Review: If you have an Oculus Quest, you need The Walking Dead

Don't spend your $40 anywhere else.

When The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners launched on the PC earlier this year, it became immediately apparent that developer Skydance Interactive was operating on a different level from most developers. This game wasn't just some run-of-the-mill zombie killing game; it was a zombie apocalypse simulator with a level of depth that simply isn't typically expected of VR games. While many games continue to focus on the "experience" because of VR's unique way to immerse your brain in the situation, Saints & Sinners provides full immersion into an apocalyptic hellscape, complete with the deep gameplay that you should expect of a AAA action-RPG.

When it was announced that it was coming to the Oculus Quest family shortly after release, I honestly laughed. I could see a PSVR port, but how in the world was Skydance Interactive going to get this game running on the Quest? It seemed impossible because of the scale of the game, the level of detail, and, probably most importantly, the advanced physics calculations for object weight and environmental interaction. I'm so glad I was proven wrong, and Quest 2 owners will even see an additional level of detail, better lighting, and higher resolution when compared to the original Oculus Quest.

Saints & Sinners is a semi-open world action-RPG set in post-apocalyptic flooded New Orleans that has you trying to live out your days in an attempt to uncover what appears to be a haphazard government-relief program gone wrong. What is The Tower? Does The Reserve actually exist? What caused this mayhem in the first place? Each day brings on more difficult challenges, as the dead continue to increase in number and supplies dwindle. Will you learn the truth before it's too late?

The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners

Bottom line: From realistic weapon handling physics to the deep consequences of your decisions, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners provides a deep experience that's not often found in VR games. If you've ever wanted to know what it's like to live out your days in the zombie apocalypse, this is the game for you.

The Good

  • Weapon physics are mind-boggling
  • Combat is super satisfying
  • Survival mechanics are on point
  • A story that feels like it matters
  • Decisions in the game have weighty consequences
  • Lots of replay value

The Bad

  • No multiplayer or co-op

$40 at Oculus

A sense of dread

The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners: What I like

When I first played this game back in January, I had no idea what I was in for. From the moment the game tosses you into the tutorial, and you get the hang of how to use weapons and fend off the undead, to the closing lines of dialog, I was hooked. There's something immensely satisfying about a game that so perfectly blends survival elements like scavenging, crafting, and the simple act of eating, with the heavy moral implications of risking your life to help other people retain some semblance of the life they once had.

From the mechanics to the machinations, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners nails everything with a level of perfection not often seen in gaming. The original release on PC had a few rough spots, like the fact that you couldn't physically crouch in order to make your character crouch in the game (that was also nausea-inducing), and weapons that would sometimes bounce off enemies if you didn't hit them precisely. Thankfully, all of those issues have been fixed, and Skydance Interactive even added an important new mode to help replayability: The Trial.

The Quest version of The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners looks visually similar to Telltale's The Walking Dead games

Right now, The Trial isn't quite ready for the Oculus Quest versions of the game but is slated to start shipping soon. The Trial is a free horde mode-style update that was released for PC and PSVR versions of the game during the Summer. Arcade-like scoring brings an entirely new feel to the already visceral combat system, as you'll earn points for brutal kills and have the ability to upgrade weapons between waves. The only thing that would make it better is a multiplayer co-op, a la Killing Floor.

The Quest version of The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners looks visually similar to Telltale's The Walking Dead games. Compared to the PC release, the simplified textures and models give off a distinct "comic book" look and feel. This type of visual style is important for the game as it helps mask the relative simplicity of the models and textures. If you're just looking for the best visuals, there's no question that the PC version is the way to go.

Regardless of the obvious visual downgrade, however, the tense and gritty atmosphere in Saints & Sinners remains untouched

Regardless of the obvious visual downgrade, however, the tense and gritty atmosphere in Saints & Sinners remains untouched. This achievement is very much part of what makes this port so incredible, as it maintains the original visual design goal despite changing the route to get there. The difference between the Quest and Quest 2 versions isn't nearly as wide a gulf as what you'll find between the Quest 2 and PC versions, but there are notable changes.

Aside from increased object detail and higher resolution, you'll find that the Quest 2 version features dynamic lighting (particularly important when considering how the flashlight affects things), added effects like god rays from dusty windows inside a house, and even additional objects in the world that just aren't on the Quest 1 version.

But while there are visual differences in ways that don't really matter at the end of the day, there's one game-making mechanic that doesn't change between any of the versions: the physics. Yes, Skydance Interactive somehow managed to cram all those amazing weapons and object physics onto the Quest — something that uniquely makes these weapons and objects feel real in a way that most VR games simply don't.

In fact, the physics and object modeling is so detailed that you can completely change the way weapons feel just by holding them differently as you would in real life. That's it! There's no crazy button-mashing trick or some other hidden secret mechanic in the game. Holding an axe with two hands at the very bottom end allows you to hit enemies just a tad further away, but it also makes it horridly awkward to wield. Conversely, if you bring your hands higher on the handle closer to the blade, the axe ends up feeling like a smaller weapon, although the axe handle will get in the way if it hits your arm or torso on the way.

The physics and object modeling is so detailed that you can completely change the way weapons feel just by holding them differently as you would in real life.

The impressive way in which Saints & Sinners not only models your body but also takes object dimensions and weight into account is nothing short of mind-blowing. When you press your hand against objects and push, your arms and hands react to it as you would imagine. There's no object clipping here, and no seeing arms just go through objects that the developers didn't mean for you to touch — everything has proper weight and dimension, and it makes using irregular objects as weapons or props a joy.

The rest of the package is just as good as it is on the PC. Sound quality and design are top-notch. Missions are fun to go on, and the dialog is truly great. Scavenging in the game is incredibly rewarding since each object, no matter how useless it might look, will always yield some sort of resource that can be put to use in other ways. Keeping track of your health and stamina is a constant battle, and it pushes you to always upgrade your food supply and craft better gear.

Characters' stories have an actual emotional quotient to them and make you feel sorry for them. Even one of the first quest's in the game made me a bit sad, as I imagined how tough it would be to ask someone to kill your undead husband and bring back the ring, knowing that was the only part of that person they'd ever get to share again. That's some weighty stuff, and the game is full of those kinds of quests.

In fact, Skydance Interactive was able to fix some of the issues I had with how finicky the inventory system was in the initial release. Pointing and grabbing is now a lot more forgiving, and I didn't find myself getting stressed out in battles on the Quest release the way I did back on the original PC release. Of course, that is fixed in all releases of the game now, but I hadn't played since I completed it several months ago, so it was nice to see these resolved when I came back.

It's just me in here

The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners: What I don't like

It's a miracle enough that the entirety of this 20+ hour game made it on the Quest without major sacrifices (so long as the graphics don't bug you), so it's difficult to complain about The Trial not being available even a month after launch. Thankfully, it's still being worked on, so it's just a matter of time rather than wondering if it'll be coming at all.

There's no multiplayer to speak of in this game

I think what's particularly disappointing about not yet having The Trial is the fact that there's no multiplayer to speak of in this game. No co-op, no zombies vs. humans mode, or anything like that. It's a strictly single-player experience. While that isn't a deal-breaker by any means, it's still hard to play through this knowing how amazing it would be to survive the apocalypse with another person, given that the game is so open-world. I imagine it could work a lot like Minecraft, where you couldn't progress to the next day without all players sleeping rather than moving from point A to point B as you would in Arizona Sunshine or Left 4 Dead.

The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners: Should you buy

You should buy this if ...

You're looking for a deep, complex experience

Not only is the story well written, but the characters feel human, and the choices you make have consequences. Upset one faction of survivors, and they'll turn against you. Make deals with them, and they'll help you along the way. Upgrade your weapons, gear, and rations along the way by surviving intelligently. Plan your way through each day, and you'll be rewarded. It's a real game in a market where many of us are used to short experiences masquerading as games.

You don't have a gaming PC

Alright, so the ideal Saints & Sinners experience is still the PC version (preferably via a Quest 2 and Virtual Desktop for a wire-free experience). But, if you don't have a gaming PC, this is a perfectly good experience that really only trades graphical fidelity out for something that'll run on the lower-powered Quest and Quest 2 hardware. Even with those changes, however, the atmosphere and entirety of the game are unchanged, meaning the PC version is just there for folks who need the best possible graphics.

You love killing zombies

Even if the engaging story or deep plotline consequences don't attract you, there's no denying just how good the combat is in the game. Thanks to the realistic physics simulation, each weapon feels unique in its handling and weight. Each one swings and hits differently. Each one gets lodged into a zombie's skull, arm, or another body part in a different way, requiring you to apply some serious force when it really gets stuck in deep. Now that's some amazing attention to detail you really can't experience anywhere else!

You should not buy this if ...

Multiplayer is a requirement

As good as the story in Saints & Sinners is, some people just love the thrill of the fight and thrive on competition. Once The Trial releases, you might at least get some enjoyment out of the high score leaderboards. Until then, however, there's simply no multiplayer to speak of at all.

Outside of gamers who only play multiplayer titles (or children), there's really no reason not to buy The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners on any VR system you might own. The Quest port is simply incredible and somehow gets away with significant reductions in visual quality without affecting the enjoyment of the game. The comic book world comes to life with a unique blend of simple visuals and incredibly realistic physics, all set to a storyline that's worthy of a few playthroughs.

5 out of 5

The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is one of the best VR experiences you'll find anywhere. It's the whole package, and it's a game that simply doesn't make sense outside of VR. Weapons and combat that feel real, an environment that'll give you a genuine feeling of dread that should come with the zombie apocalypse, and a survival element that feels palpably hopeless all come together to make the perfect title. Go find $40 and buy it right now. Thank me later.

The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners

Bottom line: The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is a lesson in how to make a VR game that simply doesn't make sense in any other medium. It's a triumph of game design and execution, and every Oculus Quest player simply must experience it.

$40 at Oculus



Source: androidcentral

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