Bloodborne review

From Software's unforgiving PS4 hack and slash is no horror show

If Mario Bava was making videogames today, we suspect he’d be producing something like Bloodborne. This third-person action-role-player is crawling with Euro-horror inflections, an unsettling miasma of confusing cobbled streets and Gothic architecture, demons, monsters and were-things.

Bloodborne unfolds into a huge unforgiving world, with secrets that take time to discover and fully comprehend. You'll run and dodge, hack and slash, and die repeatedly… then die some more. To survive the plague-ravaged city of Yharnam and take down patrolling horrors, you'll need to become adept with an impressive armoury of weapons, including pistols, cannons and saw cleavers. There are no shields, because you’re forever on the offensive. There are traps everywhere, puzzles to solve, levers to flip and Blood Vials to collect.

But that's not the half of it. While there is an offline mode, the game really starts to show its mettle when you're online. Through the use of a beckoning bell, you can summon help from other players. Cleverly, Bloodborne's community of players can leave notes of advice or warning, perhaps placed just before an ambush point, which could save your life; a social mechanic first used by the game's 2009 forerunner Demon's Souls. You can also see spectres of other gamers, replaying their last moments before a grisly death.

Graphically the game is dense and intricate, with geographically coherent location detail. The colour palette is muted, the lighting foreboding, and there's plenty lurking in the shadows. It looks good in HD and scales well to 4K. As a surround experience, Bloodborne is downright chilling. Slithering, growling menace is forever circling from speaker to speaker. There's not overmuch use of a score, instead the title racks up tension through creepy ambiance.

There are caveats. The load times are slow, probably because hell itself is being poured into your PS4; it can also stutter. The game mechanics are painfully obtuse too, with obscure rewards, the value of which you'll only appreciate as you persevere through Yharnam. But the awe-inspiring nature of Bloodborne make such foibles easy to accommodate.

Bloodborne, From Software/Sony Computer Entertainment, PS4, £55 Approx