When it first came out in 2020, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners was rightly lauded as one of the best virtual reality games out there. From how reactive and interactive the world was, to the weighty motion controls for zombie battling, and most importantly how scalable it was to cater for standalone VR, PC VR, and the original PlayStation VR, while still looking pretty darned good.
Now it’s out on PlayStation VR 2 alongside its sequel, the awkwardly named The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution, and it looks to take advantage of all the raw power of the PS5 and the capabilities of the PSVR 2. So how has it done?
First things first, let’s talk the upgrade path. Skydance originally said that all users would be able to upgrade for free, even PS Plus subscribers that grabbed the base game as a freebie back in 2021. That eventually changed to being for those who own the Tourist Edition, which is an £8 / $10 DLC if you have that standard edition. That’s not too unreasonable, though it is a disappointing backtrack of sorts, but the roll out has been a bit of a mess, looking on Reddit and social media. Some people buying the PS5 version of the DLC or the disc version not having a path at this time, though Skydance is looking to put this in place. If you’ve not yet jumped in and do need to pay, make sure to double check what you’re buying.
Saints & Sinners holds up really quite well on the original PSVR thanks to the strength of its art style and that inherent scalability. It is fair to say that it’s still going to suffer from that headset’s 1080p screen resolution, though, and so reading item details and text from a little distance can be a bit rough at times. When you’re at the crafting tables, for example.
It’s a world of difference in that regard when stepping up to PSVR 2. The much higher resolution makes things more readable, and in general helps to give the game a more convincing kind of solidity. Improved textures detail goes hand in hand with the greater draw distance that means that the distance fogging effect can be peeled back. I will say that I feel the animation work has taken a step forward from Chapter 1 to Chapter 2, specifically when talking to living humans, but this is stepping the game up to at least match what the PC VR version was capable of.
There is some of the mura effect, a subtle colour unevenness that comes through from the OLED panel’s individual pixels and can often be seen in darker and dingy environments or with flatter colours that come from a comic book art style, but then that’s something that’s never really bothered me while playing any PSVR 2 games.
You also have significant advantages in terms of motion tracking and how you play. The problems of PSVR 1’s camera-based visible light tracking solution are well documented, and while good for many VR gaming situations, there’s inherent limitations here that can affect gaming. In particular, you could confuse the camera by obscuring its view of the tracking lights, which could add jitter and wobble for when aiming with a gun, as just one key example. And then when you’re playing with a Move controller, you lack the analogue sticks, forcing developers to perhaps get a little creative for moving in the world.
In Saints & Sinners on original PSVR, you’re pointing and holding the left hand Move button to get around, using buttons on the right controller to turn. On PSVR 2? Well, it’s analogue stick all the way, and that will be common to pretty much every free-movement game on the new generation headset. It allows for much more dynamic movement and action to, for example, check the journal and map while moving, instead of having to stop and start.
Movement is very deliberate here. You go slowly by default, really not much faster than a zombie, while sprinting then drains into your stamina, which you have to manage with food alongside your health management. There’s the usual vignettes built into the game for this, and you can adjust those to your liking, since to me they feel pretty heavy by default – this is something that’s really accentuated by the widescreen HDMI capture on PSVR 2, which showing a lot of the rendered peripheral vision.
With the world, the setting and the movement you have available to you, combat also has to be pretty deliberate. Melee combat is pretty intensely physical, whether it’s a knife or screwdriver needing a second shove to get into a zombie’s brain, chunky axes needing two hands to steady and aim, or pushing a zombie back away from you. Motion wants to be broad and smooth instead of sharp or fast, and it’s also slightly disconnected at times, as your physical motion is remapped to the constrained digital world. You might pull an axe back out of a zombie head, but it’s sticky in the game in a strange way. That’s just part of the game. You can still move too quickly for PSVR 2 to feel completely accurate, though it is a bit more accommodating in that regard compared to PSVR 1.
The grip button by default needs to be held whenever you hold something in your hand, which can be a little tiresome, but can thankfully be turned into a toggle. You don’t want to be accidentally dropping and losing that weapon when there’s half a dozen zombies bearing down on you!
Or, since it’s a fully physical inventory system, accidentally grabbing a gun off your belt and then dropping it while climbing over a wall… which I might have done… a few times.
All in all, this is a great upgrade for Saints and Sinners onto PSVR 2. It makes good use of the higher resolution of the headset, the power of the PS5 pushes back the draw distance and enhances environmental detail, and the Sense controllers lift some of the creative compromises made for Move. This is still one of the essential VR games, and playing in PSVR 2 only enhances its innate attributes.