The Walking Dead Review: Saints and Sinners Heaven32 (2023)

Imagine what would happen if you took half a season of TV show The Walking Dead, combined it with a Deus Ex or System Shock style of exploration and decision making, and then mixed it with the best aspects of a modern VR game. game would sprinkle. It may end up being a crushingly tense and brutal survival horror game, but it also relentlessly draws you to explore every corner of its post-apocalyptic world in search of hidden loot and nuggets of history. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is exactly that, and it nails the mix, delivering it with a level of detail and depth of interactivity that feels like a real advancement for VR.

You play as a tourist, a celebrated survivor, and a living urban legend who seems immune to the fictional virus that's making everyone else in the The Walking Dead universe a little pissed. You've wandered the sunken rubble of New Orleans after following a rumor of a buried nursery with unlimited supplies called the Reserve, and the rest is up to you. It's a simple build, but perfect for the size and scope of Saints & Sinners, as it doesn't immediately burden you with guesswork about your character's morale.

He was introduced to New Orleans by his old friend Henri, but the moral choices he will make as he navigates the many open areas are his alone. As an Obsidian fan, I was pleased to discover that there were several major factions vying for control of the reservation, each with their own take on the grim situation around them. Such a moral choice involves a quest where a faction member sends you to rescue your brother in exchange for an important item, and it's great that you can change the original quest and kill the brother to win his captors. allies and instead. Take the item by force if that's what you prefer, of course. The ending of Saints & Sinners also depends entirely on the choices you make throughout the campaign, some of which are decidedly 'good' or 'bad'.

All of this choice makes the Tourist mostly a shell to fit your own personality into, with decent voice acting bringing every dialogue option to life, much like Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series. By comparison, Telltale's The Walking Dead accomplished some truly great feats of cinematic storytelling and meaningful decision-making in its hostile, zombie-infested world, but it never gave me free rein to do what I wanted. This is something I've craved for years as a regular fan of The Walking Dead TV series, and while Telltale's version of The Walking Dead certainly made me care about Clementine, it never made me feel like I was in this one to be world.

Saints & Sinners pursues a truly explorable world of The Walking Dead with the grace and confidence of a well-oiled bowie knife.

Saints & Sinners scratches that itch with the grace and confidence of a well-oiled bowie knife. The depiction of killing zombies or strays has never been more satisfying than here, and the pathetic horror of an unexpected swarm of strays has never been more palpable. The zombies' guts and brains are rendered in great detail, but what really connects you to this world is the fact that the guns are just the right weight and weight. Heavy weapons like axes and rifles must be held with two hands for stability, while small weapons like daggers are much lighter and easier to land precise blows. It's not as nuanced as a game like Boneworks; You can't use objects as a weapon, but this combat system is much more tactile and exciting than if you were doing it remotely with a gamepad or keyboard.

Sick strays explode and release toxic gases that deplete your health if you kill them at close range, while helmeted strays are much harder to kill, requiring either complete decapitation or extremely precise strikes to exposed parts of the head. This increased challenge only increases the intensity of fighting a whole group of strays at once, which is common later on, as you'll need to quickly decide which strays to kill, how, and in what order to maintain your body's resilience. best weapons. Quickly juggling my inventory to get used to each fight forced me to be smarter, and as a result, Saints & Sinners never fell into that action RPG trap of repeating itself. It took me just over 18 hours to complete the campaign - the story itself is a few hours shorter - but it was a lot of fun to complete collect runs and hunt down secret recipes on your own.

Wanderers and human NPCs also have their own agendas and often interact with each other in interesting and useful ways. While the AI ​​isn't always the smartest, leading to enemies sometimes getting stuck in funny and vulnerable positions, an impressive amount of the unfolding drama that makes Saints & Sinners exciting is simulated in real-time rather than intentionally scripted. . To my delight, I found that many of the quests allowed me to choose my own path to a solution, and it was a joy to discover alternative routes and mysteries, even if the map felt a bit boring or claustrophobic at times. Even when offered simple ways to move through a group of suspicious human NPCs, or diplomatically solve a quest, or simply attack an NPC directly, I was able to avoid interacting with certain characters, luring in a herd of strays, and before a subsequent one to run away from carnage, or to scale the side of a wall or the side of a house. This freedom to approach a situation in so many different ways is amazing.

And while the larger story of plundering the Preserve sometimes feels thin between long stretches of exploration, looting, killing, and fighting through the streets of New Orleans, allowing me to define my character was refreshing for a VR game. ... through my own decisions in an environment as meticulously detailed and open as this. While Saints & Sinners isn't exactly the first of its kind, this caliber of storytelling is reaching heights that VR has yet to reach.

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At the core of the excitement in Saints & Sinners is that you only have a set amount of time each day to get things done before the city bells ring and the streets are flooded with hungry corpses. Once you're safe again, you can sleep and move on to the next morning, but the number of undead you encounter the next day will increase. This creates an attractive risk-reward trade-off between betting on luck after dark or playing safe at the expense of worse odds tomorrow, adding to the excitement of the entire game.

This dilemma would be perfectly manageable if it weren't for the fact that you have limited inventory space, which makes you think twice about what you take with you. You must also constantly craft or find new weapons, as old ones tend to fall apart at an alarming rate. This forces you to make every attack count, which is easier said than done as you really have to swing and aim with your real life limbs. With a ticking clock in the background, Saints & Sinners is quickly becoming the perfect storm for adrenaline junkies.

Luckily, inventory management is intuitive and awesome. Picking up items and stowing them in your backpack is as easy as tossing them over your shoulder. To access it again, just grab the backpack on the back and pull the items from the neat compartments. Meanwhile, weapons can be stowed in convenient waist and back compartments, while the diary and flashlight fit neatly across the chest. This type of inventory management has been around for a while in VR games like Rec Room and Township Tale, and it's a lot more interactive and engaging than simply tapping your fingers on a menu screen or pointing your finger at some text.

This is the perfect formula for some of the scariest moments I've ever had in a VR headset.

Limited stamina is also a problem. When you run out of stamina, you become sluggish and unable to swing, aim, or dodge, meaning it's even more important to land every punch with finesse. Likewise, a strong weapon or a souped-up resistance group will make you feel satisfyingly powerful, but never to the point where you'll let go of your guard and keep the fight exciting even as you get stronger.

If you fall prey to the staggering hordes, you'll need to respawn at the beginning of the map as the clock of the day keeps ticking, and you'll only have one chance to replenish your inventory before it's finally depleted. Over time, quality supplies and weapons can become so difficult to obtain that finding a broken bottleneck or screwdriver at the last moment can sometimes make the difference between life and death. That, combined with the fact that your health and stamina reserves are temporarily reduced when you die, makes for a perfect formula for some of the scariest moments I've ever had in a VR headset, but that scare was met with just as much satisfaction . if only i could get back to my serve and come out alive afterwards.

It's disappointing that character progression is fairly linear, with only a few tech trees to branch out (gear, weapons, and survival) and no mutual exclusivity between them. There's nothing stopping you from quickly unlocking all sorts of upgrades at crafting stations, as long as you find the right components by collecting items found in the world, similar to Fallout 4. It's a lot of fun to use newly discovered upgrades like the Nail Bomb and the Grass Cutter, and there are some recipes that you'll first have to dig around the hidden nooks and crannies of New Orleans to find, but it's a shame there's no real way to customize your tourist other than making choices . make


A remarkable advancement for virtual reality gaming, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners proves that a Deus Ex-esque action RPG can feel right at home in a headset. There's clearly a level of thought and care behind each of its many interconnected systems, mixing survival horror and RPG staples alongside nuance. While character customization can feel limited and the story can feel a bit short, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is a fantastic example of what VR can be.


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