Like other depictions of The Walking Dead universe, Saints & Sinners thrusts you into a world torn between a zombie apocalypse, warring factions, and the struggle of those caught in the crossfire. It’s a pretty typical setup for a zombie horror experience, though I’d say that Saints & Sinners is less a horror game, more a survival adventure with a good dose of suspense.
- What is The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners? It’s a story-based survival adventure game based on The Walking Dead universe, complete with hordes of undead, warring human factions, and the poor souls caught in between.
- Reviewed On: PC, Oculus Rift S
- Price: $39.99
- Developer: Skydance Interactive
- Release Date: Jan 23, 2020
- Website: https://vrwalkingdead.com/
- Multiplayer: None
Twas a Dark and Stormy Night
The game doesn’t waste any time building a back story, as you start the game mid-quest, having found the journal of a deceased soldier who writes of an untouched military cache loaded with weapons, ammo, food, and medical supplies. The journal includes a radio frequency, a code word, and a location: the city of New Orleans. An apt choice, as the town is already steeped in voodoo and intrigue, which works in favor of the game’s post-apocalyptic creole vibe.
You’re intercepted en route and befriended by an old loner who dubs you “The Tourist” and shares in your search for the elusive cache. He reveals that the locals call it “The Reserve,” and while many believe it to be a myth, the games warring factions are eager to find it as well. Fortunately for you, your new friend amassed a collection of data and evidence as to the whereabouts of The Reserve and hands it down to you, along with his campsite and belongings, after he’s mysteriously killed in the first 15-seconds of gameplay.
Fight or Flight
The experience begins at your newly inherited home base, an old church-bus turned RV, within one of New Orleans famous cemeteries, surrounded by bayous. The bus serves as your stash and comes equipped with a bed for sleeping (restores stats, advances game) and a CB radio for communicating with unseen characters who slowly reveal plot details.
On the outskirts of your encampment are your crafting tables and campfire. These allow you to upgrade skills, build weapons/ammo, cook food, and create medical supplies. A short distance away lies a ramshackle boat and a map, which serves as your transportation between the games various open-world environments.
Your home base is a critical element of the game that needs to be leveraged effectively. That’s because the game has no system of XP, and your character matures through scavenging and crafting. It’s a smart choice, as you’re limited only by your own ability to survive, as opposed to arbitrary barriers. As seems to be the trend in Saints & Sinners, the developers worked hard to avoid breaking immersion with traditional UI elements, opting for those which blend naturally into the environment and work well with motion-controlled gameplay.
While scavenging and crafting are fun, the real star is the physics-based combat. You can push away or manhandle enemies as necessary, holding pistols with two hands increases accuracy, and two-handed weapons have comically wobbly accuracy when trying to use them with only a single hand. Your weapons are holstered on each hip (knives and pistols), with a slot on your back for larger weapons (large melee, rifles, shotguns). Ammunition is stored in its own slot for the sake of reloading, as the developers balanced the power of firearms with the act of having to reload them manually.
VR definitely puts you “in the game,” and I’ve never been under such stress to reload a revolver round by round while backpedaling to get away from a horde of advancing zombies… and it’s even harder in the dark when your flashlight runs out of juice!
Speaking of your flashlight, it’s a unique diversifier in a game that leans heavily on dark environments and jump scares. Being that it’s a “Faraday flashlight” (a shake light that only holds its charge for a few minutes), dark environments are an exercise in resource management. I often found myself exploring a dank crypt with my flashlight in one hand and a knife in the other, shaking the flashlight to full power as it begins to dim. However, by occupying one hand with the torch, you’re unable to reload or switch weapons easily.
Another noteworthy observation is how effective melee weapons are in the game when compared to firearms. I tend to rely on knives as my primary weapon, using one hand to stiff-arm an oncoming zombie, while the other plunges a knife deep into its brain for an instant kill. It really seems like the developers wanted to promote combat that’s up-close and personal, and I can’t deny that it’s morbidly satisfying. One thing to be aware of, though: the game uses a system of durability for all weapons, and knives are some of the most fragile. It’s a good idea to carry extra weapons in your pack as you’re exploring.
The Blood-Soaked Visage
While the graphics in Saints & Sinners are superior to your average VR game, I found that the environments are better realized than the cartoonish humanoid characters, with the zombies fitting into the environment more than the living characters. This may have been intentional, as VR can be very convincing, and it’s possible that the developers didn’t want the mass slaughter of human characters to be too realistic.
That said, the nature of VR tends to reduce the importance of graphics in-game, because the format provides gameplay opportunities and a sense of immersion that transcend the visuals. Even the positional audio in VR can play a more significant role than visuals, as the ability to locate sounds is critical when you’re “inside” the game.
Zoom Out: Verdict
Audiovisuals - 7.5/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 7.5/10
Saints & Sinners is a well-formed survival adventure with gameplay that makes innovative use of VR and motion controls. You’re hungry, tired, and daylight is dwindling. Not only that, but your melee weapon is about to break, you’re short on ammo, and completely out of medical supplies. You can hold up inside structures, jump across rooftops, or sneak through crawl spaces to avoid the zombie hordes, but you’re always under pressure. I give Saints & Sinners two dismembered thumbs up and recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a more involved VR experience.
- Positional audio makes for spine-tingling moments
- Burying your knife in a zombie’s head is morbidly satisfying
- Well implemented motion controls make for natural interaction with the world
- Weapons are lost if controllers lose tracking
- Human characters stand out as being too cartoony
- Angle of weapons in relation to your hand is a little wonky