Bloodborne is the best game on the PS4. Chances are there isn’t a game to match it in the Xbox One catalogue either. From Software have developed the flagship of Next Generation Gaming. Remarkably, they’ve done so without utilising any of that next-gen RAM and Power.
Yeah. Fine. Bloodborne looks gorgeous. From’s already legendary Souls series have never been lauded for their graphical presentation. Yet finally, they’ve crafted a title in which the textures and lighting match the striking aesthetic and haunting environs.
Your gear appears visibly wetter as it is gradually drenched in blood. Shaggy, matted manes flow and snag as feral giants bounce across your play space. Even the ubiquitous messengers, who sell you goods, alert you to danger and present your own inscriptions to the wider community are spectacularly detailed. From a visual standpoint, Bloodborne is royalty.
But what makes Bloodborne an immediate classic is not its looks. It’s not even enemy AI, rogue-like elements, myriad points of interaction, destructible environments, onscreen NPCs or any of the more common methods in which the PS4’s brawn can potentially improve upon a core gameplay experience.
Bloodborne is an instant game of the year contender because series frontman, Hidetaka Miyazaki, has racked his not-inconsiderable noggin reinventing and revitalising systems. These systems were already perfectly tuned, otherwise Dark Souls wouldn’t have ended up more or less winning the last console generation.
Refreshingly, Bloodborne is synonymous with aggression. Enemies go for the throat, and in number. Their animations are varied and their tactics wily. Many are positioned in shadowy corners, primed to take advantage of your foolhardiness. Others coat their blades, or fangs, with poison.
Some will even whack you with man-sized crucifixes until you go crazy and explode. I’m delighted to announce, the previous sentence is extremely literal. You will often fight bosses with abilities identical to your own, up to three at a time, and some will need to be dispatched in sequence. Couple this with an increased likelihood of invasions by malicious players when you take the experience online and Bloodborne is hard as nails.
But so were its spiritual predecessors.
What separates Bloodborne from traditional Souls titles, and arguably makes it a loftier challenge still, is its worship of offensive play. No more hiding behind shields. No more sniping from safe nooks or casting devastating spells from secluded crannies. Bloodborne sacrifices some of its signature playstyle choice for a refined and relentless attacking game.
Your weapons house a greater number of attacking animations, all can be buffed with improving runes and all can be transformed (mid-combo) to avail of improved range, elemental damage or the satisfaction of looking like a consummate badass. Firearms are introduced as a more reliable, accessible way of parrying attacks before delivering the most satisfying counter in the sphere of video gaming.
Lastly a new ‘regain’ mechanic couples nicely with enhanced evasive manoeuvres to encourage players to fight back just as hard, potentially replenishing lost HP. Restorative items are limited, echoing series originator Demon’s Souls. As such the incentive to brawl foes blow for blow is high.
This deception is Bloodborne’s essence distilled. It lures you into aggression, into a bestial frenzy both in its (oblique) narrative and its gameplay proper. It’s a carefully sculpted addiction - if developers From didn’t want you to salivate at the prospect of combat, they wouldn’t have made those animations so visceral, so moreish.
You’ll too often be distracted by putting the boot in on some deranged villager who had the audacity to slap you, to appreciate the bigger picture. And suddenly you’ll be swarmed, both by gibbering wretches and wispy plot lines. And you’ll lose. Time and again.
Chances are if you’ve clicked through to this review, you already have a faint idea of what Bloodborne has to offer. You’ve seen the trailers, you’ve read the universal praise online. Hell, perhaps you’re a vet who has conquered Dark Souls on Soul Level 1. Either way, you already know, you just know, this one is different. There is more to this one than there seems. This one is subtly spectacular. This one is a sequel, a proper bloody sequel.
Bloodborne is the best game you can play on a PlayStation 4 right now. And that has nothing to do with the machine’s power and everything to do with the developer’s skill and cunning. More of this please.
- Jack McGlynn