amount of options, it doesn’t need any. The game allows you to play with both DualShock 4 and PS Move controllers and has one comfort setting. The single comfort setting is enough as the game is generally a seated experience and full locomotion is absent. I didn’t use the comfort settings at all and I didn’t feel motion sickness at any point during my action-filled playthrough. Left-handed players like myself don’t need the setting either as you can physically grab and operate items and weapons using any hand you wish and swap in real-time by physically grabbing it with the other hand. It’s clear that SIE London Studio really understand VR and what they needed to do to make it a comfortable experience.
Overall, I am throroughly impressed with Blood and Truth. While it was always touted as a AAA game that would remind us of Uncharted by way of a Guy Ritchie film, I didn’t expect it to be this cinematic. In fact some of the action sequences they’ve pulled off are things I didn’t think were possible yet in VR. This is all off the back of some great pacing, high presentation values, lifelike characters, a grungy soundtrack, off-the-chart set pieces and a variety of interactions and missions. Even at six hours, the game feels like it packs as much into its story as some games do in 20 hours. There are some seriously great moments that will really put a smile on your face as you’re leaping off buildings and blowing up trucks in slow motion. This is the AAA VR game you’ve been waiting for.
Reviewed PlayStation 4 Pro and PSVR | Review code supplied by publisher