The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners Chapter 2: Retribution Review
I’m in a rowboat, paddling through a dark, flooded city. I pass by bodies in the water, some twitching and even lunging at me as I pass. It’s dark but the glow of fires in the area gives off a hellish and menacing atmosphere. This is the New Orleans of The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners Chapter 2: Retribution, and it’s good to be back. Nauseating and terrifying, but … good.
The last time I was here, it was in Aftershocks, the DLC expansion to the original game. And not much has changed since then, for better and worse. Chapter 2: Retribution looks and feels like essentially a continuation of the original, rather than a sequel. Visually and gameplay-wise, it’s basically the same as the first game. There isn’t much to indicate that you’re playing a new, different Saints and Sinners title–aside from the opening sequence, of course.
The actual visuals were not necessarily the strongest part of the original Saints & Sinners. People and walkers had a stylized look and that’s back this time around. But it was always more about the overall atmosphere. The dark, foggy city of New Orleans, and the narrow streets where the danger of walkers lurked around every corner. In The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners Chapter 2: Retribution, that atmosphere is once again like a character in the story. In fact, it may feel even more cramped this time around.
Narratively, Chapter 2: Retribution picks up immediately after the original. There’s quick a “Previously On”-style recap, but it’s so brief it comes off as just a memory refresh. If you’re new to this series, you won’t really get much from it. In short, you can play Chapter 2 as a newbie (and there is a tutorial), but it’s clear that this installment is geared towards returning players.
You’re still The Tourist and you’re still trying to survive zombies in NOLA while navigating the various human factions. You do go to new areas of the city this time around, which is great. And the scariest monsters of all are still US. This time around, though, the terror is augmented by a new enemy: in addition to walkers and other people, you’re also confronted by a mysterious figure called The Axeman. He’s very well-armored and scary, and his presence in Retribution does admittedly bring a new level of discomfort to the experience.
But don’t get me wrong, the fact that The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners Chapter 2: Retribution is “more of the same” is quite fine. The first title was a great game–maybe one of the best VR games ever. The visceral, first-person zombie combat is still thrilling. Within minutes of starting this sequel up, you’re hacking walkers with a cleaver and loving it. In VR, the need to physically reach down and grab your weapons, then swing them–and even tug them back out of a zombie’s skull–is as immersive as it gets. And Retribution offers lots more of what made the original so great.
There are also night missions this time around. In these parts, you’re forced to rely on your hearing a lot more than in the first game, since your vision is much more limited even with the help of UV goggles. While Saints & Sinners always leaned heavily on claustrophobia, this time the tight spaces take on new levels of panic when combined with near-blackness. I’d say these parts are a nice addition and may be my favorite part of the game.
Chainsaws Are Cool
In keeping with the picking-up-where-we-left-off presentation, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners Chapter 2: Retribution gives you the option to import your first save. But even if you don’t, it still gives you a big head start, with your old school bus base already unlocked and crafting tables–with recipes–ready to go. Your backpack is also stocked with a pretty generous variety of materials, food, and weapons, including guns. It’s a nice welcome, but it might make some hard-core survivalists feel a bit cheated out of earning it themselves.
Speaking of weapons, there are a few new weapon types added to The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners Chapter 2: Retribution. There are lots of cool new guns you can dual-wield. But my favorite for pure thrills was the chainsaw. It brings with it that classic risk-reward temptation, though. On the one hand, using it brings a glorious display of carnage and a rush of power. But on the other hand, the noise it gives off will alert hordes of more zombies to your location. As bodacious as the chainsaw most definitely is, I’ve always been more partial to the melee weapons. They don’t make noise and they don’t need reloading. If only they didn’t degrade, they’d be perfect. But that’s another issue altogether.
On the downside, this second installment felt to me a little less polished than its predecessor at times. Case in point: I saw many a zombie get stuck on invisible obstacles while shuffling toward me. A few times, this resulted in a small group of them bunched together, struggling to reach me but blocked from proceeding. As much as I enjoyed the extra chance to kill enemies from a safe distance, this isn’t the way I wanted it to be. And the graphics in The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners Chapter 2: Retribution might be a bit limited by the power of the Meta Quest 2. The draw distance is just okay–though the game does a good job of hiding it with its narrow alleyways and streets. Pop-in is prevalent.
Bottom line, if you haven’t played the original The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, I would not recommend you start with this sequel. It’s like starting to watch a movie halfway through. But if you have played it, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners Chapter 2: Retribution is a great continuation and maybe even a must-play. It’s got all of what made the first game very great, plus a few improvements and additions. For me, returning to post-zombie-apocalypse New Orleans has been uncomfortable, unpleasant … and fun as hell.
** A Meta Quest 2 game code was provided by the publisher **
- More of what made the original great
- New weapons
- Night missions
- Graphics haven’t really improved
- Some bugs
- More of the same