Developer / Publisher – Skydance Interactive
Price – US $39.99 / CAN 45.99 / EU €39.99 / UK £29.99
Release Date – December 1st, 2022
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store Links – Meta
Reviewed on – Quest 2
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners- Chapter 2: Retribution is a standalone sequel to the first game. Retribution puts us back in the role of the tourist following the closing events of the first title. Remember the Tower that kept coming up in the first game? Yeah, it’s time to actually deal with that now.
Before launching into a review of the story, it’s important to note that, while Retribution is a standalone game, it really does expect that you have completed the first game. While the game does recap a few of the major events from the last game, this is very much a continuation of the story and the sequel’s narrative and gameplay jumps right off of that. So, spoiler alert.
Upon the fate of the coveted Reserve from the first, you now find yourself hunted by a new, seemingly unstoppable threat- a looming, armored juggernaut out for your blood. Meanwhile the Tower, New Orlean’s authoritarian power house, has a new scheme to secure utter dominance over the region, and of course it has you in its crosshairs. Now I can’t say that I found the first game’s narrative to be much more than a reason to play the game, and I felt the same here in Retribution. Bouncing around New Orleans as everyone’s errand boy remains the same here in the sequel, meeting a host of new key characters that will help to flesh out the game’s narrative. Now, while I don’t feel that story or character development has ever been a strong point of the series, I will say that this time around Skydance Interactive does a much better job of developing real antagonists to our character instead of the way the first game kind of just put us in the way of ongoing events. The Tourist’s actions from the first game have made him some enemies, so it’s nice to see that play out here in the story.
Moving on to gameplay, I’m going to assume if you’re reading this you have played the first Saints and Sinners. If you haven’t, I strongly recommend you go back and watch The VR Grid’s complete review for the first game on You Tube, play the game, then come back. Now, for you Saints and Sinners veterans, gameplay wise…you’re going to feel right at home here. Jumping into Retribution and its 10 to 12 hour campaign just feels like the next day in Saints and Sinners. Now, I don’t really mean that as a negative as the first title was polished as hell and to this day is still one of the gold standards for a full locomotion VR action title, but the developers definitely went with the “if it ain’t broke” mentality here and played things a bit safe.
Starting up a new game you are given the option of either importing your save from the first game (giving you the benefit of starting with the gear and recipes you attained in the first game) or starting over in Retribution. Starting over in Retribution doesn’t mean you are starting from scratch though, as the streets of New Orleans in Retribution are much more dangerous than in the first game, with increased zombie numbers and enemy NPC factions. There is also the inclusion of night missions (more on that in a bit). As such, players starting out fresh will see the old crafting tables have been leveled up a bit already. In addition, your armory in the bus is stocked up with some higher end toys and your new base of operations down in the catacombs is filled with junk to recycle, all so you can hit the first mission in fighting form and not swinging spoons and frying pans.
I was a little torn with starting off so well prepared as the survival fan in me didn’t really like this. Half the fun of the first game for me was the rags-to-riches progression. That being said I also do like kicking ass. Regardless of what side of that you land on, the increased zombie count and NPC faction altercations early on will quickly burn through some of that early buffer you start with. For those not into being super stealthy, you will quickly find yourself back to scavenging in order to survive. (Yes, I learned this the hard way).
The addition of two new crafting tables is where players will find all the new toys and perks added here in Retribution, opening a whole new reason to scavenge. New weapons range from an uzi and sawed-off shotgun to more heavy weapons like the chainsaw and grenade launcher. In addition, weapons can now be modified with add ons such as silencers and laser sights. Most of the toys are on the one crafting table, while the second table is devoted more to character buffs, such as the much appreciated increased stamina, various combat gloves, as well as further buffs to combat resilience. So, essentially more of what we got in the first game- making you an even bigger badass.
Along with this also comes a few new ingredients to keep an eye out for, most notable of which is what the game calls Phosphorus, an ingredient found predominantly in items scrounged at night and highlighted by the flashlight’s new ultraviolet mode. Phosphorus is the key ingredient for crafting at the two new tables, and as such night missions become the predominant new feature in Retribution. Night missions are important not just for crafting, but in the game’s mission structure as well, not only making many missions playable only at night, but going as far as to include an entire side mission hustle to the game based around night raids. These set of side missions introduce a trading network led by a contact known as the Pawn King. Once introduced, a section in your notepad opens up listing each of the game’s areas and three possible retrieval missions you can take on at night (providing you can find the contact in each map). Traveling at night, whether on a pawn king side mission or one of the game’s story missions, is definitely where I found that Retribution was at its best. Everything felt a little more fresh and a little more dangerous than the first game. A higher zombie count with more aggressive zombies are par for the course at night, compounded by your reliance on staying in the shadows to remain undetected while simultaneously relying heavily on your flashlight to navigate the dark streets. Night raids consequently also offer up the chance for better loot, which often comes in the form of not only the aforementioned phosphorous ingredient, but also higher end weapons and other survivors’ abandoned backpacks which you can pillage. Now honestly, I would have liked to have seen the night mode ramp up the zombie count a bit more, but even at this level I got the sense that the Quest 2 was barely keeping it together, so it’s understandable.
Back into the daylight and Saints and Sinners Chapter 2 feels more like Chapter 1.5 as, of the 12 areas you visit, only 4 are new. Old areas like the Shallows, Rampart, Via Corolla and the Ward all return, and while noticeably war torn, are very familiar. It felt so familiar scavenging these areas for mostly the same items (and seriously what is with all the bbq lighters in New Orleans?). The new areas are welcomed though, and bring with them a bit more complexity and verticality as we venture into the more urban areas of New Orleans and eventually to the Tower itself. Thankfully, while Retribution retreads many areas and ideas from the first game, it also ramps up the overall level of combat, making it more necessary than before to show up to areas ready to fight. This is where the new crafting tables and the toys that come with them again help Retribution feel like something new. The chainsaw being a real standout and almost reason enough to play the sequel. It’s all types of brutal fun and gets Saints and Sinners to dip its toe into some of the deeper zombie carnage I wanted from the sequel. Unfortunately, the old Saints and Sinners game engine is still used here and seems to only be able to do so much. Don’t expect any leg amputations or entrails spilling out. This was a disappointment to me, but I’m a little fucked up like that.
Again, much of what is here in Retribution is more of the same. While that may be less exciting to hear, it also isn’t a bad thing. I personally loved the game loop and the weighty methodical combat of the first game. Unfortunately, here in the Quest version there is a surprising level of jank and lack of polish that simply wasn’t there in the first game. From items floating in the air to zombies stuck on geometry, to weapons that won’t cut, the glitches are everywhere. I even found myself falling into areas of the game world I couldn’t get out of. This, when taken with the visual issues, the Quest 2 version of Retribution seems a little rushed for Holiday Season 2022. This is really sad considering the polish of the previous release.
The first Saints and Sinners was a visual marvel, running on both the Quest and Quest 2, and while not perfect, it came off as a perfectly playable port of the PC version. While Chapter 2 is definitely playable, I would probably use the word “serviceable” here to describe it. It often comes off worse than the first game, visually. Levels are filled with very blurry and low resolution textures made even worse by, at times, some pretty intense texture pop in; objects off in the distance to things right in front of you, including ground textures at your feet, sometimes blinking in and out as you simply move your head around. Thankfully the foveated rendering here isn’t too aggressive, but the reliance on fog that the first game used to keep the draw distance at bay is outed here in the sequel with some of the new areas sporting fairly large sized indoor areas. Without the fog they often just white out when looking at them from a distance. My thinking here is that the drop in the overall visual quality and polish throughout Retribution is due largely in part to the increased focus on zombie aggression and overall combat combined with the visually more ambitious new stages. Still, I suspect that the Quest 2 version was rushed here a bit as well.
Fortunately Chapter 2 visually fares much better in the night missions, which is where a bulk of the game takes place. The ability to use the cover of night to hide draw distances is very obviously the Quests friend here as a noticeable increase to texture detail can be instantly seen on vehicles and buildings, along with a drastic decrease of texture pop in to boot. Even better is the drastic increase in the brightness of the flashlight, a key complaint I had about the first game, and an improvement that is very welcomed, especially considering the sequel’s focus on night missions.
Now all this being said, Chapter 2 on the Quest 2 is still a marvel for running on this hardware, but I really feel like we are seeing the hardware pushed to its limit. I’ll admit it definitely impacted my enjoyment level of playing the sequel as it often felt unfinished. Fortunately on the audio side of things everything seems to be on point here with the sequel retaining the first game’s level of quality despite a few audio glitches here and there. I was a big fan of the first game’s audio design, enjoying the nuanced music and loving the weight of combat, both melee and ranged. So, more of the same here is good in my books. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that most of the effects and music tracks are simply recycled here, but the new voice actors brought in for new characters retain the quality and tone from the first, and the chainsaw sounds about as gnarly as you would hope.
Now for final thoughts and review score. The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution, while a standalone title, is much less a sequel to the first game than it is a continuation. Jumping into Retribution is VR gaming comfort food to be sure as it felt like just the next day in New Orleans. I instantly fell right back into that familiar game loop with enough new recipes, weapons and areas to entice me to head back out into the zombie apocalypse. A new story keeps things fresh and the option of night missions along with a stronger focus on combat is also a welcomed change. The increased difficulty of the game was nicely balanced; not too action heavy so as to change the tone of the gameplay.
However, with the Quest 2 version being the only one releasing thus far, those gamers with PC’s or planning on getting a PSVR 2, you might want to wait until Chapter 2 gets released on those platforms. The Quest 2 version just visually suffers. The PCVR version releases February 2023, the PSVR 2 version is planned for March 21st, 2023. There is no Quest 1 version planned. I had fun venturing back into one of my favorite VR franchises, and more of a good thing is still a good thing. Unfortunately, on the Quest 2, Retribution feels a bit like sloppy seconds.
Skydance Interactive The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!