"Blood & Truth": 2.5 stars out of 4. "Everybody's Golf VR": 3.5 stars out of 4.
Virtual reality is still uncharted territory for video games. It's a great expanse of potential,, but 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 the team did.
London Studio's latest project, "Blood & Truth," builds off the work it 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 Ryan Marks, who has an unusual family history: The British commando 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.
"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 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 of 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.
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On the other end of the spectrum, "Everybody's Golf VR" doesn't offer the explosions or visual splendor of London Studio's work, but it does a more successful job at playing to the strengths of virtual reality.
Clap Hanz brings its popular franchise to PlayStation VR, and the gameplay works remarkably well if players use the PlayStation Move controller. Donning the headset transports golfers to one of several courses. Players swing naturally, and depending on the speed and direction on the club face, the ball flies on the fairway.
Just like real golf, the results can be frustrating. Players have to balance the strength and accuracy to get enough distance on their swing while also avoiding the rough. They also have to worry about fades and hooks as they try to control the trajectory of the ball while accounting for the wind and elevation of the course.
All of this makes "Everybody's Golf VR" a more skill-based game. Players don't deal with pressing buttons on meters to simulate a swing. Instead, they can perform practice swings and try to get the perfect amount of strength and club-face accuracy before they address the ball.
When it comes to immersion, "Everybody's Golf VR" does a great job at making players feel as though they're on the greens. They also use the technology to their advantage, putting players in scenic courses by the seaside or fantastical ones where they golf in a reserve filled with dinosaurs. Because players hit the ball from spot to spot, they don't have to worry about motion sickness, and this ensures that they stay immersed.
To make the experience less lonely, the caddies take on a bigger role than in previous games. They offer advice, criticism and praise on the links. Additionally, players encounter events — short vignettes — where they can see the caddies' personality. Strangely, players can form an emotional bond with these characters.
The one drawback to "Everybody's Golf VR" is the sparse number of courses. Players must unlock them and other caddies through the game. It offers an incentive to play, but at the same time, it highlights the limited offerings.
Although the content is disappointing, what players have is extremely good, and "Everybody's Golf VR" is worth it for the $29.99 price and experience.