Look, I’m a simple man. Point me towards anything Vampire: The Masquerade, and I’m ready to give it a whirl. Developer Fast Travel Games brings the master vampire experience to VR with Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice. For the most part, it hits on its primary goal: to make you feel like a real vampire in the immersive medium of VR.
But while journeying through Venice as a bloodsucker in Justice is overall a rather solid experience, the faults and glaring issues of VR are still present. There’s been a lot of “cheap” attempts to bring quality licenses to VR for a quick buck. That isn’t the case with Justice. You can tell there was a lot of passion put into honoring the Vampire: The Masquerade IP. However, the technological shortcomings of VR do weigh down the roughly 10-hour adventure, making me wonder what this attempt would look like when the technology is in a better place.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice (Meta Quest, PS VR2[reviewed], SteamVR)
Developer: Fast Travel Games
Publisher: Fast Travel Games
Released: February 6, 2024
We’re thrust into the role of a vampire from the Banu Haqim clan, a moniker that roughly translates to “Sons of the Wise”. Our sire has been murdered—as in, dead-dead, not just a vampire—and it’s our job to hunt down his killer. The hunt takes us to the dark and gloomy underbelly of Venice, Italy. In VR, Venice is a bit hit or miss in terms of its design. Character models of NPCs and enemies look better than the environment they are in, but overall still feel dated. However, I’ve only played a few VR titles so far. From what I have played, I’d say overall Venice looks better than most VR titles but still leaves a bit to be desired. Some of the environmental textures look blurred or basic if you take the time to really investigate and look closer.
As for the actual world of Justice, though, it fits. The dark and gloomy Venice under the glowing full moon certainly feels like you’re in the world of Vampire: The Masquerade, which I can certainly appreciate. You’ll traverse the underbelly of Venice, including its dark and damp sewer system, which certainly fits the Vampire: The Masquerade tone in a VR setting.
Unfortunately, the whole dark color scheme, while fitting, often makes missions blur together and feel somewhat repetitive, especially when the gameplay on each mission is usually the same too. Stealth towards your next objective, perform a stealth takedown without being spotted, and eat—well, feed on, I guess— some rats along the way to replenish your strength. I think the biggest issue I had with Justice is that while the story kept things pretty fresh, the gameplay loop itself stayed mostly the same.
For the most part, Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice nails feeling like a real vampire, which is quite impressive. However, it’s important to note that Justice is a stealth game first and foremost. At the start of the game, you are required to stealth through your missions. In fact, most early Vampire Powers you unlock simply aid your capabilities to sneak through the missions. Your first power allows you to become invisible so you can sneak past enemies, refueling your strength along the way by sucking the blood of unaware humans and even rats scurrying around the Venice sewers.
As you progress, you’ll unlock more Vampire Powers, as well as different types of ammo for your crossbow. However, even with new powers and a flashy crossbow, stealth first is still the mantra throughout Justice. In a way, it does kind of hamper every truly feeling like the super-powerful vampire we probably should be. Even near the end of Justice, you can only use a few powers before having to replenish your strength by feeding, which often felt like more of a chore than a fun gameplay element.
Of course, you can also upgrade these powers. At least to an extent. The upgrade potential is very limited, only allowing you to upgrade each power a couple of times. There aren’t a massive amount of powers here like you might expect from Vampire: The Masquerade, but that’s because it’s mostly only powers that assist with the core gameplay element of stealth.
Real terror is not the sight of death
Unfortunately, there are a few flaws that become quite cumbersome in a ten-hour experience. The AI of enemies leaves a lot to be decided. Often times they freeze or stutter in place or are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them. With such a focus on stealth, I feel like this is an important aspect that Justice should get right, not just half-right.
A lot of key mechanics that utilize the VR functionality often didn’t work too well, either. Grabbing ahold of enemies to feed on them without being seen was quite challenging to actually pull off. And I think the difficulty wasn’t necessarily intended, but rather just the VR not properly realizing what I was trying to do. A lot of times it didn’t quite pick up correctly, then I’d end up getting seen, and it was not a good time from there.
It is the fear of death
I also tried playing the game while sitting, an option most VR games have nowadays, which Justice does as well. But, even though it’s technically available, it did not work right at all. You can adjust the elevation that the game detects you at so that you should properly be able to stay seated and feel like you are standing at normal height, allowing you to crouch and look up. However, no matter how I adjusted the elevation, I was either positioned too high or too low.
If you’re looking for a stealth VR game, Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice will certainly scratch that itch. The story is intriguing and thought out enough to make it worthwhile if you care about Vampire: The Masquerade. And it’s very evident that Fast Travel Games aimed to fit into the overall material setting. But the underwhelming RPG elements, primarily the Vampire Powers, as well as buggy controls and AI, make the experience fall a bit short of what I think this bloodsucking journey could have been.