If VR gaming is anything to go by, then 2020 is going to be the year of The Walking Dead. We’re reviewing The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners on an Oculus headset today, and it’s a title that is also heading to PSVR and the Quest later in the year. But if that’s not enough, then Survios also still has The Walking Dead: Onslaught in the works. Most importantly though… the year’s off to a good start with Saints & Sinners.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners by Skybound certainly isn’t the first VR romp in zombieville – we’ve enjoyed Vertigo’s Arizona Sunshine and there have been plenty of smaller scale takes on the genre as well, including the fun beat ’em up Bloody Zombies by nDream. Skybound’s take is the first one that plays out in the famous Walking Dead universe though, the pop culture phenomenon that’s even spawned themed haunted houses.
As an officially licensed product, Saints & Sinners features a realistic depiction of the city of New Orleans, as well as plenty of recognizable locations and scenes within it. The city’s broken up into factions, the government’s powerless and everyone would like a piece of “the reserve” – a military bunker filled with all the supplies that those who aren’t infected might need.
Amidst all this, you quickly end up all alone, shacked up near a cemetery with access to workbenches and recipes you might need down the road. Return “home” later on in the game, and you can re-use many of the things you picked up towards upgrades, medicine, weapons or useful items.
Combat’s the main part of the game though, and felt surprisingly intuitive and familiar. Perhaps this is because I went hands on with Survios’ The Walking Dead – Onslaught already, and both developers were inspired to put in some of the same things. Knife-based combat isn’t just a case of wildly flying a knife around here – everything feels much more visceral. I found myself pointing my knife forward to keep enemies at bay, only to step in and thrust it into their flesh. The immersion doesn’t stop there either – getting your knife (or other stabbing weapon) back involves using your other hand to brace yourself against the undead and pull out the blade.
Gunplay is similarly satisfying, as you manually reload your guns rather than just point and shoot. Archery is also an option, and functions much like it does in other VR titles – which isn’t surprising since it’s become a bit of a VR staple over the years. Combat’s not just immersive and fun, it also feels impactful due to a good amount of gory effects that fit well with the source material. Smacking someone over the head with a rusty board or axe has never been so much fun.
There’s a fairly linear story to follow, but along the way you have plenty of opportunities to engage with optional side quests, characters and items to find – many of which will benefit you when you return home and start crafting. Combine that with engaging storytelling (in which your interactions with other humans can be just as impactful as the ones you have with the undead), and there’s a gripping tale here that makes excellent use of VR.
Although the whole ‘zombie apocalypse’ thing tends to ensure that you see a lot of grey and brown colors, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is a great looking VR title that’s high on atmosphere and immersion. If they can keep that intact for the Quest version I’m thinking this could very well be one of the killer apps for that platform. On the Rift, however, it’s already a must-have experience for fans of The Walking Dead and probably for those who don’t even watch the show.