I could tell Blood & Truth was special when I realized I had been playing for a solid half hour and hadn’t shot a gun or killed a thug that entire time but remained entirely invested. This is the kind of game that you’ll pick up out of interest for its big set piece actions scenes, satisfying gunplay, and knack for making you feel like the star of your own action movie, but you’ll end up staying for the charming characters.
Blood & Truth is the latest big-budget PSVR exclusive and this time it’s coming directly from Sony’s own London Studio. They’re pouring a serious amount of work and money into this title, adding up to what might be the most sizable investment into a single new IP we’ve seen in VR yet. Luckily, it pays off.
In Blood & Truth you play as Ryan Marks, the ex-military son of a massive international family business full of shady deals, backroom politics, and dangerous messes. You’re called back home after the death of your father and have to fend off a rival businessman from trying to overtake what your family has built.
The drama between the Marks family and the rival business venture didn’t do a whole lot for me truth be told, but the characters themselves were fantastic. Everything from the facial animations and voice acting felt incredibly genuine and earnest. One of my biggest pet peeves with cinematic VR games such as this is when the characters go out of their way to look you in the eyes constantly to try and make you feel present — which incidentally does the opposite — but in Blood & Truth everyone responds just as much to one another as they do you.
Every now and then I’d catch my sister stealing a quick sly look at me to make a face in response to your vulgar brother, or I’d notice my mother’s worried gaze as we discussed the dangerous details of our upcoming heist. It felt more genuine than most relationships I’ve had with digital characters and I was hungry for more.
Most of the first half of the narrative is told through a series of flashbacks in an interrogation room, but eventually events start to catch up to the present day. London Studio have done a remarkable job of packing this with every type of set piece you’d expect to see in a Hollywood-caliber summer blockbuster, but this time you get to act it out in VR.
Gunplay feels really, really good — at least as long as the PS Move controllers are cooperating. You spend a large chunk of Blood & Truth holding your arms up in the air to point at digital enemies in VR, so after a while the classic PSVR drifting issues eventually arise. Aiming requires lots of precision, so it’s frustrating to say the least when you miss headshots because of inferior light-based motion controllers.
You’ve got two hip holster slots and two back shoulder slots so you never feel restricted with your arsenal at all. Every weapon is reloaded the same way too — just grab a clip from your chest and stick it in the gun. Once you get into a rhythm with the later missions you’ll be swapping guns and reloading quickly with ease; it’s really got a fast-paced John Wick vibe when you’re in the groove.
There are car chases across freeways, foot chases through winding passageways, you’ll jump out of several windows in slow motion, dual wield weapons as bodies fly through the air, and even smooth talk your way past security a time or two. Rather than plop you into the middle of a large open space and ask you to find your way with clunky PS Move controllers, the game does most of the heavy lifting for you.
Simply put, there is no traditional free movement in Blood & Truth at all. Instead, there are hovering arrows sprinkled throughout every level that you can look at and press a button to move towards. Once behind cover you can strafe from one point to the next, but once you’ve picked where to go there’s no way to control your movement again until you’ve reached that destination. It feels a bit like you’re on rails, because you technically are, but you at least have some control over where you go and when.
To be honest the movement system feels restrictive at first. For example, the opening level of the game takes place in a pretty large base that’s found in a desert environment. Rather than explore the base like I wanted to do initially I was forced to head down underground through a bunker entrance.
And while playing if you realize you missed a weapon cache or collectible of some kind then tough luck — this movement system literally does not allow backtracking. Even if you turn your body and head all the way around to look at the spot you were just in there is no way to move backwards.
For the vast majority of the game the movement system is honestly not a problem at all. It’s designed around this system specifically and there is a lot of variety between fighting off enemies, taking cover, picking lots, searching the environment for items, sneaking around, etc. You don’t have a chance to get bored. But during a few firefights only being able to strafe from side-to-side instead of actually flanking enemies or finding better cover was extremely annoying. During one scene in a large elevator shaft a few hours into the game you get surrounded and overwhelmed quickly. I hadn’t died once all game and I died six times in a row at this part because of the movement system.
But that being said, since the game is always happening in front of you, the upside to this is that Blood & Truth is expertly paced almost always. There is never a dull moment and it’s basically impossible to get stuck. Rather than giving you a world to explore or setting you off on an adventure to define yourself as the next action hero, instead you’re here to specifically play Ryan Marks’ story. The plot points are written and the set pieces are ready to be triggered no matter what you do so it feels more like you’re roleplaying an existing character than it does you have been invited into the world wholesale.
Blood & Truth took me about five hours to complete on Normal difficulty, but I missed a lot of stuff. Every mission has collectible items scattered around that you can find as well as targets that reward you with stars when shot. Back at base before each mission you can browse and tinker with collectibles on a trophy shelf and spend stars to unlock new weapon mods.
There’s also a shooting range there with a few targets and a ton of glass bottles and challenge missions to offer a bit of replayability through time attack focused missions. A lesser Cinematic difficulty exists as well if you’re not interested in much of a challenge and don’t mind missing some trophies.
If you’re playing on a PS4 Pro it does look better by way of some specific enhancements. Nothing too dramatic, but the resolution looked crisper and lighting specifically seemed improved across the board. It still looks fine on a standard PS4, but obviously a Pro will have the best experience.
Despite the sometimes frustrating movement system and occasional pacing issues, Blood & Truth is a tour de force for PSVR. Sony’s London Studio should be proud of what they’ve accomplished here by turning the brief London Heist demo from PlayStation VR Worlds into a fully-fledged narrative that features some of the best performances we’ve seen in VR yet. The action is pulse-pounding and so bombastic it rivals even the biggest summer blockbusters. This one is easily recommended to any PSVR owner that likes to shoot bad guys and watch stuff blow up.
Blood & Truth is available exclusively on PSVR starting May 28, 2019 for $39.99. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.