‘Bloodborne’ first impressions: you died

“Run away, man!” I shouted at the controller as it was callously ignoring my panicked button mashing.

Finding the first monster after a mere two minutes of game play is unnerving, and something that you just don’t see in mass-appeal AAA games often. Begin easy, frolic with the gamer hand-in-hand until another deus ex machina joins the party for intermittent words of wisdom — that’s the usual formula. Gaming has really become a bit of a nanny sport, but From Software‘s Bloodborne tells this unwanted tradition to sod off quite emphatically.

You’ll be thrown in the deep end immediately, and that’s where you’ll stay until you damn well pull your socks up and pony up.

Sure, you could keep running from every monster around, but eventually you’ll have to turn around, whip out that massive axe from your back pocket and sever a few lycan heads. Of course, saying this and doing it are two very different things as you’ll immediately discover.

The game boasts a beautifully macabre, dark and dank landscape that any post-apocalyptic Victorian city would’ve been proud of. This is Yharnam, and if the name scares you, good, because the game most certainly will. It’s not as copybook as “insert jump scare here” like other games that claim to be “horrors” (we’re looking at you The Evil Within). Bloodborne is scary because it is insanely difficult, especially for the casual gamers but that’s part of its charm.

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Used to playing FIFA 15 non-stop and think that Far Cry 4 is bad enough? Bloodborne will surely slap you across the face for no apparent reason.

The initial set up sequence is devoid of any real exposition, so you, as the fledgeling hunter, wakes on a surgery table wondering where the hell to go or what the hell to do next after constructing your character from scratch. All you really know is that you should probably begin killing things. The Sickroom is a great time to discover and master the number of initial moves available, including a karate chop like affair, a punch or two and a drawn-out but powerful special attack performed by holding R2.

The game does spit up a fair number of helpful semi-skeletal corpses that guide you along the way, but within the first ten seconds you’ll be greeted by the games first monster. Some have killed it with bare hands and a Jet Li-type determination, but I died just by laying eyes on the bastard. Seriously, I got one punch in and splat. That was the end of my head within mere seconds after setting off.

A gung-ho approach to this title will reward gamers with many funeral-long loading screens , which in turn will send you all the way back to the Hunter’s Dream, or the game’s safe zone. Here, when you finally succumb to your stupidity or valour, will be given your first weapon — a wonderful choice between three enormous stabby-pokey-slicey arms and two guns. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and choosing either will mean you’ll be found wanting in other aspects. It really is a game of weights and scales.

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Of course, once you finally gain the ability to slice and shoot, you’ll be faced with fairly ordinary baddies that have a knack for removing 50% HP in one swipe.

This is quickly resolved by gathering blood vials and blood echoes, which restores HP and can be used to trade and purchase larger weapons or better equipment, respectively. Speaking of equipment, the game allows you to mend or upgrade weapons, which will be required often.

Fast travel through the spiritual world allows gamers to dart around Yharnam without much sweat (because running around will become boring), but often this means dealing with those loading screens. They aren’t too long and I really am being nit-picky for the sake of it, but considering that death is just around each and every corner, I’d say they’re definitely are.

But Bloodborne embraces a very interesting side of AAA gaming, a side we haven’t seen for a good long while, perhaps since Dark Souls II, a game that Bloodborne does borrow heavily. That isn’t a bad thing in the slightest though.

Read more: Dark Souls II review: fan service

It’s challenging, shirks hand-holding and throws the gamer into a sweaty panic almost immediately, even prior to the opening boss fight. It also has a mystical ambiance and atmosphere, seemingly transgressing beyond the television screen into your fingertips. The fact that there are games that can still evoke these feelings is a real testament to well-crafted titles.

I’m currently just a few hours into the game, so providing a definitive review just yet would be unfair, but even though I’m being slaughtered — which is devilling, mind — Bloodborne is one difficult game to put down.

Does the PlayStation 4 finally have an IP to be proud of? I would definitely say so.

Andy Walker, former editor


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