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  • Outer Wilds Review - Extraterrestrial Investigation
    by Alessandro Barbosa on June 9, 2019 at 1:44 am

    For a game about interplanetary exploration, Outer Wilds can often feel incredibly small. Flying from one planet to the next takes a matter of seconds, making it easy to ping pong around the game's singular solar system. The brevity of traveling through this handcrafted collection of areas to explore might seem strange at first--especially when the opening minutes of Outer Wilds place such a heavy emphasis on the importance of your mission to document the unknown. However, it doesn't take long for your expectations of Outer Wilds to be completely flipped on their head, giving way to captivating mysteries to solve and difficult questions surrounding mortality to confront. These questions lead you on unforgettable adventures in which each piece of the story you unearth feels as rewarding as the last.You play as a citizen of a race of four-eyed, jolly-looking aliens, and you have been selected as the next of your kin to take to the stars. Nestled in the cozy forests of a small planet called Timber Hearth, you and your brethren contemplate the same questions that you've likely thought of before. Just where did we come from? Have there been others before us? And if so, where are they now? These questions drive you to explore the solar system you're in, risking your life in search of answers. Armed with nothing more than a spacesuit, a nifty language translator, and tools for surveying anything from distress signals to harmful invisible gases, you're left to take flight in your crudely constructed spaceship and venture off in any direction.With suggestions that other life existed in this solar system before you, you're tasked with finding evidence to support that claim. Dilapidated architecture from a forgotten age can be found on most planet surfaces, with translatable foreign texts allowing you to piece together the mystery of where these civilizations are today. Your exploration is restricted by a celestial ticking time bomb: The sun at the center of the solar system implodes after 22 minutes and sends you back to the same dreamy campsite on your home planet to start this Groundhog Day loop again. With each new run you can collect more pieces of Outer Wilds' narrative puzzle, slowly piecing together what might be causing the rapid decline of your neighborhood star, before embracing each inevitable death.Death isn't detrimental in a traditional sense in Outer Wilds. In a way, it's beautiful. The somber tune that plays moments before the light disappears from the solar system signals your death, but it's also an indicator of how much you might have discovered in that one life. It's satisfying to have a productive run that unlocks multiple new threads for you to follow up on in your next attempt, pushing you to new planets to explore and narrative puzzles to solve. Other times it's just as poignant to accept an uneventful run and just embrace the gorgeous scenery around you. Sitting on top of a peak and watching the sun die out is oddly soothing after uneventful expeditions, letting you reflect on your misguided choices and realign yourself for the next journey.Exploration and the knowledge you obtain with it is the only way to progress through Outer Wilds. As you come across clues and discoveries, they're recorded in a useful log aboard your ship. These clues are stitched together and color-coded to help guide you along the various dangling threads of the story. The game's open-ended structure lets you tackle whichever parts of the mystery you want to, in any order, before they inevitably start linking together to bring the bigger picture into focus. These links aren't clear directions towards the next piece of the puzzle, but instead are suggestive nudges that help you determine when it's safe to move on from one discovery to another. This helps make each of these discoveries feel earned while also avoiding potentially frustrating barriers to your progress.Strong writing brings you into Outer Wilds' world, and unearthing even the smallest bits of this larger story is a rewarding undertaking. Its myriad of uncoverable dialogue records are charming while always maintaining a purpose, giving you small nuggets of information to ponder even in the most seemingly throwaway conversations. The preserved exchanges between children might describe a game they created to pass the time in dark and gloomy catacombs beneath a planet's surface, which contains a helpful clue for how to get to a hidden area. By contrast, you can also stumble upon the bleak distress signals that never reached their intended saviors or complex plans for alien contraptions that drove past civilizations to make alarmingly dangerous decisions. You grow attached to the recurring names in conversations and become invested in their stories, even when you know many of them don't have happy endings.Without an explicit guide to point you in the direction of your next great find, each new discovery feels like a hard-earned reward. You'll slowly be able to piece together events taking place on other ends of the solar system, slowly letting your own theories make way for a clearer understanding of events that truly transpired before presenting even more questions. This loop of discovery drives you towards exploring every inch of every planet you can, each of which holds its own delightful little puzzles to solve.Outer Wilds features just a handful of planets and other celestial objects that you're able to explore on foot, but no two are exactly alike. They each feature unique characteristics that present different challenges you need to overcome to simply explore them. The Hourglass Twins, for example, closely orbit the sun but stay dangerously close to one another, with the gravitational pull of one absorbing the sandy surface of the other and slowly unearthing new areas for you to explore over time. A fast-traveling comet known as the Interloper has an icy exterior that hides a labyrinth of caves underneath its crust, which can only be explored once it travels close enough to the sun for entrances to be melted open. An orbiting moon littered with erupting volcanoes that project volatile balls of lava into space makes simple surface exploration of Brittle Hollow treacherous. You have to uncover a way underneath the Hollow's crust to safely traverse it, discovering previous civilizations that grappled with the same dangers seemingly eons ago.Figuring out how to safely traverse each planet is an engaging puzzle to solve, especially when it requires an understanding of their positions within the solar system and at what times they're best to tackle. Stumbling upon entrances to new areas by accident or observing mysterious behaviors when exploring a planet make each of these spaces more detailed and expansive than their small physical sizes suggest, and it's even more surprising when many of them contain large cities hidden underneath their crusts waiting to be picked apart. The mechanical and visual variety of each of these planets makes exploring each new one a tantalizing treat.It's disappointing then that the rules governing simple movement and space flight in Outer Wilds are counter-intuitive to this curious poking and prodding of its world. Space flight in your ship and planetary surface exploration with your jetpack is strictly bound to the rules of physics. You need to wrestle with different gravitational magnitudes and directions as you navigate using thrusters that fire off in six directions, adding or subtracting to your motion in each associated direction.The somber tune that plays moments before the light disappears from the solar system signals your death, but it's also an indicator of how much you might have discovered in that one life.It takes time to learn when to start applying reverse thrust on an approach to a planet or how to delicately jet upwards on a planet's surface without accidentally breaking through the atmosphere and into space, but no matter how much you practice, these actions never feel completely natural. Small errors are punished with untimely, frustrating deaths. You can spend minutes waiting for the right time to navigate to a certain area, only to waste all of it over a mistake brought on by Outer Wilds' unintuitive control scheme. It's at odds with the rest of the game.Outer Wilds’ deeply captivating narrative and plentiful mysteries push you further into exploring its richly varied and stunning solar system. The time loop you’re trapped in lets you craft bite-sized expeditions that all end up telling their own stories, irrespective of whether you make a monumental discovery or simply encounter a playful interaction. Having a tool to neatly document your discoveries helps you slowly piece together a tale filled with charming writing, and one that presents its own open-ended questions that add emotional heft to the numerous exchanges you parse through during your travels. By letting you chart your own course and piece together its mystery at your own pace, Outer Wilds makes each of its expeditions feel incredibly personal and absolutely unmissable. […]

  • Persona Q2 Review - You Oughta Be In Pictures
    by Heidi Kemps on June 6, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    It looks like the 3DS's time in the spotlight is over. We've seen 3DS support dwindle over the past few years, but there's at least one more show to see on the long-lived portable before it takes a bow. Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth brings the familiar casts of Persona 3, Persona 4, and Persona 5 together for a meaty RPG adventure that lives up to the reputation of its big-screen counterparts. If Persona Q2 winds up being the last big event on the 3DS, it's a fine way to end the handheld's run.Persona Q2 begins with Persona 5's Phantom Thieves on a routine mission when they find themselves in a movie theater with a creepy projectionist and two avid filmgoers. With seemingly no way out of this strange miniplex, the team find themselves engaging with film on a whole new level: exploring the elaborate, first-person dungeons contained within the projections. These twisted takes on superhero, disaster, and sci-fi films aren't just dramatizations; they feature familiar faces and scenarios with potentially deadly consequences for the Phantom Thieves. It also appears that a few other folks may have stumbled into the cinema world, so it's up to you to find the others, help them all band together, and reveal the mystery behind this strange theatre as one big Persona-using team.Much like the previous 3DS game, Persona Q, Q2 eschews many of the concepts seen in the primary Persona games, instead going with systems derived from Atlus's Etrian Odyssey series of first-person dungeon-crawlers. You conduct careful, step-by-step mapping of themed labyrinths, but rather than explore with your party and enemies visible on a map, you face random encounters. While Persona proper has you exploiting enemy weaknesses for extra turns in combat, in Persona Q2 critical hits and enemy weaknesses boost your combatants for their next strike. Limited-inventory item management, side-questing, and team composition are all crucial, and Q2's stand-in for Etrian Odyssey's freeform character-building--the ability for all characters to equip power- and skill-augmenting sub-Personas--allows you to assemble a team of formidable fighters provided you make good calls with Persona fusion and skill inheritance. It feels like Atlus took the best elements of both game series--Etrian’s sense of adventure, exploration, and danger, and Persona’s elaborate collection/fusion systems and character interactions--and worked to make them meld together as best they could.The stark differences in gameplay might throw Persona fans who aren't familiar with Etrian Odyssey's quirks for a bit of a loop, but Persona Q2 has some nice quality-of-life enhancements to make things a bit easier to adjust to. For starters, you can set the game to auto-map a good chunk of the dungeon on its own, saving you time you'd normally spend drawing squares and walls for your map on the bottom screen--though you'll still need to fill in some other details on your own. Helpful indicators aid you with planning for battle; an icon indicates how close you are to a random encounter happening, while dots on the map indicating the fearsome roaming FOE sub-bosses change color based on how much of a threat they are to the party at their current level. Enemy weaknesses in battle will be highlighted once they have been discovered, and should you ever find combat a bit too much to handle, you can freely change the difficulty via the in-game options to make things a bit easier. And if things go south, you'll be automatically healed to max the moment you step outside of the dungeon. This helps make things more inviting to new players who might not be used to the Etrian Odyssey style of play, and are good quality-of-life improvements in their own right.But while the gameplay needle swings further to the Etrian Odyssey side of things, the presentation of the story, character interactions, visual flair, and music are pure Persona through and through. From the moment the bite-sized Persona 5 cast first appears on the screen, you know you're in for a game full of cute, fun character interactions. There's plenty of story and dialogue both in and out of the dungeons, and while there are some serious moments, it tends to be more on the humorous side overall. (It's several hours of game time before most of the Persona 3 and 4 cast show up, so if you're a purist fan of either of those two titles, you might be waiting a while before your favorites join.)There are even character-bonding “Special Screening” side-quests that are somewhat similar to Persona’s much-beloved Social Links, but with a lot more dungeon exploration and fighting. These are a smart way to bring Persona’s social-development gameplay into the mix while giving the player more gameplay meat to chew on. Finishing these quests can yield extra Unison Attack skills between characters (with a supremely adorable associated animation) that provide varied beneficial effects.Visually, the game makes the most of the 3DS' limited hardware. The characters' tiny renditions are charming and faithful to their original designs, the environments are distinct and memorable, and many of the game's cinematics are rendered in-engine, adding to a strong overall sense of visual coherency. The only real knock here is the recycled enemy designs, many of which are still leftover from the days of Persona 3 on the PS2. The music is also top-notch, featuring many new and familiar compositions that are as earworm-y as you'd expect from a series known for catchy tunes.There are a few minor irritations, but they don’t steal the show. Having a big crossover cast from Persona 3, 4, and 5 is great for story and character vignettes, but there's so much overlap between character combat archetypes and specialties that you'll probably wind up sidelining most of them. That might not sound so bad, but there's no passive EXP gain, and sometimes you'll encounter lucrative Special Screenings where you're asked to use a specific character or a difficult battle where one character archetype works particularly well -- and those members lagging in levels will be a pain to level up unless they’re “motivated.” (There are items and quests that expedite this somewhat, but many of the items are paid DLC.)Combat can also feel wildly unbalanced at times. In an effort to add Persona-style elements to Etrian Odyssey's combat, Persona Q2 incentivizes you to knock enemies down and boost your fighters by targeting enemy weaknesses or landing critical hits, somewhat similarly to Shin Megami Tensei IV. However, fighting sometimes feels so skewed towards weakness exploitation that it can make the difference between a quick, momentary encounter and a drawn-out, messy slog. If you don't have access to whatever skill an enemy's weak to, you're generally forced into less effective physical combat in an effort to conserve valuable skill points, and your ability to lock them down goes out the window. It's frustrating to wander into a new area, fight a new enemy, and then watch them mop the floor with your team because you don't have the one thing they're weak to on your current squad. Not being able to swap Personas mid-battle, as you can in mainline Persona games, makes this issue worse. Thankfully, once you do know and prepare in advance for enemy weaknesses, it’s much easier - but the trial-and-error part can be somewhat irritating.But a few annoyances don't drag down Persona Q2 significantly. As a dungeon crawler, it's challenging and engaging, but doesn’t drag or feel overwhelming. As a piece of Persona fan service, it delivers the goods with delightful crossover character antics and an enjoyable theme. It all combines into a solid little RPG that can keep you hooked for its entire runtime. The curtains may be closing on the 3DS, but Persona Q2 is a terrific way to end the show. […]

  • Trover Saves The Universe Review - Couch Potatoes
    by Justin Clark on May 30, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    If Justin Roiland's name wasn't on the title screen, it would still be glaringly obvious who was responsible for Trover Saves The Universe. It would be clear within 10 seconds of hitting the start button when a massive blue alien shaped like the galaxy's most abominable chicken nugget shows up and uses your two adorable pet dogs as his new eyeballs; it would be undeniable the second our hero, the neurotic purple alien Trover, opens his mouth and the voice of Morty comes streaming out. The fascinating thing isn't that we've got another video game from the twisted mind behind Rick & Morty. It's in watching those twisted M-rated ideas mingle with all the trappings of a bog-standard 3D E-for-Everyone platformer.The bonkers premise is that the aforementioned chicken nugget, named Glorkon, has somehow obtained god-like power from sticking your dogs in his eyes and will be kickstarting the apocalypse post-haste. You, meanwhile, are a hapless, milquetoast sucker from the suburban world of Chairorpia, where the entire population is bound permanently to floating couches, doomed to forever watch a soap opera that suspiciously feels like it's trying to teach you the game's controls. Our hero, Trover, eventually shows up on your doorstep and tells you he needs your help to take down Glorkon. Using the unstoppable might of power babies--an entire species of adorable multicolored cherubs who actually belong in the eyeballs of Trover's people--and with you at Trover's back controlling his actions, the two of you set out on a galaxy-spanning quest to figure out how to take Glorkon down.There's a lot going on there, and it's not even scratching the surface of the absolutely bewildering cavalcade of profane oddity that follows. The very first level, your quest for a special crystal that will allow you to visit Glorkon's home dimension, is interrupted by an annoying little cuss named Mr. Popup who tells you about an alien neighbor who not only ate his family and is holding several pregnant Popup species females hostage so he can eat their babies, but more importantly, has no regard for his neighborhood's real estate zoning agreements. That's what kind of ride this is, and it only gets weirder and darker from there. Probably the best running gag in the game is a recurring one in which you inadvertently ruin the lives of the misshapen folks who sell you upgrades, each time accidentally killing their pets or relatives. Conceptually, it's wonderfully devious and outlandish, peppered in with moments of stomach-churning bodily function humor.It's the execution that's less consistent, mostly due to the long, stuttery, and often yelled improv takes of Roiland and the rest of the cast just endlessly riffing to fill time. The game rarely allows for moments of silence to let the jokes that work land. More annoyingly, it allows too much time for the more obnoxious characters to work your every last nerve. Meanwhile, there's rarely enough silence to think your way through the more involved puzzles, which sometimes turns tricky into infuriating unless you turn down the dialogue for a couple of minutes. And that's a shame, because many of the dialogue-based jokes often do land, though you'll just have to take my word on that since absolutely none of the best examples are even remotely repeatable here. What I can say is the runtime of my first playthrough was likely tanked because I would spend minutes on end just listening to unaware enemies talk amongst themselves about being clones of Glorkon, going on about their workout routines, their weird alien sex lives, and how they'd kill Trover and how much he sucks.Eventually, though, you need to take out some of those hilarious guards, and unlike Squanch Games' previous title, the too-obtuse-for-its-own-good Accounting+, Trover Saves The Universe is almost laughably simple when it comes to the action side of being an action platformer. You can jump, deal both light and heavy attacks, and roll. It's all much like the most elementary action-platforming principles in recent memory, with very few surprises or close shaves or tension until the latter hours. The only real complexity comes from the fact that the game is predominantly designed around VR. The game can be played without it, but the camera in particular is locked to fixed points in the stage and only reorients when Trover stands in a specific point along his path, allowing you to hit a button and teleport to his location. You can raise and lower your chair in-game to get a better vantage point, but the angles still aren't always where you want them to be, and it's awkward overall.There's a telekinesis ability you pick up later to move blocks and environmental items around, and it's not nearly as intuitive using the right stick instead of your head to swing the camera around. For most of the game, though, there isn't really anything you need to formulate strategy around. Enemies are painfully basic grunts, usually taking three or four hits to go down. Shielded enemies have only one attack with a huge wind-up. Combat only gets harder extremely late in the game once enemies with body armor, who can only be taken out using Telekinesis, show up. The only real trick is getting the right perspective to see everything in the environment. You need to be diligent about this to find the extra power babies hidden around every stage, which are worth collecting; they give you extra health, and the descriptions for each are some of the best writing in the game.Ultimately, even with all his neuroses and nonstop running mouth, Trover is the game's saving grace.There's nothing special about Trover Saves The Universe from a gameplay standpoint. There's some lip service towards branching paths depending on decisions made during gameplay, but none of them drastically change the game one way or the other, aside from some alternate dialogue in the ending and a few extra trophies (the descriptions for which are hilarious, I might add). That leaves it to the comedy and concept to do most of the heavy lifting, much of which is very aware of its basic nature, and it makes it hard to be bored or unmotivated by how rudimentary it all is when Trover and many of the characters in the world around them are just as irked as you are at having to deal with a lot of the middling parts. Ultimately, even with all his neuroses and nonstop running mouth, Trover is the game's saving grace. The more Trover adjusts to being your sidekick, the more invested he gets in seeing this quest through, and the more relatable he becomes (even if he is, by his own admission, racist against Chairorpians). He's the guy trying to save the universe, but just so he can get back to his original plan, which is telling his boss off and getting sloshed at his favorite bar.Essentially, Trover Saves The Universe is a really messed up alien buddy comedy. The work involved in spending time in this universe with these creatures is easy to a fault, but it's work being done with a hilarious partner who's often just as bored, annoyed, angry, or grossed out as you are. It's not the smoothest ride, but you've got the right company. […]

  • Pathologic 2 Review - The Big Sick
    by David Wildgoose on May 30, 2019 at 6:00 am

    Twenty-three people died last night. I couldn't do anything about it. Even if I had known how to save them I doubt I'd have been able to succeed. In Pathologic 2--a reimagining of the original Pathologic, itself a nightmarish adventure game from another era--you play a doctor who can barely save himself, let alone the wretched lives of those he encounters. Failure is your constant companion. Some games make you work hard for success, promoting that the rewards taste greater this way. Here, you're reduced to a beggar, pleading for the merest scrap, and even then Pathologic 2 will likely deny it to you.Right from the outset, Pathologic 2 leaves you feeling disoriented. The prologue flits from one short, cryptic scene to the next, pausing only to let you ponder whether what you just experienced--a man waking from a coffin on a train, a fistfight among stone monuments, a giant bull, you murdering three men--actually happened or if it was a dream sequence or even some kind of hallucination. Once you've reached the game proper, two things become clear. One, you have arrived in town at the summons of your father, a respected surgeon, only to find him dead and you a suspect. Two, no one can give you a straight answer about anything.This may give the impression that Pathologic 2 is something of a murder mystery. And in a sense, it is. Your father's death is the driving narrative force behind your exploration of your childhood home town. However, as you wander the streets seeking answers from important figures and old acquaintances, you reveal more mysteries to investigate. Why is the supply train late? Why are crows suddenly circling the old cathedral? What is this game the gangs of street children are inviting you to play? What's up with the impossibly-designed structure looming over the western horizon? And most notably, what's behind the apocalyptic plague now sweeping the town?For the most part, Pathologic 2 is content to provide little in the way of answers to such questions, preferring instead to deal in metaphors, obscure Steppe mythology and sudden leaps of dream logic. Talking to a major NPC can very often feel like two people slinging nonsequiturs at each other until dialogue options are exhausted and the plot ticks inexorably forward. The writing here is mostly good, drawing on a range of rich imagery, so this is a deliberate stylistic choice to unsettle players through confusion and obfuscation rather than the result of inadequate translation from the developer's native Russian.This sort of scattered, dizzying feeling of events that just won't quite come into focus is illustrated by what passes for the game's quest log. As you accumulate clues, they are added to your Thoughts screen and are represented by a floating collection of nodes, each one an idea or hunch that may connect to others or may be drifting all alone. Some of them do correspond to specific locations on the town map, helpfully proffering a rare moment of explicit instruction to "Go here," but typically they're little more than reminders of leads you should try to follow up somehow, if you have the time.The passage of time is a constant pressure that reaches its heavy, nagging hands into every aspect of your travels. It's there in the day/night cycle that sees the streets become dangerous when the sun goes down and the plague's death toll ringing out when the clock strikes midnight. And it's also in the urgency felt by leads that expire if their deadlines pass unattended, causing you to lose out on experiencing situations that only occur at certain hours. You can't be everywhere and you can't save everyone, as the loading screens are at pains to frequently remind.It's hard enough finding the time to save yourself. Not because you've been accused of murder and it's going to be difficult to clear your name, but because Pathologic 2 is a survival simulation at heart, and one that is unusually obsessed with the physical body. You have an overall health bar that is supported by secondary hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and infection meters, and it is to the game's detriment that you spend most of your time fretting about survival instead of contemplating the more metaphysical matters of the story.These survival mechanics might have made you feel stressed about the dire circumstances you're in--and on a deeper thematic level got you thinking about the collection of blood, nerves and bones you comprise--but the execution here is lacking. You're in a desperate situation, there's a plague that has everyone scared, there's a genuine shortage of supplies, so yes, it makes sense that you'd be forced to scavenge for scraps of food and barter with other townsfolk for some repairs to your clothes. The idea is sound. In practice, Pathologic 2 has you rummaging through every trash can, hitting up every NPC for a trade, and breaking into every home you pass in the hopes of finding a way to support the dozen or so meals you need to consume each day just to stay alive.Worse, this tedious busywork is a huge distraction from the reasons why you're doing any of it. I love all these strange people, and their haunting, inscrutable ways. I want to understand their strange, bleak lives in this strange, bleak town. But the trials you're forced to endure to reach that understanding are too painful. It hurts. Ultimately I just wanted to walk across town to chase up a plot thread without having to first break into a house to find some peanuts in a drawer that I could trade with an urchin for a fish that I could eat so as not to collapse from hunger before I reached my destination.Pathologic 2 is the product of a perverse design philosophy. It's alternately intriguing and off-putting; it draws you in with its eerie, dreamlike setting and cast of unnaturally eccentric characters, but then it pushes you away with its nagging, mundane demands. In the end, I was resigned to let failure take me. […]

  • Blood and Truth Review - On The Move
    by Alessandro Barbosa on May 30, 2019 at 12:36 am

    As it's a first-person shooter, it's not hard to imagine Blood and Truth working without VR. But the ways it reinvigorates some of the genre's mechanics also wouldn't be possible without it. Its first-person shooter action is still beholden to some of the inaccuracies and annoyances with PSVR and its less-than-precise tracking. But it also uses these forms of input to give you a satisfying amount of control over each firefight and the various activities between them. Whether it's tearing off grenade pins with your teeth or hanging from scaffolding while returning fire, Blood and Truth does an admirable job expanding on familiar shooter concepts while maintaining a comfortable VR experience.Blood and Truth can only be played with two Move controllers. You're explicitly told to play from a seated position, and you’re given numerous points around your torso to interact with. Putting a hand to your chest, for example, will let you grab stored ammunition for reloading, while you can find handgun holsters on both your hips and slings for larger weapons behind your shoulders. Blood and Truth makes you move to reach the weapons you need at the moment you need them, while also making these movements easy and natural to remember.There's a slightly long calibration process that helps make each of these motions smooth and accurate. A lot of care is taken to ensure that you're being tracked correctly at all times, which helps when you're flung into some fast-paced shootouts. The accurate tracking produces one of the most comfortable experiences I've ever had using PSVR. Although Blood and Truth doesn't completely eradicate some tracking issues (which are more hardware related), it entirely sidesteps common issues such as camera drifting and annoyingly erratic motion-tracking losses.That isn't to say issues aren't frustrating when they do crop up. It's common to wrestle with a two-handed assault rifle and its attached scope while the game struggles to determine the angle that you're trying to aim at. This leads to numerous frustrating deaths when the situation demands more dexterity than the hardware is capable of providing you, deflating otherwise challenging encounters with failures that feel out of your control.Blood and Truth almost successfully distracts you from this by giving you much more to do with your hands, enhancing its otherwise rote first-person shooting. Weapons such as a pump-action shotgun feel more satisfying to use when you're grasping the pump handle with your free hand and actively pulling back to reload after every shot, while a silenced pistol has tangibly more accuracy after you rest your free hand over to the side of it for added stability. Blood and Truth lets you get ridiculous with how you approach combat, too, allowing you to wield a powerful assault rifle in one hand and a sawed-off shotgun in the other at the expense of accuracy.Your movement in Blood and Truth is limited, but that helps the action flow smoothly. Blood and Truth only ever has you facing in a direction it determines, giving you the control to move to predetermined areas in front of your or strafe to the side at the press of a button. There are no confusing segmented rotations to grapple with, so you're free to focus on how to navigate your way forward and use what cover is available in effective ways.With this in mind, it's comforting that enemies can't find themselves in inaccessible spaces behind you, and you have enough choices in a firefight to keep it dynamic rather than simply on rails. Transitioning to new cover and the freedom you're given to make slight adjustments to your firing angles with strafing are smooth and responsive, letting you satisfyingly flank enemies with ease. There are some sparse stealth sections to break up the sometimes unrelenting action, giving you options to navigate through cramped office spaces or derelict apartments and pick off enemies with silenced weapons. It is exhilarating to string together a number of silent kills before being spotted, again highlighting how much space Blood and Truth gives you to work with despite being so restrictive with your movement.When you're not poking your head out in between gunshots, you're doing anything from picking locks to shimmying your way across construction supports and crawling through open vents. Each of these actions (and more) make good use of the Move controllers, making your movements feel more intimate than they ever could with a standard controller. Lock picking, for example, tasks you with rotating one Move controller slowly and then using the other to quickly lock the pin in place when in the right position. It feels both precise and natural, and goes a long way to making the otherwise mundane action of unlocking a door surprisingly engaging.Although Blood and Truth doesn't completely eradicate some tracking issues (which are more hardware related), it entirely sidesteps common issues such as camera drifting and annoyingly erratic motion-tracking losses.The same can be said for the many ways in which Blood and Truth lets you climb around its many environments. You'll have to reach out to grab overhead bars or protruding rebar pieces from walls to gracefully pull yourself upwards, carefully making sure not to unclench both hands when you're dangling over a deadly plunge. Some set-pieces make use of this to create some memorable shootouts, as you hang for your life using one arm and frantically return fire with the other. Having to physically grip to hold on, while remaining aware of where your hands are positioned, makes these actions feel all the more natural and satisfying.With some strong action and creative uses of VR, it's a shame that Blood and Truth fails to encapsulate all of this into a story that doesn't feel as disjointed and hokey as it does. Following the escapades of a London-based crime family under threat, Blood and Truth flicks through every gangster story cliche in the book. Moments of gravitas are undone by stilted voice acting and poor writing, while others can't decide whether they're trying to be a grounded crime tale or a globe-trotting James Bond imitation. Blood and Truth never settles on a consistent tone that helps move its story along, which make its narrative-focused stages (that feature no action) drawn-out and dull.Blood and Truth is uneven, especially when it's determined to get you to focus on an uninteresting story while you're putting up with the shortcomings of VR. But the beauty of Blood and Truth is that it also does marvelous things with the platform. The addition of motion control make familiar and mundane mechanics engaging, while also breaking up the smartly designed first-person shooting and establishing a great rhythm to the six-or-so-hour campaign. Blood and Truth doesn't manage to stick the landing in all aspects, but it's definitely a step forward for PSVR shooters. […]