From the onset of virtual reality, I’ve hoped for a game that could immerse me into a world and let me live out a story as if I’m actually participating in the narrative. A few games on Sony’s PlayStation VR (PSVR) have come close to that goal, but there was always one thing holding it back. SUPERHOT put me into an action film, but the art direction, faceless enemies, and grid-like maps took me out of the experience to some degree. Arizona Sunshine came the closest, but it never felt, well, real. In Blood & Truth, those lines are blurred even further, and my dream of living in my own summer action film has come true.
Developed by SIE’s London Studio, Blood & Truth tells the story of Ryan Marks, a former Special Forces operative who is called home after his father dies, forcing him to deal with a hostile — and I mean hostile — takeover of his family’s business by ruthless criminal boss Tony Sharp. Marks, along with his siblings and widowed mother, takes the fight to their enemies, exacting vengeance as any good action hero would — with lots of bullets, explosions, and well, blood and truth.
After a military mission to rescue a captured comrade — which serves as the game’s tutorial — Blood & Truth really gets going by thrusting the player right into the conflict between these two warring families. Highly-detailed cinematics put you squarely in each scene — before I realized that the character who was recounting my father’s death was, in fact, my mother, I spent a little too much time examining her character model. Don’t judge.
Once the game gets going, the PS Move controllers feel completely natural. You have ammo clips in a pouch on your chest, and the side holster on your left hip holds a fairly standard pistol. As you progress, you’ll collect assorted guns and rifles that are stored on your back, and reaching for both feels incredibly fluid and life-like. You can even dual wield weapons, but reloading requires you to grab a fresh clip and actually insert it into the weapon — it’s impossible to do so with a weapon in each hand. If you go that route, just know that you are relying on the ammo in your weapons, and taking the time to holster a gun in order to reload is the difference between life and death. Personally, I don’t feel the gamble is worth it.
Luckily, Blood & Truth offers you plenty of ammo along the way, usually just sitting out in the open. You can easily grab an ammo box and bring it to your chest pouch to magically create clips — easy peasy. There are also a few contextual events that come up, like picking locks or setting bombs. When the need arises, Ryan automatically pulls out a gig bag that has all the tools needed, which are all controlled using the Move controllers. It’s all fairly intuitive, which helps to keep you immersed when the action heats up — I am really good at picking locks, it turns out.
London Studios has also littered each mission with collectibles that you permanently unlock simply by physically picking them up. Thankfully, you can immediately drop them, as they are moved to your home base automatically, allowing you to examine them at a more appropriate time. I even had the opportunity to pick up a vape pen and take a hit, and sure enough, as I inhaled in real life, Ryan took a hit in-game. I’m still, to this day, perplexed as to how this happened. I understand that blowing into a whistle — something else you can do in the game — makes sense, as the microphone on the headset pics up on that, but to inhale? Can the mic register me sucking in a breath? And then hold it in before I release the vape cloud? It’s sorcery, I tell you.
Weapons that are unlocked during the mission can be upgraded using the workbench at your home base. There’s a good deal of freedom here, as you can add attachments, like new sights or silencers, or paint and decorate your weapons. As you’ve probably guessed by now, it’s all handled with the Move controllers, giving you full control of the customization process.
As the story in Blood & Truth moves on, Ryan finds himself smack dab in the middle of some classic action film scenarios. An early mission has you infiltrating a casino to get at one of the lieutenants of the rival family. You have to find a way in, make your way to the camera room to find your target — which includes manually manipulating the CCTV system — then you go after the guy. Of course, he has a small army gathered to stop you, and that’s where the fun begins.
Despite some VR console games, I found the shooting in Blood & Truth to be pretty accurate. Aiming a weapon feels natural, firing off shots feels smooth, and reloading quickly becomes second nature. The PS Camera does a great job of picking up movement, even in the chaos of a firefight. I have never once felt lag or been thwarted by unregistered inputs. Movement is mapped to the Move button on each controller, and you can shuffle to designated cover spots, marked by white arrows. This disrupts the immersion to a degree, but it’s a necessary inclusion — the PSVR is a headset rig and not a room-scale VR solution. It’s a small trade-off, but it’s still a wonderful experience in every other way.
Going back to that early mission, as you stalk the target through his casino, you also want to hurt his enterprise, so you leave bombs throughout the gaming floor, linked to a dead man switch you carry. This comes into play later when things get truly hairy and you need to make a quick escape. Lighting the bombs triggers a scene that would make Die Hard proud, and as you are blasted out of the casino by the explosion, you experience the entire setpiece from a glass elevator. I laughed out loud — and maybe I screamed — during this sequence of events. It’s what made me fall madly in love with Blood & Truth. And this was just the first main story mission, mind you. Wait until you have to board a moving jetliner. It makes Fast and the Furious look like a Disney movie and you are living it every step of the way.
Blood & Truth is the VR action game I’ve been dreaming about since the PSVR was announced. Other games have come close to this level of realism and immersion, but there was always something holding them back. London Studios went all in while creating this one, and I thank them every day for it — I finally get to experience my dream of living an action movie.
The PSVR is coming up on three years on the market, and this is the first game that truly feels like the future is here, with all of the aspects of VR coming together to create one hell of a gaming experience. Luckily, I can slide the headset on at any time, stop being boring old Jon Hueber, and become Ryan Marks, badass Spec Ops soldier on a mission of vengeance. That right there is what makes Blood & Truth great.
This review is based on the PSVR version of the game, running on a PlayStation 4 Pro. A copy was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.