For years, most VR games were just glorified tech demos, rarely offering a true, full-fledged gaming experience. However, this is starting to change, with more games appearing as full-featured games on par with titles on traditional platforms. The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners is one such VR game, and while there are definitely some issues with it that prevent it from reaching its full potential, it’s otherwise a pretty impressive and engaging game. which is a survival-horror virtual reality experience.
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners puts players in the shoes of The Tourist, exploring New Orleans, Louisiana in search of the fabled “Reserve” – a treasure trove of essential survival supplies. Players are tasked with completing quests for a mysterious man named Casey in exchange for more information on the Reserve, while battling zombies and a militant survivor group known as The Tower.
With New Orleans often flooded, players must use a small boat to travel from one location to the next. While completing story objectives, players will also be forced to collect everything that isn’t rolled down, as the gameplay loop in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners revolves around the crafting system. Players collect a bunch of trash, take it back to the bus they live in at their home base, and then dump it in a recycling bin to save crafting materials.
These crafting materials are essential to success in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners. Players can use them to create new weapons and healing items, but they can also be used to upgrade the three crafting stations. Upgrading crafting stations also allows for stat upgrades, such as increased stamina, health, and other bonuses. Other games usually separate stat upgrades into a skill tree or something along those lines, but by keeping everything under the crafting umbrella, progression in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners is more streamlined and better for it.
Instead of forcing players to hunt down specific crafting recipes like many other games do, The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners instead lets them craft fan-favorite weapons on the fly. Players can create a version of Negan’s baseball bat, as well as Rick Grimes’ magnum, and they can store additional weapons in their bus for later use. Players will be forced to go on additional supply runs just to build a reliable arsenal. There’s a satisfying sense of progression to it all, and it makes the game hard to put down.
The weapons players collect in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners will primarily be used to kill zombies, which is where VR really enhances the experience. The combat is visceral, intense, and realistic. If players want to swing their barbed-wire baseball bat at a zombie’s head, they have to hold the weapon as they would in real life and swing it realistically. This makes fighting zombies more exciting than if players just press a button for battle.
Melee weapons are definitely preferred in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, although many players can use guns as well. As with melee weapons, there’s a sense of realism when it comes to using guns in Saints and Sinners, where players have to manually eject a clip, load a new one, and pull back the chamber before they can – shoot. Also, shotguns require players to load each shell individually, and the same goes for a six-shot revolver. Players can easily fumble and drop bullets on the ground, which can make dangerous situations even more exciting.
Fighting zombies in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners is fun and takes cues from older VR games like Gorn. Fighting human enemies, on the other hand, is a miserable experience. At times, the story will force players to enter The Tower’s hideouts, which are designed in such a way that it seems like the developers want players to sneak through these areas. However, enemies can see players immediately, even from behind objects, and do not have time to run for safety. Human enemies are merciless, with players able to die in just a few shots. Stealth in the game doesn’t work, and so players have to resort to cheesing in these encounters.
The survival mechanics in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners only exacerbate human combat issues. Players constantly have to manage their stamina, which is depleting at an alarming rate. It only takes a few minutes after starting a mission for players to get their stamina bar too low, and the only way to fix it is by eating, which lowers one’s maximum health. We reached a point in the game where it was almost impossible to find medicine to restore our maximum health, so our health bar was stuck at the halfway mark and The Tourist wouldn’t stop coughing. This went on for hours, and it was just annoying.
Survival games often struggle with finding the right balance with things like the stamina meter, but the one in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners is too harsh. It wouldn’t be so bad if players didn’t have to sprint everywhere, but the player character’s walking speed is very slow. Some players may also dislike the weapon’s durability system, which, like the stamina meter, is a bit choppy early on.
The farther players get in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, the less annoying these survival mechanics become, even as supplies become scarcer with each passing day and zombies begin to multiply. Finding supplies later in the game can be a bit of a chore, as players constantly have to stop their search to pull out their weapon and whack some zombies in the head. Although the combat is generally pretty fun, it can get tiresome after a while.
The tedium also sets in thanks to the repetitive level design. Most of the areas players explore in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners look pretty much the same. Things get a little mixed up later on, but generally players will be exploring look-alike streets, robbing what appear to be color-coded houses, and dealing with ugly NPCs who look almost exactly the same’ t one.
While many of the human characters are the same, gruff-looking bald men are copied and pasted over and over again, the voice acting and writing is strong enough that players will still find themselves who are interested in the stories of the more important NPCs. There are some interesting side quests to be found in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners that hit players with some surprising twists and force them to make difficult decisions, true to the tone of the source material.
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners is incredibly respectful of the source material in more ways than just the game’s story structure. Not only does the story of The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners feel like something out of a comic book series or AMC show, but there are many other little details that will make hardcore fans of the franchise feel right at home. For example, if players shoot a human enemy and fail to destroy their brain, they will eventually respawn as a zombie. Players are also able to cut the guts out of zombies and rub them on themselves for camouflage, which is a trick used by characters in the comics and shows to stealthily move places.
The ability to do things like cut a zombie’s guts shows just how far the level of interactivity in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners has come. It’s reminiscent of the recent Boneworks VR game, with players able to interact with almost anything that isn’t rolled down. It’s great for VR enthusiasts with a lot of virtual reality experience, though admittedly some gamers may find all the different things they can do a little daunting at first. However, it’s better than bogging everything down with long tutorials.
There’s a very short tutorial at the beginning of The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, but otherwise, players are left to their own devices and allowed to experiment to figure out how everything works. This is just one of the ways the game is reminiscent of the Dark Souls series, the other being its death system. If players die, they are given the option to reload a save or continue and try to recover their loot. Like other Soul-like games, if players die again en route to their loot, it will be lost forever. Most of the levels are small enough that players can just reload the auto-save and not really lose much progress, though, so it doesn’t really add anything to the game.
The Souls-like mechanics neither help nor hurt The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, but one thing that lets the game down is its technical performance. We ran into some pretty serious issues, like crashing, stuttering, and times where the game would refuse to register when we were eating food or trying to get a collectible. These issues are less prevalent than some other VR games, but still enough to cause headaches.
Technical issues aside, The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners is generally a good time and one of the better VR horror games on the market. The level of interactivity alone makes this a game that many VR enthusiasts will want to check out, even if they expect to be disappointed by the poor implementation of stealth mechanics and human combat.
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners is out now for PC-powered VR headsets, with PlayStation VR and Oculus Quest releases coming later this year. Today Technology tested the Steam version using an Oculus Rift S headset.