‘Blood & Truth’ hands-on preview
“Blood & Truth’ is a polished, cinematic VR experience that will make you feel like an action hero.”
Virtual reality has crystalized video games’ long-held, immersive promise to make you feel like an action star. As developers have begun to work out the basic mechanics of what works and doesn’t work in VR, we’re starting to see the first wave of this sort of cinematic fantasy. Just the other week at a Sony showcase event, we went full 007 in Blood and Truth, a new PlayStation VR-exclusive shooter from Sony’s London Studio, shooting our way through a casino full of thugs to track down a mob boss. It’s nothing we haven’t done in games before, but never so directly.
Blood & Truth is the successor to The London Heist, a fan-favorite morsel of cinematic VR action gameplay from Sony’s PlayStation Worlds for PSVR. In that short, action-packed minigame, the player (in first-person VR, using the Move controllers for their hands) steals a diamond from a fancy manor, which leads to a shootout and dramatic escape. It was just a passing experience — no more than thirty or forty minutes from start to finish — but it offered one of the most tantalizing visions of cinematic, immersive virtual reality experiences available at the launch of the PSVR.
Blood & Truth, announced during Paris Games Week, which comes from same team at Sony London, takes The London Heist to the next level, expanding upon and polishing the experience in every way. Good news: Playing an action hero in VR is just as thrilling as we’d hoped.
VR gunplay: still great
In Blood & Truth you play as Ryan Marks, an elite, British, special forces soldier who returns home only to find that his family has become ensnared in the dangerous London criminal underground, sending him on a risky mission to extricate them. Our demo we broke into a casino to track down a mob lieutenant, who would in turn point us toward his boss. After an initial section of scanning through security cameras to locate our quarry, most of the demo comprised an extended gunplay sequence, moving through the halls of the casino and shooting down guards en route to our target.
Your movement ranges from completely on rails, to teleporting behind discrete cover positions behind cover in combat. The most open section involved moving between cover behind slot machines and counters on the casino floor while taking down guards and planting C4 explosives at fixed points. Restricting player movement to discrete paths and positions does a lot to mitigate potential motion sickness that might arise during a chaotic firefight.
As games like Superhot and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood have demonstrated, the basic mechanics of first-person shooter gameplay translate well to VR: Aiming and pulling the trigger is so satisfyingly literal in Blood & Truth. Gone is the disconnect between dexterous thumbs dancing across a gamepad and enemies falling to headshots.
The basic mechanics of first-person shooter gameplay translated to VR with motion controls are immensely satisfying.
That sense of tangibility is enhanced even further by how you reload, grabbing a clip from your left hip and shoving it into your pistol’s handle. It’s a simple gesture made effective by how forgiving the detection and animation are. Aiming requires a fair degree of finesse, but you don’t have to worry about being taken out of the action as you curse and fumble to reload.
After tracking down your target (and shooting everyone), the paces slows down for a short, interactive narrative scene. Fighting your way past swarms of goons in an intense, on-rails run-and-gun chase, you’ve finally got your target cornered. Now you have the option to essentially play nice or mean by looking at and selecting from binary dialogue choices, hovering to either side of the panicked and cowering man. Another player we watched complete the demo just sidestepped the whole conversation by immediately shooting him in the head. It’s not clear the extent to which you will have real agency in shaping the story through moments like these, but at the very least it was a good example of the range of experiences and interactions contained within Blood & Truth.
John Wick this way comes
Developers on hand mentioned a range of classic genre films that inspired the game, from Die Hard to Snatch, but the comparison that came out first and most frequently was to John Wick. The 2011 Keanu Reeves action film reinvigorated the genre with its slick presentation and balletic gunplay, looking like people wanted video games to feel. Blood & Truth closes that circle of influence, using VR to create an immersive and meticulously constructed action experience that makes you feel like John Wick yourself.
Notably, Blood & Truth does so better than last year’s official John Wick Chronicles for VR that it lacked the kinetic action of the source material, ultimately amounting to an advertisement for the sequel. While Blood & Truth hasn’t quite matched the film’s “gun kata” mode of hyper-stylized fighting, it does demonstrate that appealing VR game design requires genuine innovation, beyond cashing in on obvious concepts. The good stuff lies in the simple, tangible pleasures like loading a clip into your pistol and aiming down the sights, and the only way to get that right is through time, iteration, and experience. The future of VR is bright, but don’t expect the holodeck immediately.
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