Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice Review: My unquenchable thirst for blood
Fast Travel Games is bringing a VR game from the World of Darkness to Quest headsets and PSVR 2. The journey to the vampires of Venice is terrific.
Immersion is an overused buzzword when it comes to VR games. But what exactly is it? VR enthusiasts know many words to describe it. While playing Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice, I had one of those “wow” moments that only good VR games give you, and that shows (not tells) what immersion is.
In this VR game, I keep sneaking up on my opponents, grabbing them by the shoulders and biting their necks with a swift movement of my head. After doing this a few times, I noticed something: when I bite into someone's neck with my virtual vampire fangs, I involuntarily open my physical mouth and show my teeth.
This, dear readers, is immersion.
What else can you expect from Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice?
Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice review in a nutshell
This VR game has a fantastic atmosphere and well-designed environments. The gameplay frequently offers options for various strategies to complete missions: full stealth mode, targeted elimination of enemies, or simply pure violence via bloody disciplines.
Speaking of blood, the starvation mechanic requires careful resource management. Do I have enough blood to make a deadly bolt? I might have to gobble up a rat to get back into action. Then I can sneak up behind my unsuspecting victim and sink my teeth into his neck.
In its best moments - and there are quite a few - Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice is a VR treat and I feel like a mighty creature in the world of shadows. Unfortunately, despite the great voice acting, the story can't keep up; it's decent, but doesn't stick for long. Bugs, weak AI and some design flaws also make for frustrating moments from time to time. Fortunately, this remains within reasonable limits.
Overall, Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice is one of the best VR games of the year, proving once again how one-dimensional traditional monitor gaming really is.
Tested on: Quest 3
Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice is suitable for you if you ...
- want to play an exciting VR game from the World of Darkness,
- have always wanted to know what it's like to suck someone's blood as a vampire,
- want to enjoy the fantastic backdrop of Venice,
- want to enjoy full freedom of movement with the Quest 3,
- want to play largely sophisticated stealth gameplay with various possible solutions and
- want to experience once again why VR can be superior to classic gaming.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice is less suitable for you if you ...
- expect perfect PC VR graphics and finely rendered NPCs,
- cannot deal with occasional bugs,
- can't stand some frustrating design flaws and
- find bloodsuckers exceptionally disgusting.
A solid tale from the World of Darkness
World of Darkness is a role-playing fantasy world that began in 1991 with Vampire: The Masquerade. The VR game tells a classic revenge story in this world. The female vampire Justice (you can also choose a male) belongs to the Banu Haqim clan, also known as Assamites, and is searching for the murderer of her sire, who also stole an ancient relic.
Justice comments on or narrates the story before each mission. Collectibles in each level bring further, excellently dubbed narration in English (there are subtitles for several languages), explaining the characters and background. This motivates to search for the collectibles.
The story is not very well introduced. For a long time, I had no idea what was going on and why. My goals only become clear later on. However, not everything is dealt with through documents and audio narration: I meet some characters, such as the rather battered vampire Pietro or the sleazy clan boss Tommaso, and have conversations with them.
While the story builds from mission to mission and has a certain narrative consistency, it ends suddenly and hastily. I got the impression that Fast Travel Games needed to come to a finish at some point, but the story itself wasn't really ready.
This is a shame because the motives of the protagonists and their personalities are not fully developed and therefore fail to leave a lasting impression. At least the story is solid enough to keep me coming back to the game and playing it to the end.
Eerily beautiful Venice
The narrow streets of Venice, the sewers and the tombs look excellent. The level design and lighting are mostly perfect. Gondolas in the water, old churches, market squares at night and flooded cellars - the world is convincing and built with a lot of love.
This also applies to many of the visual effects, such as my magic disciplines, which I use to draw enemies into shadow traps or to rip their heads off their torsos in a quite brutal way. It's really amazing what the Quest 3 can do.
Unfortunately, the NPCs are not on the same level. Anyone expecting characters that are anywhere near as great as those in Horizon Call of The Mountain will be disappointed. The NPCs have rough textures, their mouths move asynchronously to what they say, and their stiff animations are at best PlayStation 3 level, maybe even lower. I would have liked to see more attention to detail here.
Gameplay: sneaking, climbing, shooting, and casting spells
The actual gameplay is all the better for it. Using my highly developed vampire senses, I can see my enemies' hearts through walls, observe their routes and determine which way they are facing. Then I either sneak past them, kill them with my spell disciplines, teleport down on them like an avenging angel, or pierce them with my wrist-mounted crossbow.
Sucking blood satisfies my hunger, and I have to admit there's a strange kind of pleasure in draining NPCs. I have to do this regularly when my hunger, which I check via a display on my left wrist, becomes overwhelming. The hunger increases when I make my bolts from blood or use disciplines such as the shadow cloak, which allows me to sneak past enemies and cameras. Resource management is an important part of my strategy, and every so often I have to use rats as blood reserves to keep me going.
I improve my skills in the Sanctum, a sort of sanctuary with a skill altar. This is where I spend the experience points (XP) gained from completing missions. For example, I can unlock intimidation skills or upgrade my acid bolts to make them capable of disabling security cameras.
Thanks to my extensive repertoire, I can use different strategies depending on the situation. For example, I can sneak up gutters, ledges, balconies, and ventilation shafts to reach my target unseen and without using force. I can also eliminate all threats, as unseen as possible, of course.
At my best, I really do feel like a powerful vampire. I sneak onto a balcony above an unsuspecting guard, finish him off with a spectacular blink attack, quickly climb to the next ledge, shoot another enemy with a stun bolt, drop to the ground behind him, suck the blood from his neck and disappear into the shadows seconds later.
Of course, I can also just punch my way through - two blows with my fist and most enemies are gone. However, there are some special vampires that are difficult to kill, and if I do get caught, I quickly get an unhealthy amount of lead from shotguns and automatic weapons.
Comfort, AI fails, bugs and crashes
Teleportation is a vampire skill called blink, so there is no movement via teleportation. Smooth locomotion is the default, and this could spoil the game for those with sensitive guts. I didn't suffer from motion sickness myself: all the movements in the game didn't cause me any discomfort. You'll have to find out for yourself, though, and that's where the refund option is useful. You can request a refund in the Quest Store within two hours.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice is an excellent game overall, but there are still bugs and some poorly designed challenges. Sometimes enemies spot me from behind cover, sometimes snipers are not marked with lasers and take me down unexpectedly. Then again, the spawn point where I start after failing is right in a patrol's line of sight, allowing me only a few seconds to find cover.
Occasionally, there are no alternative routes because the AI is blocking me in such a way that I have no choice but to use violence. This is particularly frustrating when the mission has an optional reward for being pacifist. The path to the final mission is awful: a completely pointless route that can only be completed by trial and error prevents me from progressing without adding anything to the story.
Furthermore, the AI is sometimes just plain stupid: as soon as I've noisily killed someone, either nobody reacts or everyone runs towards the same spot to stare at it for minutes. I have to get close to them again to get them to resume their (simple) AI routines.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice Review Conclusion: More of this, please!
Fast Travel Games has created a fantastic VR game that revives the tradition of old stealth games such as Thief or Dishonored in VR. Once again, a VR game proves that monitors are a limitation, even if they offer more or better graphics. Want to know what it feels like to be a vampire? Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice takes you into the world of darkness as a vampire and gives us a taste of what we can (hopefully) expect from VR games in the coming years.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice is not perfect. Maybe there was a lack of time and money. But it is still one of the best VR games of the year. Over ten hours in an incredibly atmospheric setting - whatever you do, don't miss it.
Before I forget, because this is critical for VR games of this kind, there are no jump scares, no disgusting monsters, giant spiders or other nasty stuff in this game. Even the sensitive can immerse themselves in this beautifully gruesome world of darkness without having to worry about suffering from a heart attack.
More of this, please!