It’s not often that a VR game can fully immerse me into its world. A lot of times, I end up taking off the headset and things either resume as normal, or in some situations, I feel nauseated. After experiencing Skydance Interactive’s The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, I can honestly say that it was the most realistic and immersive VR experience I’ve ever felt. After taking the headset off, I look at my hands and I still see the hands that slayed many walkers. I still feel the struggles, and I still feel the tension of my will to survive. This is what VR is about, and while Saints & Sinners might not be the most accessible, it’s definitely one of the compelling VR titles I’ve played.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners puts you in the role of “The Tourist,” a survivor who comes to New Orleans to fulfill a favor to a friend. Meeting up with your friend Henri unfortunately doesn’t go as planned, and suddenly you’re stirred up in a bigger predicament. The story plays out based on your decisions, and Saints & Sinners definitely gives you plenty of choices. As the name implies, you have control of your morality throughout the game. You can choose to be just and help those in need, or you can put yourself before others and be a ruthless killer. The fact that this is a VR title helps to add a layer of depth to make these actions our own.
While it might be easy to pass this off as a generic zombie VR title, Saints & Sinners has a lot to offer. First of all, players will discover an engaging story, taking roughly 15 hours to complete. In a world where many VR stories can be done in one sitting, this is somewhat welcome. Of course, the main reason why many VR games are short is due to the consideration of wearing a headset for extended periods of time. With that in mind, this game truly makes you feel like you’re a part of The Walking Dead. It manages to do this better than even the Telltale Series, as fantastic as that collection of games is.
When it comes to the gameplay, that’s where The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners truly gets to shine. There’s something about the amount of depth in the game that deserves praise. Players will be able to move around by holding a button, double tapping to run. A couple other button presses will turn you left or right, and you’ll even be able to crouch and vault over obstacles. The fact that movement in this game doesn’t easily cause motion sickness is rather impressive too. Other games I’ve played with as much movement often don’t feel nearly as comfortable. I’m not sure what Skydance did, but they clearly found the secret to making movement in VR feel natural.
Of course, movement is only a part of the equation. The biggest factor for the game comes in the combat. Players will be able to carry various weapons, including firearms, melee weapons, and crated weapons. By reaching back, players can pull out a backpack full of items they collect on their journey. Doing the same thing over your right shoulder can take out a two-handed melee weapon. You’ll have access to a flashlight and journal that tracks your quest as well. On your waist, you’ll be able to have a small melee weapon as well as a firearm. Ammunition has to be manually loaded as well, with several guns having a unique way to reload them. This placement is important to get used to, and while it’s a little complex, it’s a really effective when it comes to surviving in New Orleans.
Not only does the inventory system work well, but it also provides an excellent level of tension. As mentioned earlier, guns like the revolver have to be loaded one bullet at a time while a pistol can simply load a full clip. Melee weapons have a durability level and will break over time. If the player crafts a weapon, it will have a higher durability, but the main challenge is in the use. Melee weapons rely on physics and your own momentum. You have to really swing a bat with two hands or apply speed to your stabbing motions to be effective. One detail I found really cool was that grip makes a difference too, as it determines your attack range and the effectiveness of the swing. Of course, you also have to pull your weapons from the skulls of enemies.
While the combat is incredibly realistic and satisfying, I can see the difficulty of accessibility. The fact that melee weapons require a powerful motion means that some players will likely be unable to play the game. Even on the new “Story” difficulty, this will still be an issue to some players. If you have the space to play and the ability to swing properly, then you’re good to go. Otherwise, if physical movement is debilitating for you, then it may be better to look for a simpler game. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners truly puts you in the zombie apocalypse, and that requires some real life physical capabilities.
Graphically, the game manages to find the right balance of Robert Kirkman’s comic book style and realism. Humans and walkers will have a distinctive style to them, yet they fit right into the dark and dreary environments. Environments offer a good amount of detail, and the overall atmosphere is perfect for this genre. The way time works in the game is unique too, as walkers are more dangerous and numerous at night. If you choose to sleep instead, you risk less supplies and more walkers to take on the next day. It’s a cool risk/reward system, and gives you a valid reason to journey forward.
The sound design is incredibly top notch, and it adds to the immersion. Walkers have distinctive groans and shamble along toward you with an effective audio cue. Hacking into their skulls makes a satisfying sound and really gives the appropriate feedback for your kills. The voice acting is also pretty solid, even though the biggest name you’ll likely hear is Paul Eiding of Metal Gear Solid fame. You may recognize other voices from various other forms of media, but the bottom line is that the performances are great. This isn’t a game that relies on star power, but it still manages to create a gripping and effective narrative. With the ability to make choices in your dialogue, it can even offer unique stories with different playthroughs.
Thanks to a recent free update, there’s even more to do in The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners. The Trial is a challenge mode that allows you to jump into one of three stages and take on waves of walkers. Think the Zombies mode in Call of Duty, but single-player and your own survival skills. You’ll earn bite coins for defeating walkers in creative ways, and these will allow you to purchase weapons and tools. It’s a fun distraction, and it makes great practice against the undead while you compete for higher scores. With plans to release even more updates, it seems Skydance is aiming to really give fans their money’s worth.
While The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners may not be for everyone, it perfectly embodies what VR stands for. This is an exceptionally immersive adventure that truly puts you in its world. Your walker kills feel earned, and your effectiveness is completely reliant on your own physical ability. With a lengthy story for a VR title and incredibly deep gameplay, this is one that’s worth jumping into. If you ever wanted to test your mettle in a zombie apocalypse and you own a VR headset, look no further.
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