Review – The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners was a game that I was sure was going to be a cash grab using The Walking Dead name. Once I watched the trailer it started intriguing me based on its gameplay, but I know how easy it is to show off only the good things in a trailer. I went in skeptical and without much anticipation, but I left my first play session thoroughly impressed. This is no quick crash grab and it has now become one of my favorite VR zombie games next to Arizona Sunshine.
It takes place in New Orleans about a year after the zombie apocalypse and a massive flood happens. You play as “The Tourist”, who travels to New Orleans based on a deal you make with an old scavenger. The deal is simple: find his hidden loot and you get half. Of course nothing is that easy in a zombie apocalypse. You soon find out the city is ran by multiple groups of people teaming up to survive. This means you’ll see factions having random gun fights in the middle of the streets. For the time being, you’re given missions by The Resistance (more of the Saints than the Sinners) as you try and find your hidden loot.
The tutorial does a good job of preparing you for the trials ahead and getting you used to the level of interactivity the game expects from you. If you’re using a fairly dull screwdriver to attack a zombie with, be prepared to do a full swing and follow through. If you stop your arm half way and only jab, the screw driver will get stuck in the skull and not kill the zombie. Axes or other heavier weapons require two hands to wield accurately and requires a realistic amount of body motion to build up the swing. Guns require you to unload, reload, and chamber a round and this process is obviously different depending on the gun.
The interactivity and physics of the world are very nice, and while it doesn’t quite hit the same level as say Bone Works, it does a nice job of bridging that with arcade gameplay. Along with your health, you will need to manage your stamina and hunger. The more you swing heavy weapons, the longer you sprint, the longer you climb water drains to access a second story window; everything you do uses stamina. You’ll need to scavenge for food and drinks to refill your stamina. Using bandages and pain killers will also help with your health if you’re running low.
Crafting bandages and finding cook books to make your own meals is vital to The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners. Actually, looting and crafting in general is how you’re going to survive. Every where you go there are hundreds of items that you can toss in your backpack and recycle once you get back to your safe area. Scavenge the map areas, return and unload your bag into the recycle bin to automatically turn them into scrap parts. This allows you to craft and cook and the more you do that, the more you can upgrade your skill tiers to craft and cook better items. Even the smallest junk can net you something. If you’re lucky you can find specific gun and melee weapon parts that will help you unlock some nasty zombie killing weapons.
With a subtitle like Saints & Sinners comes the option to be a saint or a sinner with the random NPCs you’ll encounter. I’ll give an early game example so I won’t spoil too much. Once you unlock the option to travel the map, one of the first NPCs you’ll run into asks for your help to kill her turned husband and return his wedding ring. What I enjoy about this game is it will give you landmarks and details, but it is up to you to explore and find it. No way points or golden dust trails.
She lets me know her husband is in the attic of a blue mansion and if I complete the mission she will give me the code to their hidden safe. The mansion was fairly easy to find, but of course it had zombies surrounding it. There were multiple ways to enter the house. Climb the gutter and into a second story window? Climb under the floor boards? Enter through a side door? Being the ninja that I am, I decided to climb the rain gutter and climb through window. I find the husband up in the attack, dispatch him, but the horror was the note he left behind.
He watched their kids turn into zombies and had to kill them before he turned as well. Dead bodies of the family were scattered throughout the attic, but I finished my mission. I returned the ring, but decided to not tell her what her husband did. I got the code, found the safe, and found a shooting pamphlet that increased my handgun skills along with a fancy 9mm pistol. Now, I could have just killed the woman and took her safe code if I wanted to, but I decided to help her out and it gave me some more story to enjoy.
The largest issue that stood out to me was with the NPCs themselves. The AI is not smart, zombies are zombies, but even the humans will often stand extremely still during gun fights. This makes it very simple to peek out and shoot. The animations for these side characters are also extremely stiff. They nearly give Bethesda games a run for their money. Other than that, the game didn’t stutter or have frame issues or any bugs that I noticed. No motion sickness as well and there are plenty of comfortability options if you need them.
Visually The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is pretty good looking. Areas can look a bit too similar, but it does resemble a flooded zombie infested New Orleans, I guess. Main interactable objects all have a very clean and polished look to them, as do your own hands and the zombies themselves. Unfortunately, my issue here again are those human NPCs. They look noticeably worse than everything else with a blocky and cartoony feel about them. Like a human model from early Pixar movies. It could have used some more color and dynamic lighting, but all and all it looks good.
The sound design isn’t much to write home about, but it’s not bad by any means. The soundtrack has decent tones and tunes that fit certain moods, but never rises to anything other than background music. The voice acting I was surprised about. Not all of it is great, but is it serviceable none-the-less. My main issues are with the guns. They just don’t pack that punch you want to hear and feel in VR. Also, the spacial audio needs some work as well because there were a few times where I had to quickly turn around thinking a zombie was next to me when it was downstairs the whole time.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is a surprisingly solid zombie game that every VR gamer should play. If you like Arizona Sunshine, you’re going to enjoy this title. It offers a bit of everything from melee, survival, crafting, shooting, realistic physics, and even includes a meaty fifteen or so hour long campaign story. If you’re looking for your next VR zombie fix, this is the one.
Side characters look too blocky and cartoony compared to the zombies and the environments. The world is nicely detailed with good quality textures for most main objects.
Gameplay shines here with a heavy focus on interactivity and physics. Your character has a physical presence in this world and needing to use momentum to land successful melee strikes feels very satisfying.
The soundtrack is decent, the voice acting isn’t terrible, but some of the guns need to pack a heavier punch. Some spacial audio needs work though.
Fun Factor: 8.0
There is actually a meaty game here with a very well done, but not perfect, combat and crafting system. I thought this would be a cash grab on The Walking Dead name, but I’m glad I was wrong.
Final Verdict: 8.0
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners is available now on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
Reviewed on Oculus Rift with a i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb of RAM.
A copy of The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners was provided by the publisher.