I would definitely die in a zombie apocalypse. That’s my main takeaway from The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, a VR tie-in that launched on Steam yesterday. A full-bodied control scheme demands you swing axes with both hands to put enough weight behind your attack, and knives and screwdrivers have to be buried into scalps with committed plunges; half an hour of whacking walkers has me out of puff, struggling to hide my poor fitness from the Skydance Interactive developers spectating my demo.
And that’s before you consider the smaller, fumbling errors: accidentally dropping my only gun while shimmying up a drain pipe; filling my backpack with scavenged pillows instead of bandages and food; attempting to throw a bottle at a zombie, only to smash it at my feet and ring the dinner bell for every deadhead in the vicinity. Yes, in an actual zombie nightmare, I wouldn’t make it beyond the pilot episode. All these errors are captured in my impressions video below, balanced out with some developer play, too, to see how it’s meant to work.
I’m pleasantly surprised at how fleshed out the game is. It would be easier to build an on-rails target gallery and populate it with assets from The Walking Dead universe. Instead, levels almost channel immersive sim thinking, giving you free rein over how you explore and plunder its small sandbox-y levels. Having a house with multiple entrances, an unmarked objective and an unknown number of zombies is a recipe for a high tension. Tension that only heightens throughout the campaign as zombie numbers increase, and scavengeable resources decrease, with each in-game day.
As someone who hasn’t played a vast amount of VR I do worry I’m still in that place where any VR done reasonably well is enough to dazzle my flat-screen thinking. Early Steam reviews from the more VR literate highlight the lack of physical crouching as an immersion breaker, and call out the game’s overzealous targeting assistance. As someone whose natural hand-eye coordination would doom them to be zombie fodder, I welcome the assistance. Just don’t rely on me for help come the real undead doomsday, yeah?
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is currently £31/$40/€34 on Steam. We tested it on an Oculus Rift, but it says it supports Vive and Index (although Steam reviews are debating how optimised it is for non-Rift headsets).