Oh, Peaky Blinders.
Remember the time before Rocksteady made an amazing game out of Batman, when every time we heard that a beloved franchise was being made into a video game, we all dreaded the outcome? Remember the slew of half-assed video games that only turned a profit because they appealed to an established fan base that sacrificed their lofty expectations of what a video game could be just to feel, however briefly, that they shared a world inhabited by their beloved movie or TV or comic book characters?
Enter The King’s Ransom.
BY ORDER OF MAZE THEORY
Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom bills itself as an adventure and interactive story. It also proudly announces itself as the first virtual reality game inspired by the epic gangster drama.
All of that is true.
As the game begins, it impresses you with some atmospheric graphics. After a ride in the back of a van, you find yourself walking down a rundown street in Birmingham with Nick Cave’s iconic ‘Red Right Hand’ playing. It’s a great setup, and with good art direction and that song blasting, you really do feel that you’ve been thrust straight into the TV show. You walk up to the Garrison Tavern, where you come face to face with the man himself, Tommy Shelby, voiced by non-other than Cillian Murphy himself.
Tommy tells you that he’s been contacted by Winston Churchill because a red box has been stolen which contains the names of British Agents. Ever the patriot, Tommy tasks you with finding the Red Box for Winston Churchill, but first, he wants you to ‘deal with’ a tied-up man in the next room who’s betrayed the Shelbys. Tommy then leaves, and you get to decide whether you’ll kill the man, who’s pathetically pleading for his life.
You can kill him, or you can choose not to.
The gameplay in Peaky Blinders is somewhat limited, making it more of an interactive story than an adventure game. You essentially wander from location to location, fulfilling tasks which present almost no challenge whatsoever, picking up items and then showing them to other characters who will then present you with your next location to visit. You go from location to location, fetching items. There are no puzzles to solve unless you consider opening a safe with a code you’ve been given a puzzle. There are radios you can ‘fix’, but even then, you don’t fix them by using your brain, just by looking around for a transistor bulb and a battery that are usually somewhere nearby. Once fixed, you tune them to a channel to get some optional narrative.
There’s little to no challenge to encounter in the whole game.
You’re mostly fetching and walking, then listening to some character.
Rinse and Repeat.
Your fetching is occasionally interrupted by shooting sections. These almost make the game briefly exciting, but the shooting is simplistic to the extreme. You cannot even store ammo anywhere, so the game just provides you with ammo that keeps regenerating on top of crates or boxes in areas where there’s shooting to be done. Don’t come here for the shooting, it’s half-assed.
In the Bleak Midwinter
Graphically, the game doesn’t fare too badly. The environmental art direction is strong, giving the locations a sense of authenticity, but the character models are stiffly animated and neither realistic enough to be convincing nor stylized enough to be enjoyable.
I mean, sure Tommy looks like Tommy, and his brother Arthur looks like Arthur, even acts like Arthur, but their models and animations are notably second-tier.
The biggest asset to the game is the inclusion of both Cillian Murphy and Paul Anderson as voice actors for their respective roles as Tommy and Arthur. Polly Gray is also a main character in the game, but she’s voiced by Ruth Gibson, not Helen McCrory. Gibson puts on a good enough show, but fans of the show will miss McCrory’s distinct bite.
Peaky Blinders is a brief game, and I finished it in a little more than 2 hours, perhaps 3 at the most. It tells an unremarkable story with little dramatic depth, despite trying hard to be tragic at the very end. It couldn’t raise my investment in my own character, Sammy Taylor, or that of his aunt Rowena Fox, a childhood friend of Polly Gray’s, enough for me to care what happened to either of them.
And remember the guy at the start? The traitor that you could choose to kill or not to kill? Well, I didn’t. Did it matter? I don’t know. Did anybody bring it up? No.
So there you have it, Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom is a Pre-Arkham, Pre-Rocksteady video game adaptation of a beloved franchise featuring two of the cast members. The environments are good, but the gameplay is unchallenging. The audio is good, but the gunplay is lame. The puzzles are non-existent and the only real value you’ll get for your $29.99 is that, for a while, you’ll share a world with the Shelbys, and get to smoke a virtual cigarette.
It’s genuinely hard to recommend unless you’re a hardcore fan of the show and go in knowing full well that it’s more of an interactive story than it is a real VR game. Please note that my score would be at least one point lower if I weren’t a fan of the show. Maze Theory did a better job with Doctor Who.