The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners Tourist Edition is a really ambitious game, especially for the very limited power of the Oculus Quest. The PC version’s launch last year was met with overwhelming praise so this has a lot to live up to. Does it provide enough to keep you going or is it Walking Dead on arrival?
To get such a beefy game to run on the Oculus Quest, there has, naturally enough, been some cutbacks. The visuals are rather limited, the game is covered in an extra fog to push down that draw distance and there is some unfortunate pop-in as items come into frame and suddenly appear. This can result in floating items and draws that are unopenable. That all being said, the opportunity to play on such a small machine at a low price point with no wires absolutely justifies it. The graphics are toned down and downright cartoony most of the time feeling somewhere between Borderlands and your usual, middle of the pack VR title. There is a certain ambiguity to some objects and buildings making it, occasionally, disorienting. This is perhaps the only real criticism I have from my time with Saints & Sinners. If you like the sound of it and can stand some of those visual compromises, you are guaranteed an, otherwise great game.
Saints & Sinners feels creepy from the very first moments. Being dropped in the dark, you learn how to use your various different types of weaponry and how to work your inventory management. You can grab your backpack by grabbing over your left shoulder, use each of your side holsters to grab small gear, your right shoulder for a big weapon, left breast pocket for a torch and right for your map and journal. This is, more or less, all you need to get going with Saints & Sinners but it drops you into a combat tutorial first. This has you complete objectives like stabbing a zombie mannequin, shaking your light to charge its batteries or walk through a tight corridor to attempt getting out of a zombie’s grab. This is the most difficult thing in the tutorial. Forcing yourself to intentionally get jump scared is a wild experience in VR, a good analogy for the rest of your experience going forward. The entirety of your first few hours in The Walking Dead will be spent forcing yourself through that tight corridor in hopes of getting some nice goodies on the other side. It delivers with a multitude of weapons to shoot, bash, and clobber your way through the shambling hordes.
As far as story goes, Saints & Sinners does a very good job at balancing its narrative with gameplay. You are a survivor making your way through cities looting until you approach a flooded town, with the promise of good gear and a way of draining the water. You look for your friend and contact in a nearby graveyard (very spooky first mission) only to find him tied upside down, drawing his final breaths. Getting all the information you can have out of him, you put him out his misery and continue onward only to find an abandoned bus and a set of workbenches. This is where you get to one of the most long term goals in The Walking Dead. Each station governs certain fields of your inventory. They do things like building new items or upgrading current ones. You must venture outwards, loot what you can, and bring that home to recycle to make more. Think a mix between Fallout 4’s junk system and Dead Rising’s workbench system and you have a pretty good understanding.
To get that necessary loot and salvageable rubbish, you must travel through different towns on your way to your main goal. Your first stop after the graveyard is a small suburban town with a handful of open buildings and lots of walkers. You immediately spot a young woman whose husband has just turned. She didn’t have the will to end his life herself and ran away to a safe distance. Killing him grants her wish and might earn you some nice loot on the way. The great thing about this little side objective is it is entirely optional and anyone can be killed at any moment. The world of The Walking Dead is treacherous and nothing exemplifies this more. You are, ultimately, out for yourself. Walking around the town might involve stabbing walkers with small knives and screwdrivers, using what little ammo you have or using traversal skills to get far away. You have to manage things like your stamina and health as you wander around and not having enough stamina to stab a zombie could end in a fatal bite or dangerous fall, in my case.
Walking around cities scared of running out of supplies is a great experience. This is paired with some thoughtful design choices like a torch that needs to be shaken and a manual inventory system. Rummaging through your backpack just in time to take out a pistol and wipe out a hoard coming towards you is one of the tensest feelings I’ve had in VR. This tenseness goes away and comes back to great effect throughout the hours of content Saints & Sinners has on release. It manages to blend the scarcity of resources to the power fantasy of a big gun to make you feel like you’re progressing but never by that much.
Getting used to its systems and weapons is great fun. Learning that certain blades are held certain ways makes you swap around mid-fight to get the best possible access to zombies. If they are above and to the right, use a long blade that gets held on the top of your hand. If they are crawling on the floor, use a shive that has a downwards swing. If you really get good, you can analyse a threat, throw a gun from one hand to the other and take it out without thinking about it. What makes Saints & Sinners work to such great effect is how good its combat feels. It is often quite difficult and its stamina system can be a pain but with a little practice, combat can feel as good as any action title.
What makes The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners work so well is how it balances its horror systems with its action ones. The scarcity of restorative items and cramped spaces make it rather survival horror feeling but its great gameplay and varied weaponry make you excited to try out everything you find. If you can get over some graphical issues and a toned-down visual style, you will find one of the best games the Oculus Quest has to offer. One part of you might be worried to continue on. You might be a little scared to but it is so damn good you do anyway.
TechRaptor played The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners on Oculus Quest using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC and PSVR
- Great Gameplay
- Lots of Content
- Satisfying Mechanics
- Mediocre Visuals and Pop-in