If you’re reading this then there’s a good chance you’re a Peaky Blinders fan or have (at the very least) a partial interest in the 1920s gangster show. Back in 2019, the British virtual reality (VR) team behind Doctor Who: Edge of Time, Maze Theory, revealed that its next project would be based on Peaky Blinders, taking players inside the grim and dangerous world of post-war Birmingham. Called Peaky Blinders: The Kings Ransom, gmw3 has taken an early peek under the cap and it’s as hardnosed as you’d hope.
Firstly, Maze Theory was honest in stating that the short demo gmw3 played was a year old but it still showcased the basics of what the project was aiming to achieve; offering a rich narrative of its own for those new to the IP whilst giving fans plenty to get excited about.
And that’s instantly on show as the demo opens out onto the infamous Garrison Street with the Garrison Pub at the end. A slow walk (no teleporting) down the mud-covered road felt familiar and daunting, with the 20s factories towering either side and doorways belching out flames as if a monstrous dragon lay just inside. Reaching the end it was time to open the outer and inner double doors of the pub, grabbing the door handles with both hands to swing them open for a dramatic entrance.
Yet inside there was no one to make that grand entry to, the pub was quiet albeit for one single, solitary figure; that of Tommy Shelby, the head of the Peaky Blinders gang. As you may already know, this VR experience is an official collaboration so Maze Theory could use not only the likeness of Cillian Murphy, he also recorded lines for the videogame. So there he was, stood in the middle of the pub, flat cap on and ready to talk business.
The Garrison Pub is a dark imposing place, even more so with Shelby looming inside. He gestures to an empty table to discuss his plans and what he want’s you for. Time for a taste of Peaky Blinders: The Kings Ransom’s immersive qualities. It can sometimes be the smallest of features in VR that adds that feeling of presence and authenticity to a scene. In the Garrison, Shelby tells you to pour you both a drink, gesturing you to grab a bottle of whisky from the bar. Rather than some generic bottle, you have to remove the cork out with a satisfying “pop”, recorking it if you so wish. He’ll also offer you a cigarette, dashing a lighter across the table.
It’s here, sitting across the table from Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby, drinking a virtual glass of whisky whilst smoking a cigarette that the feeling of being inside Peaky Blinders really became apparent. It felt glorious, dark and most truthfully, gangster, it was time to do a job. Before moving on though, it was a moment to savour, smoking rarely appears in games because the general consensus is not to promote the habit. However, in the right setting like smoking a cigar in I Expect You to Die after surviving a mission or as you’re accepting a job from your new underworld boss, sometimes, just sometimes, there is a right time and place.
Shelby isn’t just going to let anybody into his organisation though. You have to prove yourself and it’s here where Peaky Blinders: The Kings Ransom introduces the mechanic of choice. Shelby asks (tells) you to pick up a gun and shoot a guy in the next room. Shelby leaves and it’s just you with a bloke with a sack on his head. Do you shoot or let him live? The demo ends either way but Maze Theory assure me there will be more pivotal moments like that. Importantly, this is still a Peaky Blinders videogame so it has an overarching narrative set between seasons 4 and 5, therefore whatever decision you make all roads lead to the same conclusion.
All demos should leave you wanting more and this taster of Peaky Blinders: The Kings Ransom has done just that. Considering how old the content was it felt robust and authentic to the franchise so with another year under its belt gmw3 can’t wait to see what Maze Theory has in store. Currently, Peaky Blinders: The Kings Ransom is slated to arrive in 2022 for Meta Quest 2 and PC VR headsets so hopefully there won’t be too long to wait for more info.