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How to do Bloodborne's three best secretive moves, called visceral attacks

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Bloodborne may not technically be a Souls game, but don't let the name fool you: From Software's latest title is cast from the same mold as the quirky action role-playing games that the developer invented.

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Although it trades standard medieval weaponry for transforming, steampunk Victorian creations, echoes of its predecessors remain — including a set of near-secret moves that offer enormous advantages for those brave enough to wield them. I know this because I've lived this.

I spent my first few hours in Bloodborne making frustratingly little progress. It wasn't until I started focusing on fundamentals — coming up with theories, experimenting, testing for repeatability — that I figured these things out. The three techniques I discuss here changed my game. These aren't just fancy dances that make you look cool. Each of them gives you an advantage, and two of them cause massive damage.

As a bonus, these moves are less risky than their Souls counterparts. Because you have a brief window to regain health after being struck, even failure can be an opportunity to strike back you and minimize your losses.

Check out the video above for a visual explanation of each. Below, you'll find more detailed explanations. Let's get aggressive.

THE FRONT STAB

This will look familiar to Souls players. In those games, if you hit L2 to swing your shield as an opponent was in the middle of its attack, your shield would strike his weapon, block the attack, and leave the monstrosity temporarily vulnerable. A sound would play, the bad guy would look confused, and if you hammered on R1, he'd be unable to block your powerful attack.

That's the standard parry (block) and riposte (attack) dance that sword-fighters have been doing for probably millennia. It's in Bloodborne, too, but in a different context. Just pretend your gun is your shield, and you're halfway there.

In Bloodborne, the front stab requires timing, a fair amount of health and guts. Here's what you have to do:

  1. Face an enemy who's facing you.
  2. Wait for them to begin attacking.
  3. As they start attacking, pull L2 to fire your gun. That'll stun your enemy in a unique way.
  4. If necessary, move closer to your enemy, so that you're basically touching them.
  5. Hammer on R1. You'll slide into an animation (during which you'll be invincible) where you basically gut punch the bad guy, remove an enormous amount of his health and then toss him several yards in front of you.

It's going to take some practice, but the good news is that Bloodborne's enemies are exceedingly good at telegraphing their intentions. Nobody just swings out of nowhere. Most wind up, twisting their bodies back and raising their weapons over their head — and only then do they slash at you. It's in those briefest of moments between the windup and the slash that you need to shoot.

It's best to practice your timing on weak enemies, and the perfect place for that is on the streets of Yarham at the beginning of the game. Just make sure that you have enough health to sustain a hit or two as you learn the timing.

It's also worth pointing out that this technique doesn't apply to all enemies. Odds are, if they're slithering on the ground or running at you with an enormous pitchfork, you'll have to use brute force, which is as effective, if not quite as elegant.

THE BACKSTAB

In Souls games, backstabbing was easy. All you had to do was sneak up behind someone and press R1. In Bloodborne, it's a little more complicated.

The complication is worth it. You'll do an insane amount of damage. And you'll render yourself invincible as the backstabbing animation takes over.

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Walk up slowly behind your enemy. If you walk too fast, they'll hear you and turn around.
  2. Stop when you're within a few feet of them. Be close enough, in other words, that you could strike them with your right-hand weapon.
  3. Hold down R2, which will charge your heavy attack. A second or two later, when it's charged up, you'll automatically swing your weapon.
  4. As soon as you make contact with the enemy, hammer on R1. You'll slide right into the backstab animation.

THE LEAPING ATTACK

This special move works best on anyone carrying a shield. Pull it off, and your enemies won't be able to defend themselves.

The combination requires you to hit up on the left analog stick and R2 at the same time. It requires a simultaneous press, so it's the most difficult of the three moves here to pull off. But when you do, you'll leap through the air, holding you weapon above your head, and land with a devastating strike. Strike someone holding a shield, and they'll take a step back and leave themselves vulnerable.

Its usefulness isn't limited to shielded enemies, though. You can use it at any point, and though it doesn't pack as much punch as the moves above, it will do greater than normal damage. It's good for:

  • Closing the distance between you and an enemy
  • Getting the drop from the high ground, like a staircase
  • Causing damage in a group of tightly packed enemies

A note of caution, though: You may look cool, but you're vulnerable when you're flying through the air. If someone takes a swing at you, your feet will soon be on the ground, and you won't swing your weapon or cause any damage.