VRFocus loves a bit of zombie slaying action, a quick shotgun to the face or an axe to the temple (head wounds are all that matter). Hence why The Walking Dead TV show made perfect entertainment viewing, decent acting, gory effects and an engaging storyline. However, after the first few seasons let’s just say the interest has wained to the point of indifference towards the franchise. Which is possibly why Skybound Entertainment is keen on a videogame collaboration, with Skydance Interactive’s The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners arriving with less than a week to go.
Only a few months ago The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners would’ve been competing with Survios’ take on the franchise, The Walking Dead Onslaught, which was originally due for launch ‘Fall 2019’. Now delayed until an undisclosed date in 2020 that’s given Skydance Interactive an opportunity to attract fans of the franchise – or just zombies – with its take on the TV show. There will undoubtedly be comparisons between the two but for now, let’s look at Saints & Sinners.
Wisely opting for a completely separate storyline to the show, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is set in New Orleans. Aiming for a hint of realism to the gameplay rather than an all-out walker kill fest, you have both the dead and the living to contend with. So wandering through the city streets you’ll come across individuals and gangs of humans which you can either talk to or kill but that will affect the storyline. At one point in the demo, a suburban street littered with obstacles had about six people defending themselves. Before getting too close a church bell suddenly chimed and all hell broke loose, walkers swarmed and killed them all.
Whilst that meant less (possibly hostile) people to deal with that, in turn, created another problem. Them coming back. Skydance Interactive explained as you might expect if someone hadn’t been killed via a head wound they will get back up for some lunch. And because they’re a fresh walker with no necrosis to slow them down they’re going to be faster. There will be other variants in the final videogame, VRFocus came across one where you could cut their bowels open to smear over your body, thus making you less noticeable to other walkers.
The realism extends throughout the experience, from stamina to loading weapons. You can run around but you’ll soon be out of breath, start panting and find wielding an axe difficult. Classed as a two-handed weapon, using the axe with one hand becomes cumbersome due to the weight, wobbling about when swung. Only with two hands can it properly be used to wedge into a skull. That’s the same with the guns. Pistols can be attached to either hip, needing to be properly reloaded and cocked when they run empty. Shotguns, rifles and other shoulder-mounted weapons provide decent firepower yet require both hands, and make noise.
All the real gory action is to be had up close and personal. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is a brutally visceral experience which the screenshots only slightly portray. Grab a knife, ice pick or any single hand bladed/pointy weapon and you’ll be able to lodge it in a walkers head. There’s no need to swing wildly as you can grab a walker by the head/throat and plunge said deadly weapon into the nearest eye socket, ear or top of the head for a quick kill. The dismemberment of arms and head (no legs for some reason) are other viable options.
The demo only really showcased the action side of The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, playing with the weapons, inspecting a couple of locations and getting a feel for New Orleans after the zombie apocalypse. The flow of the gameplay, having to take time and not rush around like some arcade shooter gives the experience plenty of dramatic effect, almost a serious shooter of sorts. And then there’s the stuff VRFocus didn’t get to play with, like the crafting system and narrative sequences, hopefully adding extra layers to the title. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is not only going to be the first major VR release of 2020 but it could be Skydance Interactive’s best VR experience yet.