When I walked into the Skybound Interactive press room at Gamescom, the developer staff asked me if I was familiar with VR games. I apparently claimed that even though I had never played The Walking Dead: Saints and SinnersI would have no trouble picking up chapter 2 again. I say “apparently” because I quickly swallowed those words faster than a zombie swallowing delicious brains.
It’s not The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution it’s because of my incompetence. Rather, the shooter’s latest installment is an expertly crafted VR game, filled with some of the most complex interactions I’ve ever experienced in the medium. Instead, my own pride was my downfall, as I thought I had enough experience to rush into battle without any plan. If my demo taught me anything, it’s that I wouldn’t last two minutes in a real zombie apocalypse.
Preparation is everything
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution increases the scale and intensity of the first game in some key ways. For one, it takes place in a more sprawling world as players are placed in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The game promises to give players more freedom to explore the city and tackle objectives in any order they see fit.
But don’t ask me how this part of the game plays out. I couldn’t tell you.
The demo gave me a seemingly easy task. All I would have to do is infiltrate a building guarded by hostile humans and zombies and locate a hidden speakeasy. I don’t know what was supposed to happen after that because I died a million deaths before I really pushed the plot forward.
While it might seem like I’d be salty about it, I actually believe it’s testimonial to the game. I went into the demo assuming I could ride it, but The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution is a preparation game. Before heading into the French Quarter, you need to make sure you have a survival plan in order. That means knowing where every tool is on your body, carefully assigning weapons to each of your holsters based on the situation you’re about to find yourself in, and being able to reload without a second thought. The game rewards players who have an actual zombie apocalypse plan sketched out in their head. I thought I was one of those people, but it turns out I’m a terrible prep guy.
I don’t think you can blame me, though, when Retribution includes so many fun toys to wreak havoc with. For example, I came across a bow and arrow in a narrow hallway. After fitting it with a laser sight, a developer informed me that I not only had access to regular arrows but also explosive arrows. He was about to say I should probably wait to use them when there’s more free space, but before he could finish his sentence I fired one at a zombie at close range, we killing them both. You can’t tell me that I can shoot an explosive arrow using the tactile nature of VR and expect me to act responsibly, can you?
This same riddle came up when I grabbed this chapter’s signature weapon: a chainsaw. Cool heads would tell you that you might want to take a second to learn how it works. The massive weapon requires you to wield it with two hands like you would a real chainsaw. It has a rip cord that needs to be pulled to ignite it, an action that really takes practice before you let it rip. You can bet your pretty little head that I didn’t take that advice and started juggling it as I happily tried to saw zombies in half and get sweet haptic feedback to do so.
In all these encounters, I died like a jester. It wasn’t until I quit and meet the game on its terms that I began to survive. In an instant, I crawled into an air duct and found zombies clustered on the other side. Instead of jumping in and going all out with Leroy Jenkins, I equipped my explosive arrow and fired it at the pack. Waited for more zombies to fall into the room from upper floors, another new feature in Retribution. I leveled up and fired three perfect headshots in a row, making the room safe to cross.
This moment made it clear that Skydance Interactive is poised to deliver a thoughtful shooter designed for true VR professionals who value technology for its immersion, not its instant tactile gratification. Those who learn the ropes and take the time to execute a plan will master the devastating new tools of Retribution as they explore more of New Orleans.
Or, you can be like me and miss a crucial mission briefing altogether because you’re too busy trying to push bottles out of a bar with the tip of your katana. Guess which of us is the first to feed the zombies when the going gets tough?
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution should be launched at the end of 2022.
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