Virtual gunplay from London

Blood & Truth
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: First-person shooter
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: SIE London Studio
Rating: M, for mature

By Gieson Cacho // The Mercury News

Virtual reality is still uncharted territory for video games. It’s a great expanse of potential but in order to fulfill it, developers have to venture into the unknown and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

One of the teams on the forefront is Sony’s London Studio. The team made a name for itself with the The London Heist, an experience launched in the PlayStation VR Worlds. The game was essentially a high-priced demo disc but the highlight was the work that the team did.

London Studio’s latest project, Blood & Truth, builds off the work they did on London Heist. It expands on the gunplay and slight puzzle elements and intertwines it with a lengthy narrative that follows special-ops soldier named Ryan Marks, who has an unusual family history.

The British commando also happens to be the scion of a crime family with an extensive network of operatives. Unfortunately for Ryan, his father dies and that demise creates a power vacuum in the criminal underworld and an ambitious thug named Anthony Sharp tries to fill it. The ramifications of the takeover have a lasting effect and it will take Ryan through a series of levels as he tries to flip the tables on his rival.

Despite being on rails, Blood & Truth does a good job of giving players a sense of freedom with its gunplay. They can use the Move controller buttons to scramble to predesignate points on the map. From there, they can lean over and around cover to fire at enemies. It feels natural and works most of the time.

The only issue is that the controls for the rifles and military shotguns are clumsy. Having to use the other Move controller to aim a firearm or pump back the weapon is frustrating. It makes some of them unusable. It’s better to one-arm sub-machine guns or rifles as if Ryan were Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando.

The other elements in the Blood & Truth gameplay are the gadgets that Ryan uses to overcome obstacles. He can pick locks, plant C4 charges and defuse electronic systems. This breaks up the gameplay and prevents it from being too repetitive.

In some levels, London Studio attempts to offer another layer of gameplay through stealth, but the team doesn’t quite nail that part of it. Enemies easily pick up on silenced weapons and if players don’t automatically kill an enemy he shouts and alerts everyone else. Divergent routes that let Ryan sneak past the enemy are helpful, but that’s underused along with gameplay techniques found in other stealth titles. For example, it would have been nice to shoot the lights out to remain hidden.

It’s a missed opportunity, but London Studio does a lot to give players an action blockbuster game. The developers use real actors to maintain the aura of believability in the world. The performances are convincing enough to immerse players into the story and the team experiments with the type of feelings VR can give players by putting Ryan through harrowing and chilling situations as he learns the secrets into his family’s dealings.

Blood & Truth isn’t perfect but it blazes a trail for the medium. The game shows others how they can deliver a theatrical story on a brand new stage.