Developed by SIE London Studio, Blood & Truth is effectively an expanded version of the “London Heist” level from VR Worlds, which London Studio also created. If you haven’t played that, imagine a cockney gangster film and you’re most of the way there.
The story casts you in the role of a special forces soldier who returns home for his father’s funeral, only for wider family circumstances to spin out of control in the sort of way you’d expect were his father actually Tony Soprano. Hilarity ensues and, with the aid of your elite military training, it falls largely to you to get to work and set about righting wrongs by putting holes in bad guys.
Gameplay is, as you might expect, presented entirely in the first person, and will see you spending a lot of time pointing the business end of various firearms at the fleshy bits of a really rather large roster of bad guys and pulling the trigger a lot. It’s not all shooty-shooty, however, with a surprisingly large amount of in-game story stuff and even sneaky exploration sections and some other fun bits I won’t ruin for you.
There are also quite a few “hacking” sections where you need to deploy various tools to break into places, cut wires, replaces fuses - that sort of thing. I stopped myself saying “puzzle” sections here because there’s not much puzzling to it and if you take more than a few seconds to figure it out, the game generally bumps you in the right direction.
The game stars Colin Salmon, who you’ll most likely recognise from his role as Charles Robinson in three James Bond films - if not, you’ll know him from one of his many other roles as a suave rogue. The point is, you’ll recognise him; the developers have done a superb job capturing his performance - it really feels like you’re in a room with him, and the experience never - not even once - dipped into Uncanny Valley territory.
The same is true of the rest of the cast, who are all incredibly well animated; I found myself making micro-gestures and expressions in response to dialogue that was aimed right at me on more than one occasion - my subconscious, it seems, was more than happy to accept these virtual performers as real people. That experience alone makes this game worth the price of entry.
The bulk of the game is, as previously suggested, made up primarily of shooting things. You don’t have free-roam, however, and instead can move between pre-defined spots in each level. The best analogy I can think of is the Time Crisis series; basically, as you look around - even during intense action - you can generally spot one or two places you can move to. Doing so might give you a better angle on the action or move you through the level. Most levels have branching paths, too, with various unlockables or fun discoveries to be found down each one - going backwards is a bit awkward if not impossible, so replaying the game is likely your best bet if you want to see everything.
The gunplay itself is exceptionally satisfying; guns feel great, a decent number of objects in the world show damage from your shots, and the characters you’re shooting tend to react realistically based on where you hit them. As it’s VR, you can - of course - hide behind an object and poke your gun from behind cover for the “spray and pray” technique; or, if you feel like the risk is worth it, you can look down the sights (or even through the scope) of your gun and increase the chance of hitting your enemy. The combination of techniques possible in VR have been well-leveraged by the developers, with the feeling you get from the various positions in each level feeling a great combination of cramped, exposed, well hidden, and so on.
Levels are very well designed and rich with detail. They’re also extremely varied, never exposing you to an environment or gameplay style for long enough for it to get boring - with one exception. The game frequently asks you to put your guns away and climb things; ladders, monkey bars, ropes, inside air conditioning ducts - etc. This interaction is fine, but it’s probably used about twice as much as it should be. PSVR doesn’t have the best controller tracking in the world, and this is the only part of the game where it’s noticeable. It also feels much less epic than it should, most of the time, although there are a couple of key sequences where it is very well used.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few bugs. The most noticeable - in that it happened to me quite a few times - is that you sometimes get stuck with a gun in your hand when you shouldn’t have one. I had one in a cutscene, for example, and spent most of the story exposition time randomly shooting objects in the scene to see if any of them had been rigged to react (almost none had). Less amusingly, I got stuck with one in an air conditioning duct - which made it practically impossible to actually move through the duct (you have to put your guns away to move - which I couldn’t do, because of the bug). Other bugs included invisible doors, locks I couldn’t interact with, etc.
Aside from the gun bug in the duct, however, none of the bugs I encountered were enough to stop me or force the restart of a level, but that felt more like dumb luck than anything else.
The presentation is over-the-top awesome; it feels like a blockbuster film from beginning to end, and the developers kept changing things up throughout to maintain the awe. Never before in my entire gaming career (I’m as old as videogames, so we’re talking a substantial stretch of time) have I grinned from ear-to-ear throughout the entirety of a videogame. This amazing atmosphere was more than just entertaining; it was also engaging - I’m convinced that this was why I found myself leaning to look around corners, ducking behind cover, and actually calling out insults in response to taunts from my AI foes.
The story is decent - it feels better than decent for the most part, but I think that’s because the acting and animation really embed you in the experience. Towards the end, things derail a bit, and the ending feels less like an ending and more like a weird way to set you up for some sort of DLC or sequel, but it’s a hell of a ride getting there.
Should you buy it? If you like being entertained, the answer is an emphatic hell yes; I felt like I was actually in an epic popcorn flick right from the very start, and the feeling never once let up (ok, maybe while I was faffing around trying to get through the duct). There are so many epic moments, lots of humour, and even sideways diving in slow-mo while dual-wielding pistols, should that sort of thing interest you (Max Payne in VR, anyone?). It is, quite simply, brilliant, and justification by itself of the purchase of a full PSVR setup. With a bit of polish Blood & Truth would definitely have earned a perfect 10.