Monday, 16 March 2015

Bloodborne: PS4 Hands on Preview

Bloodborne: PS4 Hands On Preview

There’s no avoiding the fact.

I died a lot in the demo for Bloodborne

Double figures amounts.

And with it, came a great big red graphic which proclaimed “You Died” as if to rub salt into the wound and make the booming bass of the OST really ring in my ears.

Let’s back up a little; Bloodborne hits PlayStation on 25th March, and little is known about the game except a few scant details:

“From Hidetaka Miyazaki and FromSoftware – creators of the legendary action role-playing games Demon's Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls II – comes Bloodborne, an all-new, action-packed RPG brimming with unforgiving, unrelenting terror, developed exclusively for PlayStation 4.

Face your fears as you search for answers in the ancient city of Yharnam, now cursed with a strange endemic illness spreading through the streets like wildfire. Danger is an ever-present shadow in this horrific world, and you must discover its darkest secrets in order to survive.”

The demo I played takes place in the city of Yharnam, and your character is in a room with skeletons bubbling under the wooden floors as you approach them. These turn out to be Messengers which proffer up ideas of how to play the game, your movements etc and are a little unsettling at first as they lurk waiting for you to tread upon them.

The controls are relatively simple; dualshock sticks work and it’s a case of using the L1/ R1 to fight / power up when you take a swing. And take a swing you will, as this demo had no weapons available for me to use. Which was something that was both refreshing and a frustration as time went on.

It’s also very, very dark in Yharnam. 

Gothic architecture sings out but inside the buildings, there’s little to distinguish the rooms themselves except when you walk around them. It’s here a light in front of you opens your view up – and there you see that bodies litter the ground in places; it pays to ensure they get a search from you to collect what’s been left behind. A handful of pebbles, some blood echoes to help you revitalise - you'll all need them to ensure you survive. And there's little you can do in this hands-on to survive with no weapons and plenty of people in the grip of the "strange endemic illness". 

Wandering around the darkened room (Iosefa's home apparently) you can head upstairs to look around but a disembodied voice tells you that you're not able to go further because of what you're doing; heading down to the basement showed me a massive dog like lycan creature that proceeded to rip me to shreds. Twice. There seems to be no option for stealth, so it was a case of running past the critter and heading into the outdoors, hoping that opening the doors will happen before Fluffy (an ironic name) catches me. I manage to get out and wonder why I can't close the doors behind me, a thought that will rankle throughout.

It's here that the world of Yharnam opens up in some ways; as you get to explore the courtyards with its Notre Dame style steeples, chained coffins, discarded carriages and neo-Gothic architecture. But it also holds some pretty angry people who are ready to slash and chop you the moment you're disturbed. Armed only with a punch at this stage, combat's not the best option but I sense it's a necessity in places though I failed to fell anyone despite throwing punches and pressing triangle to recharge. 

Things got even worse when there were groups of people; the angry hordes were determined to fell me and even had guns. There's a frustration weapons aren't readily available around but I think this will be balanced by the fact that Bloodborne seems hard, and is punishing in the extreme. I do wonder if casual players will be into this level of difficulty (I'm not sure whether there are different skill levels) and the game slowly reveals itself like an onion, which feels duly rewarding. 

Various headstones scattered throughout give you the options to head into the Hunter's Dream where you can encounter an area inhabited by an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair known as Gehring, who gives you a very brief insight into what's going on before offering you some safe haven. Though his overall part in the bigger picture is still a little vague.

Atmosphere is also the big winner in Bloodborne too; from the haunting and terrifying score to the moody black darkness, this is a game that cries out to be played in the dark and at night (perfect for the nights drawing in). 

While the demo is quite a tough one to negotiate, I'm up for the challenge of the gradual discovery. 

In a world where everything is signposted as we go through, there's very little that allows for a challenge, a reveal and a reward. 

I'm not expecting Bloodborne to be a walk in the park, but I am expecting a campaign that delivers as much as it promises.

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