Preview: Peaky Blinders VR lets you play a gangster

I sat down for a drink with Thomas Shelby.

Earlier this year, VR developer Maze Theory (Doctor Who – The Edge of Time) announcement Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom, an original VR game based on the hit BBC series. We have now learned that the highly anticipated VR gangster simulator will be coming to the Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro VR headsets on March 9, 2023.

The announcement was made yesterday at the 40th Golden Joystick Awards, where the developer shared a new cinematic trailer. Set in 1920s Birmingham, the single-player action game casts you as Samuel Taylor, a silent protagonist who returns to Birmingham after leaving 10 years ago under mysterious circumstances. In order to avoid the firing squad, you will have to assist the family patriarch Thomas Shelby in all his shady business.

“It’s almost time to Peaky Blinders fans around the world to step back in time 100 years and team up with the Shelbys,” said Tim Jones, game director at Maze Theory. “Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom will allow players to explore the wicked streets of 1920s Birmingham in an authentic virtual reality experience inspired by the hit TV series. We can’t wait to unleash Tommy in March!”

We were lucky enough to take part in a brief 30-minute demo earlier this week, and despite a few awkward moments, I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the role of a ruthless 1920s mobster.

The demo started in the back of a ramshackle truck driven by Rowena Fox, a loyalist smuggler, which transports you to the headquarters of Peaky Blinders, aka The Garrison Pub. Once you arrive at his shop, you have a moment to familiarize yourself with the controls. On the left and right side of your hip, you’ll find an old-fashioned lighter as well as an endless supply of cigarettes. It’s a Peaky Blinders game after all.

Credit: VRScout

Fox’s shop is littered with hidden collectibles, such as various personal tarot card letters that shed more light on the characters and their relationships. All of these notes are stored in a nifty little journal that you can access at any time by hovering over your left shoulder. Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom rewards you for exploring your surroundings. For example, on the wall of the shop you will find a dartboard and a blackboard. Interacting with these elements elicits a unique response from Fox. You can even repair an old radio.

From there, you walk out of the shop onto the infamous Garrison Lane, which is followed by arguably the coolest title sequence in video game history. Walking down Garrison Lane past the sparks and smoke emanating from the nearby steelworks is incredibly satisfying, especially when paired with “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds.

Credit: VRScout

Once you arrive at the pub, you will be greeted by Thomas Shelby, who will offer you a drink before explaining your dumb duties for the Peaky Blinders. I’ll admit having a drink with Tommy was a cool experience made even better by the voice talents of Cillian Murphy, the actor who plays Thomas Shelby in the original series.

Before leaving the pub, Tommy tasks you with killing a gentleman tied up in front. This is where the game introduces a bit of decision-making gameplay. You can use the provided gun to kill the unidentified man or just get out of the bar. Personally, I chose to scare our guest away with a series of warning shots before leaving. The impact of your decisions on the game is unclear, although we can only assume that the choices you make will play a part in how other characters view you.

Credit: VRScout

The rest of the demo is more or less a glorified and entertaining shooting range. After making contact with Arthur Shelby (voiced by Paul Anderson), you engage in a high-stakes shootout with multiple waves of baddies. The shooter, while simple, feels solid. That said, the enemy AI (artificial intelligence) felt a little wonky at times. Enemies will often shoot at you from the outside, making them extremely easy targets. However, the game is still under development, so we will hold our final judgment until the full release.

In addition to your pistol, you also have access to molotov cocktails which can be ignited using the lighter attached to your right hip. While these handmade firebombs are fun to use, I wish I could light them using a lit cigarette for more dramatic effect. Although smoking has no impact on your performance, it does help you better immerse yourself in the experience. Personally, I’d like to see more interesting use cases for your lighter and cigarettes beyond just role-playing.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the brief 30 minute demo. Maze Theory has done a phenomenal job of bringing the show’s unique style to life in virtual reality. Atmospheric environments with satisfying gunplay and believable charactersPeaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom is shaping up to be a stellar single-player experience.

We look forward to hearing more when Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom will launch on Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro VR headsets on March 9, 2023 for $29.99. For more information, visit here.

Feature Image Credit: Labyrinth Theory

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