I have played hours upon hours of PlayStation VR and still get blown away by its immersive and tactile nature. I write the monthly PSVR column here on The Digital Fix and have played just about everything the platform has to offer, both good and bad. I am not a massive Walking Dead fan but I have heard the PSVR game is very good. Let's get our teeth stuck into it then shall we?
After playing many hours of The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners I can honestly say that I feel this title has pushed the VR medium on quite a bit in multiple directions, it is simply superb. In many ways that I will cover in this review, the developer has overcome many issues people have with VR and has created something simply astounding.
Based on The Walking Dead comics by Skybound Entertainment, Saints and Sinners is a game about survival, relationship building and discovery. You are caught between warring factions in the flooded town of New Orleans and have heard about a mysterious facility where supplies, weaponry and food are in abundance. It's up to you to finds this facility, stay alive and judge who you should trust in the process.
I found the story in this game really enjoyable, I mean, I don't follow The Walking Dead and have never even watched the series' but the story kept me involved the whole time. It was well written and gave me a reason to keep venturing out into danger and into the darkness. When I am playing games the story is not always top of my wanted features but Saints and Sinners is an entertaining and interesting tale.
Where Saints and Sinners shines is its survival and combat systems. Simply put, the combat system in this game is quite possibly the best I have played in VR. It is visceral, tactile and extremely satisfying. Everything from sliding a shank into a zombies head to shooting one with a shotgun feels amazing. Not only that, how the developer has made the control scheme so hassle-free is superb.
A lot of combat systems in VR titles are cumbersome, erratic and tiresome. What SkyDance have created here should be the template for all future VR combat systems. Everything from one-handed weapons, pistols and two-handed clubs work flawlessly and exactly how you think they would. Putting weapons away, reloading them, inventory management, it has all been thought about and tested to make it as streamlined and as functional as possible.
The combat system is so good that you can actually grab the heads of the undead and use your free hand to kill them in any way you see fit. You can crack their skull by thrusting a blade into it or shoot them while their head is in your other hand. Not only that when you have stabbed a zombie, it's hard to get the blade out again, but you must also use your other hand to push the head away from the knife or wriggle the blade free. It's horridly gratifying.
Its small details like this that give the combat system weight, make it feel grounded in the real world and make it so, so immersive. I thoroughly enjoyed every encounter I had with the undead. Due to weapon durability, scarce ammo and weapons, each encounter has a heightened sense of danger as you choose your route through each area. At the same time, you must try no to stir the herd too much and attract attention.
There are a lot of things you must manage to stay hidden, your footsteps, your movement, weapons sounds and traps can all attract danger. Even coughing if you are sick can attract the attention of the undead. Tactics, planning and constantly watching your environment are vital in making through each day. Your health, stamina and weaponry need to be constantly managed and items need to be crafted for you to stay alive.
During your many jaunts through New Orleans, you can pick up an all manner of scrap and items to recycle. When you do you are given crafting materials to create other foods, weaponry and upgrades. I really loved this system, it made me want to explore, rifle through peoples houses and search every drawer I could. Your inventory is limited though so choose what you take wisely.
When you return from one of your quests, you return to your hub or bus as is the case here. Here you can recycle your scrap, craft upgrades and create new killing implements, sleep and cook food. Items you create here are more durable and work better than items you find scattered through the environment. You have three workbenches that govern food, health, ranged weapons and melee weapons. It was always a joy to see what you had gathered in missions today be turned into something to help you tomorrow.
Saints and Sinners health and stamina systems add to the constant sense of urgency and dread this game fills you with. You cannot just eat everything you find, most food has negative sides to it too, some drop your maximum health. This system makes sure you use your crafting station, makes sure you are always on the lookout and makes sure that keeping your stamina and health topped up and it is never straightforward.
What also adds to the constant tension and feeling of danger is your time limit. Most locations you visit have a time limit for you to explore. It takes the form of bells loudly ringing, this stirs the herds and the amount of undead rises massively. You should try to not be around when the bells ring, luckily, your watch notifies you of your time left and also shows you your health and stamina. Another great design choice by the developers which drives a sense of urgency on your outings.
All of these systems together, the visceral combat, the scavenging, the crafting and the health management all add up to a very intricate, immersive and heart-pounding game. Apart from when you are in your home hub, you do not get a seconds rest and it is brilliant. It keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time you are playing. It's not overly daunting though, it's perfectly measured to be fun and just that little bit agonising.
During your time with Saints and Sinners you will be collecting intel, repairing machinery and killing walkers. It never gets dull and the VR implementation is superb. I had no camera issues, no control issues and the mixed movement control scheme is amazing. I wish the 3dRudder was supported but the movement scheme on offer is one of the best.
All your normal VR comfort options are here, vignettes, snap turning, motion turning as well as multiple motion control options. To be fair though I found the default movement option, which combined all of the motion options to be the best. I could use several different ways at the same time to control my character and it felt very natural.
Graphically, Saints and Sinners is very good. Its dark, dank and very atmospheric. Some of the textures are a bit off and sometimes there is a touch of pop-in but here and there but on the whole, I was very impressed. How the developers have brought this world and its inhabitants to life is remarkable. Everything is clear, crisp and along with some of the sound design, make you feel uneasy for most of your playtime.
The sound design, as I stated above, adds a lot of depth to the game. You can hear walkers all around you and the heavy wheezing and shuffling sounds are always quite off-putting. The squelching of zombie skulls as you hit them with a baseball bat is also very realistic. I heard that sound a lot, I was cracking skulls left, right and centre. Right, that's me done, I am off to crack more skulls, these zombies are not going to kill themselves, are they?