Disclaimer: This review of The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners was conducted using a code provided to me by the game’s PR company. This does not affect my judgment of the game, and is explained for the purposes of transparency.
While I was never a fan of the hit TV series, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is a game that caught my attention from the offset. Every gamer likes to think that we could survive a zombie apocalypse. After all, it’s simple to think about. Aim for the head, don’t get surrounded, blah blah blah. But is it actually that simple? Hopefully, we will never know for real, so this game was my chance to see how I would fair. The game released on PC back in January of this year, but finally hit PlayStation recently in May. And with that came my chance to review it.
You play as The Tourist, a well-known survivor who has recently come to New Orleans. You’re here in search of a place known as The Reserve; a reserve of supplies and weapons that was supposedly lost. Throughout the game, your path will cross with other survivors. Some hostile, some just trying to survive in this crazy zombie-ridden world. You as the player must make choices throughout the game. Will you be a saint or a sinner? Which faction will you side with? The Tower, who place survival at all costs at the top of their priorities? Or The Reclaimed, who believe in unity and morals?
Choices you make throughout the game impact the story. The game was developed in such a way that it really recreates the atmosphere of heavy decision making. Putting the player in that world, that scenario. I felt very immersed while playing Saints & Sinners. That being said, the story did feel a tad lacklustre. I can’t place my finger on it, but it felt as if the story just kind of fell flat. Which is a shame really, as on paper the story should have been amazing.
The game sees the player travelling from area to area in New Orleans, and completing certain tasks. Travelling is done via a small boat, which fast travels the player to the location. Once there, the true brilliance of Saints & Sinners’ gameplay begins to shine.
You move by holding a button on the left move controller and guiding your hand in the direction you wish to walk. It is also possible to move in the direction you are facing, however, this option was one I personally had a hard time with. X and O on the right controller spin the character 90 degrees left or right depending.
Strapped to your chest is a flashlight, which you shake to recharge, and a journal which you can physically flick through with the character’s fingers. You can view a map of the area, check tasks and even compare sketches of locations to those locations in real life. By letting go of the trigger, you let go of the flashlight or journal, and it attaches itself back to your chest. By reaching over your left shoulder you can access your backpack, and thus your inventory. Again letting go of the trigger places the backpack back on your shoulder. The backpack is large enough for a day to day inventory, but you will need to review it come the end of the night.
In terms of combat, there are two scenarios to consider. The first being the walkers. Those pesky zombies that, as much as I hate to admit it, actually got the better of me a few times. It is possible to crouch and avoid making noise to avoid the walkers, and this is certainly a viable tactic sometimes. Melee weapons in Saints & Sinners break after a certain number of uses, and ammo is scarce so fighting isn’t always the best option.
Walkers are easy to defeat when they’re singled out. It is possible to grab their head with one hand and stab them with a weapon with the other. Stabbing the zombies is surprisingly tricky at first, as the game is more interested in the range of motion used rather than the force. Sometimes the weapon may not fully go in, and so you will have to push again to fully kill the walker. Of course, shooting them is a valid option, however, I would suggest that this be the last resort option. Shooting attracts more walkers and alerts NPCs to your presence.
It is easier than you expect to be ambushed by walkers, as many are almost silent until they’re chomping on your neck. Many times I was attacked from behind because I focused my attention on a sole walker, and neglected my surroundings. But once you have the walker down, it is possible to cover yourself in the guts of the walker. This will mask you and allow you to pass-through walkers as if invisible.
NPCs in Saints & Sinners are somewhat different. There are two types of NPCs in the game; hostile and non-hostile. Non-hostile are easy to deal with. Many of them just want help, and give you a side quest to complete. Complete it and you get something. Standard stuff really, but these NPCs do well at immersing the player in the gritty world of a post-zombie takeover. The hostile ones, on the other hand, boy are they something! At first, they will tell you to sod off, being very passive-aggressive. But once you get too close, or don’t sod off, the guns come out.
Now you’re in for a firefight. Pick your shots, take your time, remain in cover. Sounds easy but when you’re in a Tower lair and there are 7 people shooting at you from all directions, rationale goes out the window. You can either use the gun on your hip or (if you have one) the two-handed gun strapped to your backpack. Reloading is a simple process, but a fulfilling one. Pressing Square pops the weapon open, and then you must physically place the bullets into the chamber. Pressing Square again flips the gun back, and now you’re ready. A simple step, but one that never got old. You can melee attack the NPCs, however, I found myself unable to grab them.
On dying, which will happen quite often at first, you are given the choice to restart the level or continue. This is a trickier choice than it sounds. By restarting the level you lose any items you discovered while exploring, but you restart with all the ammo and weapons you began with. Continuing allows you to keep everything you’ve found, however you lose the ammo you used in the gunfight. Something to consider.
At the end of the day, every day, the bells ring attracting a horde of the undead. Now, it is possible to use this to your advantage, however, I personally found it more of an annoyance than anything. NPCs will retreat indoors, making exploring outside somewhat easier. However, there are more walkers so it isn’t easy. Once you return to your camp, you drink from a flask to signal the end of the day. When the next day starts, you are informed that supplies have become more scarce and the number of undead has risen. Each day the game gets a little harder to play, much similar to day to day life in a real zombie apocalypse. I think.
Graphics & Audio
Graphically, the game has a very similar style to The Walking Dead games by Telltale. That realistic, cell-shaded look that many came to associate with the studio. The environments are well crafted, and it’s easy to believe that you have arrived in New Orleans. Albeit, a cell-shaded version. In terms of audio of the game, there isn’t really much to say. The noises of the walkers are highly believable, and the voices of NPCs sound like real people. The world itself doesn’t feature any music, other than audio cues that a walker has spotted you. This is something I was thankful for, as I feel it would’ve ruined the aesthetic and authenticity of the experience.
Overall, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is a brilliantly crafted VR zombie experience. The world is immersive, and while the story is somewhat mundane, the gameplay more than makes up for it in my opinion. The PSVR version is limited in that you cannot freely walk around the world, however, this is an issue with the PSVR system compared to the HTC Vive. If you have a Vive, I suggest you get the game on there. Otherwise, the game is still highly enjoyable on PSVR and is one of the best VR experiences I believe a gamer can have at the time of writing this review.