It was that famous difficulty level that really put us off; could we really be bothered to play the same moments again and again and again, learning enemy patterns and behaviour through repeated deaths? Ultimately: no. No we could not.
Frankly, life is short. We'd much rather be galloping through the countryside on our prize-winning pony Spirit, who we rescued from a bog and trained and he became our most special friend and won Best In Show at the county fayre but then the evil Mr Hoegestratten tried to burn down the stables for insurance purposes and Spirit nearly died but then he escaped and helped us fetch water from the lake and we saved the stables and everyone was cheering and clapping and shouting "USA! USA! USA!" and Mr Hoegestratten came out to see what was happening and Spirit bit him in the throat and he died.
And yet here we are, reviewing Bloodborne - essentially, From Software's next-gen Dark Souls.
Thus far, the reviews have been unanimously positive, hailing this the first great PS4 exclusive. Everybody seems keen to wrap their thighs around it. Everybody seems to think it's The Best Thing Since Diced Bread.
Therefore, it's with some degree of trepidation that we must warn you: this review may stroke against the direction of your fur.
Indeed, chances are you've read a review of Bloodborne already. If you haven't, and you don't know what's going on, here's the quickest of summaries: you wake up in some quasi-Victorian city called Yhurtleham, or something. You're a monster hunter. It's a third-person fighting game with RPG undertones. Equip different weapons in each hand, and go clear the world of the monsters. Yadda-me-do.
That's the basic game. Yes, there's more to it than that - it's markedly deep and involved (the balletic combat is all lunges, dodging, and health-recovering counter attacks, and about timing and learning enemy routines), with a seemingly wilfully obtuse, drip-fed storyline. If you get desperate, you can activate lanterns, and move back and forth between the "real" world and a sort of Afterlife place, which will recover your health - but the monsters will respawn when you return.
Also, there's a neat approach to multiplayer, whereby you can summon other players to help with particularly stubborn boss battles. Note: they're all particularly stubborn boss battles.
There is much to admire in Bloodborne; it really doesn't feel like anything else (except, presumably, Dark Souls - who knows?), and key to that is its difficulty level.
It throws you into the thick of things from the off, and it just gets more difficult from there. You enter the game world... you die. You reenter. You die. Gradually, your scar tissue - built up over repeated plays of the same moments - grants you a sort of elastic memory from moment to moment. Gradually you make progress, gradually you become more powerful, and gradually you either fall in love with the game, or decide it isn't worth the effort, even if you did pay sixty quid for it.
See, we need to cut to the chase here, because it's chewing away at our windpipe like an aggrieved pony. Basically... ok... see... we don't think Bloodborne is perfect. In fact, we're not even sure if we'd go as far as to say we liked it.
First and foremost among its issues are the loading times. Frankly, when you're dealing with a game this punishing, where death happens all too often, you need to be able to get back into the game almost immediately (we know it doesn't have to throw quite so many graphical shapes, but think of the way Hotline Miami shoves you instantly back into the level you just exited). We're just not stubborn enough to appreciate repeated returns to that well of punishment (and - to be honest with you - wouldn't have done so if we didn't have a review to write).
Apparently, there's a patch on the way that's going to reduce the load times - but it isn't here now, and given the nature of the gameplay, this should've been implemented for launch. Hell, it should've been integral to the development process, because it damn near broke the game for us.
We might've sworn less through Bloodborne's dull, flat loading screens had we thought it was worth going back for, but generally we sat through them with a sense of heaviness at what was awaiting on the other side.
There were times when we felt a slight buzz of that high everyone talks about with regard to Dark Souls - that sense of accomplishment when you finally succeed at one of the epic boss fights, on your 30th go.
But, really, with hindsight, we're not sure whether it was a sense of accomplishment, or just relief that we'd conquered another chunk of the game that we'd no longer have to play through again and again and again and again and again.
What's more, and we accept that this is purely personal taste, but we also hated the aesthetic of Bloodborne. Alright, hate's a strong word - we didn't like it.
That's not the fault of the game as such: it's graphically very accomplished, and the scale of the visuals - which become increasingly demented as you progress - are evidently the result of a lot of hard work. We appreciated the way your progress was foreshadowed on the horizon. The animation was slick and - at times - spectacular. The atmosphere achieves what it set out to achieve, and then some.
But it's the design that we're not keen on; that sub-Victorian, Heavy Metal, occult-y, kind of "Whoooh! We're in a Cool Spooky World of the Dead" vibe. It might look great from a purely technical perspective, but it lacks originality from an artistic one. Which is weird when you consider that 90% of all video games are me-too military shoot 'em ups, and not set in a plague-ridden steampunk netherworld. For us, there's just nothing recognisable to hang onto - nothing to make us care about Yharrrnhuhrrm. And consequently, we didn't.
So, anyway, we're not trying to be iconoclasts. We get that plenty of gamers like this sort of thing, but this is one for the most hardcore of hardcore. It's personal taste at the end of the day: we don't like our games to be a chore, and if they are a chore or a grind we don't like them to make us wait 20 to 30 seconds between repeated blipverts of gameplay. The loading times were the main barrier to our enjoyment. If the forthcoming patch can reduce them down to five seconds or less, it would make a big difference to the playability of Bloodborne.
At the minute, our personal taste is such that we weren't sufficiently intrigued by Yhurmurnhamam for it to nullify our irritation with the loading times, or - by consequence of that - our irritation with the difficulty level. Maybe we're just not sufficiently masochistic, but we'd struggle to ever describe Bloodborne as fun, and that's ultimately what we're looking for from our games.
SCORE: 7.724 pints of blood out of 10.17433