If it’s one thing we Americans like, it’s British crime shows. In my day job, I see a lot of love for exports like Prime Suspect, Luther, Sherlock, and Broadchurch. Even over-the-top Guy Ritchie ventures, like Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, get lots of love. Crime-based dramas and action flicks have inspired a long list of video games, though I can’t recall too many outside The Getaway and maybe GTA: London, 1961 that put the player inside their own action adventure movie across the pond. Blood & Truth aims to fill that gap with a Hardcore Henry experience that I found to be really entertaining when you sit back, turn your brain off, and enjoy the ride.
Truth be told, much of what I really enjoyed about Blood & Truth was the cheese. The game is a goofy spectacle of cartoon violence that’s heavy on cliches and corny humor. Never was I made to feel like the game was taking itself seriously. Nor does it waste time getting you straight into the action. You’re cast as Ryan Marks, an All British Hero of the SAS who’s introduced in a pure action movie fashion by doing some wet work in an unnamed Middle Eastern country. After a little light stalking and learning the controls, the guns start blazing as you rescue a fellow soldier before gunning down goons chasing you on motorcycles and pick-up trucks on a long stretch of desert highway. Victory is short-lived, as Ryan is called back home to attend to his family’s affairs after the death of the Marks’ patriarch. It turns out that Ryan’s family is being harassed by a crime boss looking to take over their businesses, leading to a cat and mouse game of theatrical proportions while a mysterious agent (portrayed by veteran actor Colin Salmon) tries to recruit Ryan for a mission of global importance.
When it comes to virtual reality, the immersive experience almost always comes at a sacrifice of something else by necessity. VR is still a new, non-traditional gaming medium which means having to rethink how players interact with the virtual world around them. That typically means teleportation-based movement, limited camera perspectives, or adding “blinders” to lessen the effects of motion sickness. For Blood & Truth, it means being at the mercy of on-rails movement similar to the old Time Crisis arcade games. Since the player cannot move on their own, walking around involves pointing towards markers that automatically push the player forward in and around cover. Later levels introduce branching pathways that always converge to the same location, however, these junctions give you a shot at some minor exploration and you might even find new weapons and collectibles.
Blood & Truth doesn’t skimp on putting the PlayStation Move wands to work. Whether it's using them to pick locks, climb across scaffolding, disabling security terminals, and, yes, shooting people in the face, you’re going to get a lot of mileage out of the peripherals. The game provides a set of different interactive experiences. Infiltration has you pulling out a kit bag to do things like cutting wires, setting charges, changing fuses, and the aforementioned lock picking and using the Move to twist and turn them in a particular fashion. Eventually, though, you’re going to experience Blood & Truth’s bread and butter: over-the-top gun combat that makes you feel like John Wick. The quest for your family’s honor and livelihood begins with a simple pistol but soon enough you’ll have enough weapons to take down a small militia. Light weapons, like pistols and revolvers, hang in holsters at your hips and heavier gear are placed on your back. Ammo clips are stored on your chest and reloading while carrying a gun in both hands makes for a really cool piece of interactive animation that makes you feel like a badass.
Combat is another instance where the game feels not too dissimilar from Time Crisis. Forward movement is limited during an engagements but you can strafe left and right behind cover and get the best vantage point for shooting bad dudes. To their credit, enemies do a good job of keeping you on your toes because they actively advance forward to flank you. This makes the stronger and better-armored enemies far more menacing as they slowly march toward your position, chipping it away piece by piece with their loud, angry shotguns. Using the Move wands as guns has its positives and negatives. They absolutely make you feel like an action movie star. However, the natural floatyness that comes with using peripherals means working a little harder for precision aiming. There are no overly large hitboxes to help you out. The more complex and dense combat arenas delight in throwing lots of enemies at you from multiple directions. In these situations, prioritizing targets and aiming for quick drops while trying not to get killed can get really difficult. Grenades don’t come around often and spotting them in the field is cause for celebration because they’re really good at clearing the room and giving you some necessary breathing space. When everything else fails, quickly tapping the Move button on both wands puts you into a slow-mo forward leap that lets you shoot in real-time while everyone else moves at quarter speed. The gun porn shooting sequences strike a good balance, never feeling overly long or too short and offer a significant challenge. If the game gets too hard, a “Cinematic Mode” offers infinite health, ammo, and makes the bad guys easier to take out.
On the surface, Blood & Truth sounds like a “play and forget it” VR experience. Not so! The inclusion of challenge modes, collectibles, and those junctions you might have missed the first time offer a fairly good reason to come back every once in a while. The completionist will want to go through the game again for the hidden targets alone. These and the random collectibles found in each stage reward stars that unlock weapon mods, like adding sights, silences, scopes, and new painting schemes. Repeated playthroughs probably won’t change your mind on the story but as far as VR shooting galleries go, Blood & Truth is lively and full of fun. I’ve played my fair share of virtual first-person shooters, Arizona Sunshine, Farpoint, and Time Carnage come to mind, but Blood & Truth has personality and silly charm that made it my favorite of the bunch. I’ve also never seen a game that’s so openly pro-vape. You’ll find abandoned vape rigs in every level and try as I might, I can’t make any great, epic clouds. Oh sure, I can eat a cookie in VR and smash beer bottles, but where are my vape clouds, damn it?
When treated like a harmless action movie, it’s hard not to have a rip-roaring time with Blood & Truth. The game knows what it is and has a good sense of humor about itself. Pressing one of the face buttons triggers crude and rude hand gestures that can be deployed at the most inappropriate time. It also lets you twirl guns on your fingers like Revolver Ocelot. Characters speak with humorous gravitas and deliver goofy one-liners like they’re paid to. And can I just say how much I enjoy Colin Salmon? To me, he’s one of those “Oh, hey! It’s that guy!” actors who really sells the characters he plays no matter how minor. The game uses his likeness and while it’s not the most crisp and sharp looking, it really does feel like he’s really there grilling me for information. With its levity and gameplay tailored made to turn you into an action star, Blood & Truth is a popcorn flick of a video game that’s a whole lot of fun.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.