I’m only about an hour into Skybound’s fantastic The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners for VR headsets, but from what I’ve experienced already, I’m blown away. That’s not easy for me to write because I’m typically a bit more reserved, and even more so when it comes to licensed games, but Saints & Sinners deserves my praise on this occasion.
Being an Oculus Quest owner, I’ve got the best of both worlds. I can play games natively on the headset without wires, or I can connect to my PC and play hundreds of top-end games. That’s how I’ve been playing The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, and it’s more than good enough, though my PC did crash during a vital moment, which means I’ll be doing an entire mission again. Zombie groan.
In my first hour with Saints & Sinners, I’ve killed zombies, shot a man in the head, and explored a creepy mansion. It was all terrifying. I’m not a baby but put me in a scary VR game and I’ll get the shakes like a junkie off their meds.
My first encounter with an undead was easy. The game gives you a brief tutorial to show you the ropes and to get you familiar with melee combat, ranged combat, and inventory management. M first task was to stab a walker in the head. It was easy. The walker had a bag over its head and it was jammed in a barrel. It couldn’t fight back. It was an easy victory. With my left, I grabbed the walker’s head to steady it, and then I stabbed at its head. I didn’t stab hard enough as my knife only partially entered and the walker continued to moan. So I pulled my right hand back further and slammed down the edge of the blade right in the middle of the poor bugger’s skull. Easy. I felt like a real man at that moment, and I only wish my father was here to see it. He’s not dead. He just doesn’t live with me.
The tutorial gives you a few goes at killing walkers, fish in a barrel style, and then you’re onto the main game. Creepily enough, the game’s story starts with you sat at a campfire with some old geezer who turns up again later. No spoilers, but as you can imagine, friendships in The Walking Dead universe don’t normally last too long…
I’m soon taking over my mate’s bus and using it as my home base. It’s cosy, it’s dark, it’s scary. I was constantly turning my head from left to right, checking that no biters were creeping up on me, even though I knew this was a safe haven. The atmosphere put me on edge and I could feel my heart beating inside my chest. I started the game properly and went on my first mission, much to my poor heart’s dismay.
You’re not allowed to go mooching around at night because it’s dangerous. You have to take a sip from the hip flask on your bus-base and sleep until sunrise. Then you can go over to your little boat (a skiff) and trot off to one of the locations on the map. It’s linear so far and I can only go to one location, but it’s a very densely packed area. There’s a lot of detail on the deserted New Orleans streets, from general debris to dead bodies to letters, notes, and posters, all of which can be interacted with to flesh out the game’s story and present the city as the dark and nasty place it is. Mari Gras, this ain’t.
Once off the skiff, I spotted a lady who wanted some help. She explained that her husband had turned and she didn’t have it in her to kill his zombified form. I had a few dialogue options to choose from, and I was in a good mood so I decided to help her. I took the key she gave me and started searching for the Blue Mansion her dead husband was rattling around in.
Stalking the streets with my knife held high (I was expecting a jump scare at any moment) was tense as heck. Thankfully, the developers aren’t relying on jump scares to get the heart going. They’re not necessary when the game world is so bleak and scary anyway. I spotted my first walker in the wild and I instinctively ducked behind a van, thinking what the best approach would be. Do I pull out my gun and kill it from a distance? That could draw more towards me, and then I’d be screwed. Do I run over, screaming, and stab it in the head? Or do I try to sneak up on it and jam my knife into its brain? I went with the third option, which dissolved into the second option, but a surprise walker creeping from the side resulted in me reaching for my weapon and firing off the first option. I hate it when a plan doesn’t come together.
I ran away, hid, and then bolted it to the Blue Mansion down the street. Being an experienced VR player, I saw the metal drainpipe on the side of the building and knew what to do. I stowed my weapons, ran at the pipe and started climbing, wary that I’d caused a bit of a ruckus and could be swarmed by stinky bodies in no time. I got inside the building and proceeded to shit myself. Figuratively, not literally. It was dark, creepy, and again, I expected a jump scare. A few tense minutes of me flashing my torch around rooms and into dark corners resulted in nothing, but I did find the room that needed the key. I pulled the key from my backpack, turned the lock and let myself in, slowly.
I climbed the stairs with the crowbar I scrounged earlier held up high. The stairs led into an attic room littered with boxes and furniture, meaning I never had a clear line of sight. Scary stuff. I stopped, crouched down, and then listened. I could hear the telltale moans and shuffles of a walking corpse, and then I saw him. Letting go of all fear I ran at the bastard with my crowbar raised and then smacked him across the face with it. He stumbled backwards but he didn’t fall. I swung again, and again, and again, and he still didn’t die. Finally, I angled the crowbar just right and managed to bury the crooked tip of it into his forehead. Relieved, I took a moment to rest and get my breath back, both in-game and in real life. And then my PC crashed.
Due to the way The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners handles saves and autosaves, I’ll have to relive that entire scenario again, but I’m not too bothered. It’ll give me a chance to see if things could have gone differently. Maybe next time I’ll shoot the woman in the face, steal whatever she has, and then go and mock her dead husband. It depends on what my mood is.
As it stands, this opening hour has left an impression on me and I’m eager to get my head back inside of The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, even if it’s probably going to end with my heart evacuating my body.