The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution PSVR 2 Review. Skydance Interactive reopens its book of the dead with a second chapter of its VR spin on The Walking Dead. See if things go South in New Orleans this time with PlayStation Universe’s The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution Review for PSVR 2.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution Review (PSVR 2): A Dead Good VR Zombie-Slaying Adventure
When I look back on those early fraught encounters with just a handful of undead in The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2, I feel almost fond of those moments. Because after that, all hell truly does break loose in a game that ramps up the intensity ever so quickly.
At this point, I’ve played so many different kinds of VR games in the past month. From casual relaxed experiences that dazzle you to intense, heavily tactile baptisms of fire that leave the PSVR 2 headset needing a good wipe-over afterward. Saints & Sinners Chapter 2 is definitely in the latter camp.
Saints & Sinners Chapter 2 picks up almost immediately after the events of the original game (which is receiving a PSVR 2 upgrade) and plops the Tourist (the player character) back into the dangerous soup of post-apocalyptic New Orleans. After a brief tussle with some Walkers, the Tourist escapes a dilapidated building before continuing their journey through an increasingly hostile world.
Of all The Walking Dead game adaptations, the first chapter of Saints & Sinners perhaps best captured the feeling of the graphic novel series. It’s arguably the only one where you truly felt like a participant in the larger world of The Walking Dead, and not an observer of someone else’s lives. It, like many other early VR games, suffered from limited technology, so it’s genuinely exciting to me that its second chapter features on stronger hardware.
Opening the Book Halfway In
Two things to note with Saints & Sinners Chapter 2. One is you shouldn’t expect some great revolution of the original formula. Better hardware adds plenty to it for anyone coming from the original PSVR version of Chapter, but it’s very much a follow-up to that game in every other way. The second thing is that if you want to feel a bit more involved in the game’s story, maybe don’t start here.
Skydance Interactive has tried to make the game feel separate enough to enjoy as its own standalone experience, but from the off, you’re dropped into a story already in motion. That ultimately leaves this side of the game confusing and/or background noise. It’s by no mean’s the greatest story ever told, but it does deserve to be witnessed in the correct order. Good thing the first chapter’s made the jump then. I advise you to start there if you’re new to this series.
So here’s a little catchup on where we are going into Saints & Sinners Chapter 2. The Tourist is caught between the dead that roam the streets of a flooded New Orleans and the living groups that are at war in the city. The Tourist had the chance to shape their own story by helping or hindering others in New Orleans. By the time of Chapter 2, the group occupying The Tower is escalating its plans for dominance, and the dead continue to grow in number. A conclusion to this saga is promised, and you can bet there will be plenty of blood spilled along the way.
Getting Your Hands Dirty
The game is viewed from a first-person perspective, and you find all your equipment and menus by grabbing various things from your body. I was impressed by just how well this system was implemented, and it really added something to immersion levels. You can grab a flashlight from your shirt flick it on, and then either hold it in your off-hand or reattach it to you whilst lit to free up a hand. You can reach behind to grab your rucksack for inventory, and weapons can be holstered on either hip. It’s a touch tricky to get used to, but it quickly becomes intuitive.
The first combat move the game teaches you is how to properly dispatch a Walker. Now, The Walking Dead television fans should be familiar with the sound of a blade driving through a rotting skull. That’s a key tactic replicated perfectly here. You need the proper amount of force to do it too, so the way you connect is crucial. It’s very easy for panic to set in when your casual knife blow barely nicks the side of a Walker’s head.
Getting it right is one of the most satisfying (if grisly) feelings I’ve had in VR. The sound, the impact, the way you feel like a badass zombie slayer. Just great. True, it can get a bit wobbly when you stop being measured in your approach, but it generally works beautifully.
I quite enjoy the flexibility of the game’s combat. You have your guns, bows, blades, and the like, but you can make impromptu weapons out of items you find in the environment.
Thinking on Your Feet
So if you’re trying to walk through an old bar filled with the undead, you can pick up spirit bottles to either chuck at them or break to create a makeshift shiv. It’s rare to play a game that relies on instinct for survival without the solution being a button tap. The shambling corpses give you plenty of opportunities to try out a variety of tactics.
Human foes are a touch less predictable and require a measure of stealth to overcome. A task that’s difficult when you’re constantly having to keep your head on a swivel. Staying still and hidden means you need to do so from both threats. The most unpleasant feeling in Saints & Sinners Chapter 2 is getting snuck up on by a Walker whilst creeping toward enemy territory.
Survival is still a key element of Chapter 2. But it’s definitely more about action and the player’s ability to think on their feet this time. Part of that is down to the hardware upgrade I think. But as the ‘second half’ of a story, it feels natural to escalate things. Especially for a more seasoned protagonist going down the path to a violent conclusion.
As time progresses, the more significant the threat in areas grows. The undead appear with more frequency and combat zones become difficult to get through quietly. The unpredictability of what could be around the next corner is a constant source of dread.
The Axeman Cometh
Then there’s The Axeman. A hulking armor-wearing brute. His mission? Chopping the Tourist into little meaty pieces. When the Axeman shows up, you have the option to best him temporarily. In truth, the best thing to do is run. It’s a moment of pure terror when he shows up because it’s like adding Jason Voorhees into the mix of hostile humans and bitey dead people.
The Axeman brings chaos and tension to an already stressful environment. His towering frame is awe-inspiring when viewed in VR. It’s one of the better examples of a pursuing character in modern horror games. Largely because of the medium he is in. I don’t know about anyone else, but I caught myself physically and virtually sagging my shoulders with a cry of ‘oh come on, not now!’ on several occasions when the Axeman cometh. This is easily the standout character simply by mere presence.
The 15-hour saga of Saints & Sinners 2 is a great place to immersive yourself, but the characters you interact with tend to be a mixed bag. The Walking Dead prides itself on its characters. So, it was a little disappointing to find some here were uninteresting. Worse still some are essentially glorified cardboard cutouts that dole out quests. On the other end of things, you have some very traditional The Walking Dead types that wouldn’t feel out of place in Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel series.
It’s easy to lose focus at times. The objectives aren’t always as forthcoming with information as they could be. That means a lot of hopping about between areas to figure things out until you find the groove of how Saints & Sinners Chapter 2 operates. Maybe that’s more of a personal problem, but still worth mentioning all the same.
Sinner or Second Coming?
The adventure is engrossing whatever minor grumbles I might have. There’s a nice pacing to it that escalated in accordance with the story. It’s a healthy second helping of Saints & Sinners with a few extra ingredients to give it a kick. The Walking Dead fragments further into new territories in the wake of the original graphic novel and television series ending. Saints & Sinners Chapter 2 shows there’s life in the old corpse yet.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution is out now on PSVR 2.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.