After some 24 hours playtime we can finally offer our verdict on Skydance Interactive’s The Walking Dead Saints & Sinners. For the uninitiated, this is a VR only title for most VR headsets and comes in at just over £30.
The Walking Dead series needs no introduction, so in this game you play as “the tourist” a male or female character of your choosing who dives into a ravaged New Orleans post-walker apocalypse. We’re going to use the term “walker” because that’s what they are even if they act and look the same as zombies.
Once the opening pleasantries pass, your job divides into two main gameplay arcs. One follows a story, set out by your interactions with other survivors and the other is surviving the wilds as a lone-character, gathering resources to upgrade your weapons and abilities. The two work neatly in tandem but it’s entirely your choice as to how you follow these paths. Technically you could simply stay in your safe area and let the days pass, but that would be no fun. Where the game shines is once per-day you’re able to visit one of several locations on the map. You have a limited time to complete objectives or scavenge for items. Once the time expires, the bell tolls which fills the location with walkers, making it extremely tough to survive. If you manage to sneak or fight your way back to one of the makeshift boats unscathed you get to keep your loot and live to fight another day. If you fail then you have a choice of attempting to reclaim your lost loot, restart the whole day again or move-on without the goodies. There is little point dying over-and-over to attempt to collect a lost backpack. Once you return to your safe area, you can drop-off your loot and craft new gear and upgrades. This is the main survival loop until you max things out. Then it’s a case of maintaining weapons to survive each day. Interestingly, as each day passes, resources dwindle and the numbers of walkers increase. It’s a neat mechanic for keeping players on-their-toes and prevents players from taking too-long to complete objectives. Luckily for most of the story objectives you’re able to try again on a different day until you get it.
The game offers some intense moments as you climb into destroyed and somewhat empty buildings. Once inside you’re able to look high or low inside cupboards and such-like for any useful items. It’s often quite dark requiring use of a trusty flashlight, however by-design players need to hold it rather than leaving it attached to your chest pocket. The range is deliberately narrow and makes scavenging about in the dark feel more intense. Walkers shuffle about and moan which adds to the fear. Make too much noise or be less stealthy and they will make a reasonably fast beeline towards you. Players can adopt pure stealth but this isn’t easy and often the time-limit works against you. However, a panther style is possible allowing you to sneak attack the unsuspecting which is highly satisfying.
Looking at the combat and it’s handled satisfyingly here with a mixture of melee weapons for up-close head popping alongside noisy ranged-attacks with a variety of guns. Stealth players can craft a bow with retrievable arrows, but this isn’t an easy play option without some practice. As the game progresses, walkers offer countermeasures (such as helmets and body armour) to your upgraded arsenal, following the theme of keeping you on-edge at all times. However, there does come a point regardless of things like weapon durability, depleting stamina and limited supplies where your character can easily dish-out punishment. Those wanting a Michonne fantasy can wield a katana and stab and slice off heads with relative ease taking away some of the fear. In VR though there is plentiful satisfaction from lopping off heads, getting into struggles and stumbling into packs of walkers vying for your blood.
It’s not all walkers either which is as you would expect in keeping with the TV series. Players need to navigate human adversaries in their factions as well. Often the story will require some sort of interaction, but again, players have a choice here. You can stealth into the faction hot-zones undetected, take them out silently from the shadows or go-loud and storm-the-gates. The game offers some great moments with the humans although sadly you can’t get an AI companion (or fellow human player) to tag along on your adventures.
In terms of visuals, Skydance made a nice looking game inside VR with plentiful effects amidst contrasts between light and dark. Whilst the visuals rest on the side of comic book rather than realistic, it works for what it is and keeps your drawn-in without becoming too unbelievable. Audio is especially really good with solid performances from the cast. Interestingly, your male or female character isn’t a mute and has plenty to say which works well here. A new update added the option to use your microphone to alert walkers which players can use to their advantage or detriment. A neat touch indeed and something more games could use.
As mentioned, players can spend as much time in this world as long as they can survive each passing day and night. Once the story ends players can continue the struggle as a pure survival game. In this regard the price of entry is just right although some extra activities could be added post-story completion to keep things spiced-up. With several save-slots to use and the choice of two characters, different options during conversations and you have a fair amount of incentive to play again once bested.
The Walking Dead Saints & Sinners is a cool VR game that feels feature complete and is well-worth the asking price. Whether you’re a fan of the TV series it’s based-on or not, this is just a cool game for VR audiences. It boasts excellent production values and despite featuring more “zombies” which is a very common theme in VR games, manages to avoid the usual wave-shooter mechanic we’ve seen so many times before. If you’re after a cool VR game with great audio visual elements and a neat gameplay loop, then this comes highly recommended.