As I made my way down a dark waterside walkway next to the liquid streets of Venice, Italy, I noticed my first victim. Someone stepped out for a smoke break, probably venting the frustrations of their late-night shift. But I can't worry about that now, I'm just out for blood, and this guy was in a very convenient place for me to get what I needed.
As a vampire, this is the sort of mentality that you have to live through night after night and it's exactly what you'll be doing as you play through Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice on the Meta Quest 2 when it launches on November 2, 2023 for $29.99 on Meta Quest 2, Quest 3, and PlayStation VR2.
Vampire is both similar and different from the flat-screen games in the series in many important ways. It's not an open-world RPG like those games but it does have branching dialog trees, phenomenal voice acting, and stealth action gameplay that'll get your heart pumping.
Plus, being a vampire in VR is just plain cool.
A Solid Snake bite
Fast Travel Games sent me a special early access demo of Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice to play ahead of the release date announcement. This is the company's second VR game set in the World of Darkness universe — the first was Wraith: The Oblivion — Afterlife.
But while the two titles share a similar naming convention and an overarching universe, Vampire's gameplay is substantially different from Wraith's slow, methodical weapon-less brand of horror.
In Vampire, players will find themselves sneaking around the dimly lit streets of Venice in search of blood and a missing artifact. The demo I played contained an introductory area plus one mission from the main game, so the only blood I spilled was merely a sample of the final game's depth.
Vampire is a stealth action game at heart, not dissimilar from games like Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell. While the demo was more forgiving than some of those titles — being spotted didn't result in mission failure — key failures like that ensured that I wasn't awarded any of the bonus objectives available.
That's an important key to making the game replayable since it's entirely a single-player experience.
Fast Travel Games seems to have figured out how to ride the thin line between a vampire's undeniably powerful abilities and its unique weaknesses. Taking out enemies is as simple as slashing at them or using one of your many unique powers. It's also incredibly easy to dash away at high speeds if you need to escape, but beware. Getting spotted is also the quickest way to die.
Powerful, but not invincible
As powerful as vampires may be, they're not actually immortal, and it doesn't take very many bullets to get killed. In fact, I died several times before I figured out a good way to dispatch the guards in a level so I could move on to finishing the main mission objective.
Good vampires won't be seen at all, and the best vampires won't even need to kill in order to complete mission objectives in Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice. That last part is particularly difficult since using your powers increases your hunger for blood, eventually culminating in the inability to use powers until you satiate your craving.
In total, players have three main special abilities that can be selected from at will: Cloak of Shadows, Cauldron of Blood, or Shadow Trap. Each of these can be purchased in-game using earned XP, so you won't be starting off as an all-powerful senior-ranked vampire.
Cloak of Shadows will be a true stealth player's favorite ability. This allows a vampire to blend in with the environment and turn almost invisible which is particularly important if you were accidentally spotted.
Shadow Trap places a portal to the underworld on the ground complete with ominous hands oozing out of it. When the enemy gets within range — which, surprisingly, isn't all that close — the hands will spring out, grab them, and pull them into their untimely demise. As you might imagine, this isn't a particularly quiet way for an enemy to die.
The loudest of the three is Cauldron of Blood which boils an enemy's blood until their head violently erupts into the namesake of the power. It's incredibly brutal and violent and, by association, extremely noisy. On the bright side, you can drink the blood as it erupts, giving you a rare opportunity to satiate your blood craving while still dispatching an enemy.
Once your hunger meter is full, you'll need to sneak up on unsuspecting, alive humans and pull their neck to your mouth. Thankfully, there's no obnoxious context-sensitive button to press or anything that'll have you really mess it up. Just be sure you sneak up on them and do it from behind. Otherwise, they're liable to scream before the act and alert everyone in the area of your presence.
Players also have a dart launcher on their right wrist that can be used to shoot crafted darts at enemies. It's just one more tool at a player's disposal to put enemies to sleep or end their existence entirely.
The full package
Visually, the game is incredibly impressive and exactly what I expect from veteran VR developer Fast Travel Games, especially given how pretty games like Wraith and Budget Cuts 2 look on Quest hardware. I'm particularly intrigued to find out how much better this could look on Quest 3 hardware, because it looks stunning on the Quest 2 as it is.
Levels aren't free-roaming, but the section I played was rather large. Still, this isn't an open-world game where you'll find yourself getting lost in side quests or talking to NPCs. It's primarily a mission-based title with plenty of dialog and cut scenes looped in. In fact, the voicework and story sequences are among the very best I've seen in any VR game to date!
Several movement options and comfort settings ensure that this game can be played standing up or sitting down. Folks with motion sickness issues in VR can still teleport around, or crafty players can use a combination of smooth locomotion, teleportation, and grab-climbing to quickly get away or position themselves for the best kills.
While it's not the same kind of open-world game as series' fans might have come to expect, this still feels like an incredibly solid, tailor-made entry that'll almost certainly make its way on the best Quest games list upon release. And I seriously can't wait to see how well it looks and runs on Quest 3 hardware.
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