The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is a VR game that feels just a little bit different in nearly every way. For one thing, it’s set in the world we all know and probably have mixed feelings about, which is to say it’s our world, but with zombies and, I dunno, more readily available knives and guns?
Zombie games aren’t exactly a new thing in VR – thanks to the need for things you can slaughter guilt-free, they’re a pretty common enemy – but The Walking Dead as a franchise helps to keep things interesting by throwing in the whole “man is the real monster” thing as well. Saints & Sinners continues that loving tradition.
It takes place in a New Orleans that has been ravaged by floods, the breakdown of society, and the undead. Standard stuff so far then. However, the failure of the government as it tried to react to the horrifying events taking place has fractured New Orleans into various factions, each of which is vying for control of both the city and the almost mythical Reserve.
The Reserve, as it’s told, is a military bunker that’s stocked with enough food, medicine, and ammunition, to feed an army. Thankfully neither of the two main factions knows where it is, and the only person who does seem to have an idea is a friendly gent named Henri. If you know The Walking Dead, you can probably guess what happens from there.
The long and short of it is that you’re now searching for the Reserve on your own, and you’ve made your home in a cemetery… which is an interesting choice in the midst of a zombie outbreak. In your home sweet home, you have access to a variety of crafting benches and recipes. This is your first clue that this isn’t just a zombie killing game, it’s something more.
Actually, your first clue is probably the tutorial. There’s nothing that feels out of the ordinary as it walks you through how to get around and interact with the world, but your first experience with the combat gives you a glimpse into what you can expect from the rest of the game. It’s not just half-heartedly swatting away hordes of zombies, it’s jamming a screwdriver into their skull before yanking to pull it back out. It’s reloading guns by ejecting the magazine, putting a new one in, and chambering a round.
The combat in The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is wonderfully weighty. You don’t simply hit a zombie with a knife to kill it, you have to bring your arm back and properly drive the blade into the zombie’s head. It’s a little gross, but incredibly satisfying at the same time. The same is true of yanking that blade back out. It feels good, and that’s an excellent thing in a VR game.
There’s ranged combat too, with both bows and a variety of guns to aim, fire, and probably miss with. Well, the bow is hard to use, but the guns work very well. There’s also something weirdly satisfying about crafting your own weapons and then using those to take out the unending hordes of zombies.
On the subject of crafting, it’s pretty good. It’s not all that complicated, but it has a simple kind of satisfaction to it. You go out and collect random things in your journeys around the world before returning home and dropping everything into a recycling bin. Doing so breaks everything down to key crafting components, and those can then be turned into different items. Sometimes these are permanent upgrades like giving you more backpack space, sometimes these are items to use to heal yourself, or new melee and shooty weapons. It feels a bit like Fallout-lite, and that’s a compliment as far as I’m concerned.
Though you’ve got a main story to follow, there’s also lots of side quests to do and hidden treasures to find. There aren’t always a lot of places to explore in the sandbox areas you visit across the city, but it’s always worth trying to find them. You might only come across some Holy Bibles (which the game labels as junk), or you might find a firelighter, which is far more useful. You’ll also meet survivors who need help, each of whom will often present you with moral choices to make, and you actually feel like you have an impact, rather than just doing meaningless fetch quests.
Saints & Sinners also all looks quite good, even though it tends to be fairly drab thanks to the whole zombie apocalypse thing. The zombos (not a typo, just bored of writing the z-word so often) are scary enough to make you jump, especially as they can seemingly come out of nowhere. The moon is very pretty too, which is nice.