It’s fair to say that I was absolutely giddy when word reached me that Fast Travel Games, the talented developers behind Cities: VR and fellow World of Darkness title, Wraith: The Oblivion, would be crafting a PlayStation VR2 game set in the sprawling setting of Vampire: The Masquerade. And indeed, after placing the PlayStation VR2 headset on my somewhat misshapen skull and gripping the PSVR 2 Sense Controllers tightly in my hands, my initial impressions were extremely positive – not only does Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice seemingly approximate the notion of being a skulky, stalky vampire in VR, but so too did it have a faint whiff of Dishonored in VR as well, thanks to its magically-infused stealth gameplay. It’s somewhat of a shame then to discover that thanks to a writhing mass of bugs and some other polish issues, Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice isn’t quite the soaring effort it should be.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice PSVR 2 Review
A Hugely Empowering Vampire VR Fantasy Tarnished By A Raft Of Bugs
Even though Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice is firmly embedded within the massive World of Darkness setting, you don’t need to have any experience of the table top games or any of the previously released PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 titles that have been adapted from that universe in order to jump right into its throat-chewing shenanigans.
Putting players into the virtual shoes of Justice, a vampire of clan Banu Haqim, players are tasked with stalking the picturesque streets and architectures of Venice in order to hunt down the mysterious figure responsible for the final death of their sire. It’s straightforward stuff from a narrative perspective, at least in the beginning, but it doesn’t take long before it devolves into a conspiracy that involved various clans screwing each other over in favour of power – though even with such dynamics in play, the plot of Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice remains thankfully really quite easy to follow.
A narrative driven, single-player only adventure, Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice is a stealth offering at heart, encouraging you to not just lurk in the shadows and use distractions to bypass unseen, but also to leverage your vampiric abilities to do so and its here that predictably, Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice does some of its best work.
First and foremost as a creature of the night, it benefits you to get yourself to the highest possible position you can in the nearby environment, not only so that you can accurately survey the surroundings, but also so that you can remain out of sight and strike whenever it suits you. And in case you’re wondering, reaching such lofty peaks is relatively simple to do, since not only can you climb the various drain-pipes, chains, cables and other such traversal aids that are found in the environment, but so too can use your vampiric ‘blink’ ability to essentially teleport your way from place to another without being seen.
To be clear, in Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice you are often pitted against groups of fairly powerful foes that usually come packing some serious firepower, meaning that direct confrontation is not really something you should do. However, there are no shortage of ways for you to vanquish and murder your enemies and Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice lets you revel in doing so.
For a start, not only can your blink ability be used to aid in your traversal, but so too can it be used to ambush your enemies too, hilariously rag-dolling them into the nearest wall as soon as you leap upon them. Elsewhere, the Cauldron of Blood ability allows you to (noisily) explode the melons of your poor hapless enemies, while the handy Shadow Trap can ensnare nearby foes and drag them kicking and screaming into Oblivion. Additionally, if you really do wish to go maximum Sam Fisher and not be at all spotted, the handy Cloak of Shadows ability allows you to meld with surroundings, making you undetectable by all but the most eagle of eyes.
Elsewhere, a handy ‘sense’ ability allows you to not only sense sources of potential blood (you even get to see their heart beat through their chests in a neat visual flourish), but also at closer ranges it will also handily inform you the direction that the various denizens of Venice are moving and looking in too, which proves essential for sneaking past them undetected. Finally, there’s also a hand-strapped crossbow that you gain access to early on in Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice, which not only allows you to wreak havoc from afar (it’s loaded one bolt at a time, so you have to make each shot count), but can also be used to vanquish enemies at a distance too; though each bolt that is loaded into the crossbow depletes your blood reserves somewhat, so again careful use is needed lest you exhaust yourself.
Speaking of blood reserves, it’s not only quite literally the gurgling red stuff which keeps you upright, but it also allows you to pull off all of those neat vampiric abilities as well. As you might expect, Justice’s blood reserves can be replenished by gnawing on the necks of those unfortunates who don’t see you coming and thanks to the immersive capabilities of the PlayStation VR2 headset and Sense Controllers, the sensation of leaning in to someone and pulling their neck close to your mouth and having the whole headset subtly shudder while you’re draining that precious lifeforce is rather well done to say the least. There’s also a degree of nuance to feeding on humans too, since if you release your prey from your fangs at just the right time, you get an extra blood boost on top of whatever your feed would normally have provided.
Should you be desperate for that sweet claret and there are no juicy humans around however, you can follow in the footsteps of tragic Louis from Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire and chomp down on some rats to survive – though draining these critters only provides a modest amount of blood, even with the ability to level up how much blood you get from them.
In terms of progression, Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice allows you to spend precious experience points on a range of different skills and invest in different ability trees that dovetail with your own particular style of play. Of particular note is that you can invest points into skills into social-facing skills, such as intimidation, which provide additional dialogue options that you would not normally have access to otherwise, lending a degree of non-linear progression and thus replayability, to Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice as a direct result.
Furthermore, progression is bolstered by the fact that each mission, or ‘undertaking’ as they are referred to, has a number of additional optional objectives that when fulfilled provide a welcome boost of additional experience points and provide an incentive for you to go the extra mile, as it were. In addition to such objectives, there are also collectibles that can be scooped up in each undertaking, providing even more experience points and thus widening the potential for progression yet further still.
Where Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice might surprise long-time fans of the popular World of Darkness setting, is that it largely avoids the notion of the ‘Masquerade’, where in order to maintain a cover that keeps the vampire race secret, you are forbidden from performing overt actions of vampiric savagery that might draw attention. In Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice, no such concerns exist and this is in large part thanks to the relatively pared back level design that sees you venturing out from your sewer hub into the various parts of Venice and the fact that everything feels much more streamlined than you might normally expect from an RPG in the Vampire: The Masquerade setting.
And what a setting it is too. Outside of some fairly mid looking character models and janky ragdoll physics, Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice portrays a stunningly detailed, almost romantic take on Venice which arguably ranks up there as one of the most immersive and detailed looking worlds on PlayStation VR2 right now. Throw in support for a 120hz display refresh and not only does Vampire: The Masquerade look routinely great, but so too does it feel appreciably smooth and responsive in motion to boot. Unfortunately, Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice finds such beauty occasionally undone by a raft of bugs which conspire to tarnish much of what is otherwise a polished offering.
Such bugs make themselves known from the very beginning, too. When you’re riding a boat down a Venetian waterway during the introduction, the subtitle text which appears ghosts and shakes somewhat jarringly, making it quite uncomfortable to read. Further afield, sometimes it can be quite easy – sometimes too easy – to fall through ledges or surfaces, resulting in your death, while occasionally audio bugs rear their ugly head which not only mute some of the dialogue, but can also create a white noise style effect that again, becomes quite uncomfortable to endure.
Beyond such bugs, it’s also certainly worth mentioning that while Venice is evocatively depicted in Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice, there isn’t a whole lot of interactivity to be had other than being able to open all of the usual cupboard doors, desk drawers and so on – most of which offer up nothing of any real interest. In addition, interacting with the world can sometimes be more frustrating than it needs to be. As a vampire, you can reach out and essentially summon items to your hands at range. The problem however, is that in order to do this you need to hold out your right arm, highlight the object you want and flick your wrist up for said item to find its way into your grip and naturally, it doesn’t exactly work how it should every time – making me pine for much simpler, more intuitive solution.
With atmosphere that is second to none, a superb setting and eminently entertaining stealth/assassination gameplay that underscores a non-linear story, there’s so much to like about Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice, particularly if you’re fan of the World of Darkness setting into which it embeds itself. However, a wealth of bugs that often cause discomfort take some of the sheen away from what is one of the more immersive PlayStation VR2 offerings of the year.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice is out now on PSVR 2.
Review code kindly provided by PR.