Just under a year ago when The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners launched for the PSVR, I was already majorly impressed with almost everything the game had to offer, especially its managing to combat the often-ridiculed Move controllers found with the PSVR. Yet somehow the team at Skydance Interactive have done the impossible here: bringing a AAA VR exclusive title to the stand-alone Oculus Quest. But does the port sacrifice too much on the way?
Working as a spin-off of the long-running TV series of the same name, the game takes place in zombie-infested New Orleans, with the player controlling the mysterious “Tourist.” After being swarmed by the undead and ending up in a cemetery, you quickly learn about the legendary “Reserve,” a location that is said to be holding a massive number of supplies to aid in the fight against the undead. With warring factions and you stuck in the middle, the game opts for the typical “choose your own adventure” narrative in many ways, with there being two clear options for the player to choose from—creating the chance for some replayability from the get-go and playing into the game’s Saints vs. Sinners idea.
The story serves as a quick way to get you from area to area and keeping a constant goal in mind to ensure you do not get too wrapped up in just focusing on building your own reserve within your RV hub area. The story is one of the most lacking elements here, with all of it being delivered through you standing still and listening to the droves of exposition being thrown at you. In fairness, so many VR games continue to struggle with how best to deliver the story to a player without having them doing literally nothing, yet with the likes of Half-Life Alyx managing to crack the code, this is an element I feel Skydance will only improve upon down the line.
Yet with VR, the chance for you the player to make your own story does exist within the game, thanks to the core gameplay loop allowing for that sense of freedom. Outside of the duller story moments, it becomes quickly apparent that Saints and Sinners is far more concerned with doing one thing and doing it incredibly well: killing zombies. It has been some time since a gameplay hook has presented itself so clearly and effortlessly right from the tutorial to make me quite literally let out a small scream of excitement at the whole prospect. The physics at play in Saints and Sinners are what makes everything feel so good; killing zombies requires more effort than pointing a gun and popping off a few rounds. There is a great deal of physicality to it all, requiring an extensive swing of your arm to ensure your weapon of choice does the trick. This bleeds over into the weapon variety too, with the initial knives often providing a small chance of failure in your attempts to wipe out an enemy in one clean sweep, whereas the eventual katana works exactly as you would imagine, while still requiring the use of two hands to counter the additional weight of the weapon.
All of this is shockingly second nature to pull-off, too, with your brain becoming so immersed in the world of Saints and Sinners that you don’t need the game to remind you that a kitted out baseball bat is not going to do you much good with one hand. There are times in which the game requires you to opt-out of the melee weapons for the several gun types also available when tackling larger groups of human enemies. As you would expect, ammo is incredibly scarce, with every single bullet you fire counting more than you can ever anticipate in the moment. The reload mechanics are also just as gratifying as pulling back an arrow on your bow and nailing a zombie clean in the head from an impressive distance.
The scarcity of supplies is warranted here given the setting, yet it may initially take players by surprise just how bad your situation can get before it is too late. In my initial PSVR playthrough, there was an instance I had so poorly managed my resources and was left with low health, high hunger, and a few spoons to take on the zombie hoard, which increases every single time you return to the hub RV and sleep. Combined with a decreasing amount of supplies, the game did push me into a corner I struggled to get out of. Thankfully since then, there has been an update for a lower difficulty option which is present on the Quest, allowing those who wish to forgo the survival elements and solely focus on how best to kill the undead and look cool as heck while doing it.
If you are more interested in the zombie killing aspect of Saints and Sinners, or you have finished the main story, there is a bonus mode found here titled “The Trials.” What could boil down to be another horde mode, is instead a mode that outshines other VR titles that would charge full price for such a thing thanks to the incredibly fun mechanics in Saints and Sinners—and the mode was added as some free DLC post-launch. With three maps and a slew of weapons to strive for (which can be acquired with the currency you nab with each zombie kill), the mode is ludicrous amounts of fun, allowing a more arcade type of play session for when you fancy a quick game of zombie killing action. With the Quest, it is all just so liberating.
On the Quest 1, the graphical fidelity is obviously decreased to compensate for the hardware’s limitations, with textures and draw-distance being the two main factors impacted. But believe me when I say that these changes do not change the overall experience whatsoever, with the immersion factor of the game not only held firmly intact but also somewhat enhanced with the freedom that the wireless Quest headset provides. If you have the space for the full 360-degree movement, then you are in for a real treat here—the immersion becomes so great that you could easily lose yourself for hours on end. Those like me with limited space do not need to worry either, as the game has plenty of options for turning and motion sickness reductions for those who may need it. If the graphical downgrade does put you off, however, and you have the option to hook your Quest up to the PC via Oculus link, then Skydance kindly offers cross-buy between Quest and PC so you can have a go at both versions to see what you prefer.
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners may well be the very best single-player game available on the Quest right now, as well as already being one of the best VR games on the market period. While the dull narrative presentation does make the story elements a real slog, once you get past them (or skip them), you will find a game that understands everything that makes a VR gaming so special—and I doubt zombie killing is ever going to get more fun than it is here.
[A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes]