If there’s one thing to take away from The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution it’s that you wouldn’t survive a zombie apocalypse.
That might seem obvious, but we’d bet that most zombie fans picture themselves as one of the survivors, easily dispatching the undead and holing up in their own personal zombie fortress. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution will quickly disabuse you of that notion and it’s a joy to be proven wrong.
Okay, being gnawed to death isn’t exactly fun, but realising how far out your depth you are most definitely is. It helps that this VR zombie sequel makes the most of it platform, forcing you to physically reach for items. Sure, that zombie may be a good ten metres away, but by the time you’ve grabbed your knife it’s uncomfortably in your face.
Then there’s the weapons themselves which vary wildly in their effectiveness. A home-made machete will make short work of a skull. Hurrah! But then it breaks and you’re left with just a knife. Suddenly, instead of dispatching a walking corpse in one fell swoop you’re flailing away with a short blade.
You keep stabbing away, trying to reach the brain but that’s giving a second walking corpse the chance to close in. If firearms are your thing, you can load up with weapons – The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution gives you a decent starting arsenal – but using them is another matter entirely.
Short of pressing the barrel against a zombie’s head, actual headshots are tricky to achieve (though there are ways to make it easier). Then there’s then noise the gunshot makes, which risks the attention of the other walkers. We’re not talking about hordes either – just a couple of zombies can be a handful. And you know what? It’s pretty fantastic.
Because, as much as we love Dead Rising and Left 4 Dead, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution makes zombies feel genuinely dangerous, without the need for any special infected. Stealth and running the hell away are both tactics you’ll regularly employ and the game’s gloomy New Orleans setting helps dial up fear factor. If you’re a Meta Quest 2-owning zombie aficionado, you’ll be right at home.
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It once again casts you as The Tourist, who’s become piggy-in-the-middle for the zone’s warring parties. Yes, you’ll get to shoot humans and, a little disturbingly, it’s almost a relief to not to have to aim for the head. Various people want your help though, and you’re bound to rub someone up the wrong way doing it.
You can wander several of the sub-zones that the city is chunked into, scavenging for parts without any kind of mission in mind. We’re not typically fans of weapon degradation but given that you’re trying to ventilate skulls, something your average knife isn’t rated for, we can live with that. And it’s the post-apocalypse, so scavenging and crafting makes more sense than in a lot of games.
But, sooner or later, people are going to drag you into their mess. And, unlike the original, you’ll sometimes find yourself participating in night missions. That’s right: you get to wander around zombie-infested areas in the near-dark.
It’s a bad idea, but someone’s going to save the survivors of New Orleans from themselves. And, given that Retribution‘s streets seem a little more unfriendly than in the original it provides that extra level of challenge. Plus, they’re slightly bigger than in The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, a relatively subtle but still welcome improvement.
You’ll also find yourself tangling with The Axeman, an armour-clad antagonist who wants to divorce your head from your shoulders. He’s not a persistent, free-roaming bad guy like Resident Evil 2 Remake‘s Mr X, but he’s still suitably intimidating. Retribution hints at the supernatural so it may be there’s some unholy force aiding The Axeman. We could tell you, but it’s more fun if we let you figure that out for yourself.
As far as weapons go, there are a few new ones to meddle with, including a chainsaw. Though whether you want to alert the neighbourhood zombies by revving a small engine is entirely up to you. There’s not much point killing zombies in style if, minutes later, one is using your guts as a scarf.
The indoor areas give you even less room if the dead start bearing down on you. That, in turn, helps dial up the tension even further. In fact, the biggest single sign that The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution gets things right is that we were often weighing up our survival odds. A significant chunk of playtime was spent thinking about whether to fight or flee. Let’s just say that we got it wrong more than once.
The game does stuffer from the graphical limitations of the Meta Quest 2. We ran into pop-up every now and then, watching tables and other items pop into existence in front of us. It was also odd to look at the back of The Tourist’s bus and just see a big smudge. It wasn’t game-breakingly awful but it was definitely noticeable.
And that’s about it, really. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution is, as the title suggests, more of the same. And that as it turns out, is both a strength and a weakness.
If you played and loved the original, you should absolutely snap up The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution. Yes, the odds are against you but it’s never boring. Frantically trying to pull a blade out of a zombie’s head as others descend on you never gets old. Will you sometimes run out of supplies or weapons mid-fight? Yes, but you’ve only got yourself to blame – and each death, each reload, is a lesson. It only autosaves when you change location or sleep, which might irk some. But we actually appreciated the way it forced us to be more cautious.
If, on the other hand, you haven’t played the original The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, then Retribution is not a good jumping on point. There’s a brief “previously on” catch up but it only does half a job. Whatever gender Tourist you choose, they act like they’ve been in the city for a while – because they have. But if you’re a newcomer you’ll still wonder who Mama is (aside from the leader of the Tower), or who the Reclaimed are.
As much as we liked the first, we would have been equally happy playing as a new character. Then, the player could catch up on the story as their character did. But, story-wise at least, Retribution is not the place to start. So, if you’ve not played The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, go back and play that first, or pick up the $59.99 double pack that contains both games. Then you’ll be up to speed for this new game which is indeed Chapter 2 of the story.
But if you’ve played Saints & Sinners, and can forgive the Quest 2 version’s occasional graphical shortcomings, you’ll be in zombie-wrangling heaven with this follow-up. Being knee deep in the dead has rarely been this much fun.