Fans of the gritty crime TV series are surely looking forward to this week’s release of VR spin-off Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom, which launches on Meta Quest 2 and PICO 4 headsets on March 9.
The game comes from Maze Theory, who’ve had some experience with bringing beloved TV dramas into the virtual reality gaming space thanks to their work on a number of Doctor Who VR games, including 2021’s The Edge of Reality.
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So while they’re no strangers to bringing big budget-telly, we wanted to know how well Peaky Blinders translated to VR – thankfully, we were invited to London last week for a preview event where we got some hands on time with the game.
Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom – Off to the Races
Immersion is the big buzzword for Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom. It’s often used for VR games, with developers wanting to make sure you feel immersed in the world.
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While VR gaming – placing you literally into the world – seems like a fairly easy way to check those boxes, the team at Maze Theory haven’t rested purely on this crutch and called it day.
Rather, their respect for the source material is evident to see when you’re in the game – with the locations suitably grimy and grubby to match the feel and aesthetic of the show of a post-WW 1 Birmingham.
Speaking of how the game looks – they’ve gone for something that’s not quite realistic – but not quite ‘cartoon’ either – and it fits in nicely with the dark tone the show is synonymous with.
While the level of violence isn’t going to make you throw off your headset in disgust by any stretch, it’s definitely darker than something like, say Doctor Who.
Of course, you get to explore familiar locations from the show – like The Garrison pub – and fans of the show are sure to get a kick out of meeting their favourite characters here.
These are helped along by performances from at least two of the cast members from the show – and there’s an excitement in meeting Cillian Murphy’s Tommy Shelby and Paul Anderson’s Arthur Shelby.
Quite fittingly, the way you meet these two characters fits in well with what we know about them. Tommy’s introduction is a relatively quiet meeting, but with sinister undertones – and someone tied up in the back room of the pub.
Arthur meanwhile, you get to know while making some bombs for him to seek revenge on the gang that’s trashed the Garrison – until the place gets firebombed, and Arthur bursts out with a gun while you have to put out the burning bar.
Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom – “Don’t F- with the Peaky Blinders”
This then leads onto a shootout in the game – and we’re pleased to report that gunplay feels pretty good. While there wasn’t a massive amount of variety in the section we got to play – it was definitely fun crouching behind boxes, and taking pot shots at gang members with our pistol.
Of course, having to move around between cover to reload our gun kept things interesting and not feeling too much like an on-rails shooting gallery, a trap some VR games fall into all too-easily.
Another nice touch were the Molotov cocktails dotted around – which we had to ignite ourselves with our lighter in our inventory. Plus, there was the opportunity to shoot out parts of the scenery to take out more enemies.
Overall then, combat feels fun – but it’s also good that it’s not the be all and end all of the game – you’re not playing something like Zombieland Double Tap here, and it’s clear the IP has allowed the team to offer up some unique gameplay opportunities.
Another great example of mixing things up in the early game is when you meet Polly – your gun is taken away, so instead she provides cover as you scoot around the level, taking cover behind boxes and working your way around the level while being shot at to defuse some bombs.
Again, it comes back to immersion – there’s lots of nice little touches that are pretty fun in VR and help to really make you feel a part of the world; like having to light lanterns with your lighter by hand to see in dark areas.
On the flip side, this dedication to immersion can – very rarely – backfire; as for example rather than take you out of the world to teach you a tutorial, the game likes to provide clues by having your character’s thoughts appear in their handwriting in the world itself.
This is great for keeping you in the universe, but on very rare occasion – can make it easy to miss instructions if you’re not taking the time to explore (for example, I only noticed the first lantern on the way back out of the first dark room I was supposed to use it.)
Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom – By Order of the Peaky Blinders
These are minor complaints though – and so far the game is shaping up pretty well. Aside from shootouts, there was investigating murder scenes, exploring locations for clues – and some cool collectibles in the form of cigarette boxes that’s great for multiple playthroughs.
While it’s still to be seen if this variety can be kept up across the whole game, the early signs are promising and we enjoyed our time with the first couple of hours.
Fans of the show will definitely get a kick out of being part of the Shelby’s world – whether it’ll also appeal to more casual fans is still to be seen, but we’ll find out when the game releases on Meta Quest 2 and PICO 4 on March 9, 2023.
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