When was the last time you played an action game where you had to put any real thought into reloading?
It’s an abstracted activity, most of the time, bound to a single button or key. Usually, you get into the habit of reloading after any exchange of fire. (Which means your character is leaving a bunch of partially-full magazines lying around everywhere, like that person you knew in college who was completely incapable of ever finishing an entire can of soda.) Reloading’s mostly just there in these games to provide a break in the action, some vague nod to realism, or some degree of additional tactical complexity, but you usually don’t have to think about it beyond that. Aside from the occasional mechanic like Gears of War’s “tactical reloads,” you just hit the button and forget about it.
The above demo and video interview are from a preview event held in October 2017
Blood and Truth, at least in its current state, is a game about that reloading. At its simplest level, it’s just a very British shooter (similar to its predecessor, London Heist) that’s more than a little reminiscent of old arcade games like Time Crisis. You move from cover to cover, shooting and being shot at. So far, so comfortably familiar.
You’ve got a realistic ammunition limit in your guns, and have to reload manually. Your character, a British special forces operative named Ryan Marks, carries spare magazines in a pouch on his chest. You use one controller to grab it with your character’s empty hand, then manually bring it to the port on your gun to reload. It doesn’t take long, but that’s a couple of seconds during which you aren’t returning fire, and that’s long enough to get you into trouble.
Not only is it weirdly immersive, but it really forces you to keep count of your shots in a way that a lot of other games simply don’t. I played a short demo version of Blood and Truth on the floor at PAX West, which was stripped down to its most basic elements. Marks’s family is in the clutches of an unnamed criminal element; Marks is entering a run-down part of the London Underground as part of his endeavors to find and rescue them. That run-down part of London, as it turns out, is the part where somebody’s been arming the chavs, and I ended up in a shootout with what appeared to be the most well-equipped group of football hooligans in the history of fiction.
Playing Blood & Truth made me think a lot about how much tactical-response stuff I’ve inadvertently picked up from years of increasingly realistic shooters, as well as how many terrible habits I’ve gotten into at the same time. For example, dual-wielding in this game is a really stupid idea, because you’ll run both guns dry in seconds, and then you have to laboriously holster at least one gun so you can reload the other.
The guns feature a realistic amount of sway to them, but you can reduce that and stabilize your aim by holding your controllers close together, as if your empty hand is being used to steady your grip on the weapon. It may look cool if you hold your pistol sideways, or fire a sub-machine gun one-handed, but it’s hardly efficient, and when there are five guys bearing down on you, efficiency suddenly matters quite a lot. I started off simply spraying lead in enemies’ general direction, but after a while, I got the hang of things and began dropping fools with precise head and body shots.
There were even a couple of moments where I ran dry in my main gun at a bad time, which forced me to pull out my pistol – holstered on my character’s belt, naturally, forcing me to do a cross-arm draw – and drop a guy like John Wick. The only thing that was missing was the ability to do a New York reload. Hell, if somebody were to add a bunch of doves flying everywhere to this, it could be a John Woo movie.
It sounds simple, but the addition of relatively simple mechanics that mirror actual gun-fighting tactics really adds a lot to Blood and Truth, which would otherwise be a fairly straightforward light gun shooter that happens to be in VR. It also has a “focus mode,” one of those short-lived moments where everything goes into slow motion except you, but the tutorial made a special point of showing it to me and I proceeded to forget all about it. Fortunately, for the sake of the demo, my character’s health was cranked way up, or I’d have been mowed down in my first or second real fight.
There’s definitely something here, although the demo was too brief to say much more than that. My time at PAX West with it was buggy and your character’s disembodied VR hands had a habit of deciding to float around near the middle of the screen, but it was also surprisingly (and a little disturbingly) easy to pick up and roll with. I played a lot of VR shooters at this year’s PAX, but this was the most memorable entirely because it was the most down-to-Earth.
Currently Blood and Truth does not have a definitive release date set, but we were previously told it’s slated for this year exclusively on PSVR.
Thomas Wilde is a freelance gaming journalist. You can follow him on Twitter for more of his work.