The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution has made the jump to PS VR2, bringing some refinements to the newly launched headset.
I’m a big horror fan, a big Walking Dead fan, and have been enjoying VR a bit since the first PSVR came out. That being said I never jumped into the world of Saints and Sinners, but Chapter 2 seems like a great starting point.
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners Retribution is a follow up game to the original title released a few years ago to PSVR and other VR units. However, it sets itself up to stand on its own with a quick overview of what happened in the first title and where you are as the main character (the Tourist). While the overview is pretty straightforward with catching you up with the story, I still felt a little lost at times early on in the game as some lingering story details were affecting your dialogue sequences with certain characters.
Being as I didn’t play the original game I didn’t really understand the backstory to why I had certain dialogue options, or the overall effect my responses had. What’s neat is that anyone that did play Chapter 1 can import their save and lead off with these decisions already in play, and will most likely have a bigger grasp on the story. There also seem to be several missions that tie up some loose ends.
The Walking Dead Saints and Sinners: Retribution
Developed By: Skydance Interactive
Platforms: PSVR2 | PCVR | Quest
Genre: Action | Shooter
Release Date: March 21, 2023
I believe the game would function a whole a lot better if both chapters were simply together for one package.
Chapter 2 does a great job of throwing you directly into combat after a short introductory to the story with a visually stunning boat ride. The artistic nature in this opening sequence really drew me in, and it didn’t let up when it trapped me in a room with a Walker coming up behind me. Right from the get go you can see just how amazing a game built for VR is because the boat ride literally feels like an amusement park ride. Visually the game is stunning with great textures and clarity, and a lot of particle effects.
The tense style gameplay from the initial Walker encounter sticks with the game throughout and it makes every encounter really exciting. Unlike what I know about Chapter 1, the sequel focuses more on combat, which allows it to feel very hectic. Instead of trying to sneak your way around, the game offers a ton of available weapons right from the get go so you can take out groups of enemies at a time, even when weapons are breaking left and right. And while the stealth mechanic is slightly removed, that means larger groups of enemies will be coming at you so you can be swinging away and pushing walkers off at every turn.
There is still a stealth mechanic involved that allows you to sneak up on enemies, or get in a better position. Overall you can feel free to swing away as long as something sharp is around you. The combat is intense in this game and it’s an incredible feeling that I have yet to have in any other VR title. Swinging a sword and having to pull weapons out of Walkers, or the pure power of some other weapons as they shred enemies to guts, it’s thrilling and is always interesting. The best thing about utilizing hand weapons is the mechanics of dismemberment on enemies. You can swing at arms and watch them chop off, or make clean cuts with harder hits, and even leave your weapon stuck inside brains.
One thing that is super awesome is how scary enemies can be when you simply come across one. If you see one enemy, more are likely within the area and sometimes it won’t be apparent right away. It’s normally best to check your surroundings, or potentially avoid combat all together. Otherwise you could fight one Walker and then suddenly 10 or 20 walkers show up and your weapons break. However the game does a tremendous job of giving you options to deal with any situation with sharp tools laying around, or a random object to swing with.
The greatness comes with a cost….
One of my biggest issues is it was totally unplayable for me for about an hour because I kept getting hit with game ending bugs that halted my progress entirely. I had to do some testing of my own to figure out what the hell was causing it (such as removing all the items of my backpack so a story related item wouldn’t vanish) and this led to me losing progress so many times that I was replaying sections basically blindfolded as I memorized every action. There are also a lot of “accidental” instances I had such as unintentionally attacking an NPC (I set a stick on someone’s foot….) which led to me fighting, which led to me ending the NPCs life, which led to me roaming areas for a long ass time before I realized I need to reset the area and not kill said NPC. There is also an issue where the game will randomly remove your inventory between areas, this had me lost a few times because my weapons and stuff I looted was randomly missing.
What sucks about these issues is that it totally killed looting for me entirely. If I had spent time looting and then I came across a bug that halted my progress I’d have to re-loot everything, so I got to a point where I didn’t even bother anymore and just used resources as they came in long stretches.
Early on I had an issue with hand controls in the game, but with the recent patch a lot of this has been totally cleared up. Grabbing things is extremely fun now, and watching your hand rest or interact with objects all around you adds a layer of awareness to your surroundings. The climbing mechanic is insane too! When you are in a bind you could find a higher ground by climbing up walls and other objects, even getting on top of cars can lead to an advantage.
An overall issue I have, that isn’t necessarily technical, is there are so many objects in front of you at all times that if you don’t do precise actions then things can get real clunky real fast. For example there is an area where I tried climbing a ladder, but instead I kept grabbing my weapon or flashlight if I didn’t angle my head just right.
Back to the good stuff.
Compared to the original game on the first PSVR, this is a huge difference in gameplay entirely purely from a technical standpoint. While I do feel the game is somewhat restricted by being built for weaker headsets in mind, it does a phenomenal job of showcasing what a true VR title could be and why the PSVR2 is the place to play it. I do wish that some of the PSVR key features were better utilized such as stronger haptic feedback in both the controllers and headset, and potentially scarier situations with the eye tracking, but overall the game looks amazing and a lot of the technical flaws of the Quest are long gone. Visually you have a better view and don’t need to suffer cloudy areas due to hardware limitations, and the clarity of the PSVR2 screen makes the game overall stronger with gore and visual effects.
One clear aspect I noticed while watching gameplay video on other headsets is that the PSVR2 version has areas that are a lot more filled out. There is more on screen at once, and the environments look way better.
The game does a phenomenal job of room awareness with PSVR2 capabilities. I tried playing the game sitting down and it just didn’t feel the same. Don’t get me wrong, it works perfectly fine while sitting, but while standing you get a true VR experience. You can bend down and peek around corners easily, and it lends to a great tactical advantage. One of the awesome perks of this is that you can rest your hand on objects and slowly peek around to get better views, or utilize it to help duck down as well. It gives you a sense of true awareness in combat. The best aspect I found though is that literally walking around physically was actually useful because the game has insane tracking capabilities to let you roam around in real life, and explore the in-game world. Every corridor I came across was sized just perfectly for me to take a few steps in any direction and actually move in the game instead of just using the analog stick to move.
The game retraces the steps of Chapter 1 which allows it to also expand on some of the key features. Crafting items is really neat as you gain resources by recycling unneeded items and visiting a home base of sorts. Here plenty of weapons hang around the walls, and parts and pieces are all over to craft new gear.
As I mentioned the game goes by days, so you basically need to explore and select the area to visit carefully. Once you sleep so many times then certain resources become harder to find, enemies get harder, and hordes get bigger. The finite scavenging paired with easily breakable weapons means you are on high alert and escaping the smaller self-contained areas becomes a mission on its own.
Some areas have been revamped both due to the story, and the fact the whole game is like a facelift with superior graphics and gameplay. My spouse had just entered the room and started watching me play and noted how the game looked like New Orleans without even knowing the location of the game at all. So it’s pretty neat that the developers didn’t need to spend much time on minor things, and instead found ways to improve something that was already above standard to begin with. However anyone playing Chapter 1 and then Chapter 2 might be disappointed that it’s basically the same game with just a facelift in certain areas.
One thing I found really neat was the addition of night mode which increases difficulty a little bit by throwing faster Walkers, and more of them, at you but also rewards you with more loot and some night specific quests and particular resources. The addition of night mode also allows you to complete some story quests within a specific day instead of sleeping it off and waiting until the next day, if you can handle the added challenge. The game still progresses by days, and the more days that go by the less resources and more zombies will appear.
What’s neat about night mode, and dark areas in general, is that the game can get real frightening easily. You have a flashlight that does a tremendous job of lighting up just enough of an area to let you see, but nothing much outside of that, so a lot of stuff can be hidden in the dark. I found this to be the most thrilling aspect of the game as I love being scared to look around.