The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners - Chapter 2: Retribution deserves recognition. Never before have we seen such a verbose title manage to communicate so little while saying so much. It fails to convey to newcomers that it’s a standalone game complete with its own campaign, and it coyly obfuscates the fact that this isn’t quite the fully-fledged sequel Saints & Sinners fans have hungered for.
With that mess of a name, we want to communicate as clearly as possible that Chapter 2 is still great. It’s more Saints & Sinners with new horde-clearing toys to play with, gratifyingly stressful night time expeditions, and more excuses to risk life and limb while scavenging the undead-inhabited streets of New Orleans. The plot is thin and the new additions are limited, but its strong Saints & Sinners core makes this a retribution still worth seeing through to fruition.
Foundational to the success of Saints & Sinners is its remarkably satisfying gameplay, with the visceral combat being at the forefront. A few minutes is all it takes for the physics-focused melee zombie slaying to click. There’s a deliberate nature to it all, be it with the dislodging of something sharp from a walker’s sturdy skull or hurling a two-handed edged weapon that'll hopefully hit its target. It demands brisk but belaboured movements that are punctuated with rewarding jolts from the PSVR2 Sense Controllers whenever you make contact.
The gunplay is similarly solid and proves most effective against the far more agile human foes that inhabit the dilapidated city streets and structures. Adaptive triggers and haptic feedback combine to make each pull of the trigger feel meaningful, regardless of whether it’s a pot shot around a corner or a carefully aimed headshot. Throw Chapter 2’s new chainsaw or grenade launcher into the mix, and you’re spoiled with a smorgasbord of dangerous playthings to take for a spin and experiment with.
The combat in Saints & Sinners is superb, and it’s further elevated by a foundation of surprisingly rewarding resource management. Post-apocalyptic New Orleans is full of stuff that can be recycled for resources and turned into weapons, ammunition, or upgrades back at your school bus base of operations. Emptying your pack of junk and turning it into valuable resources that get you a wee bit closer to the next upgrade you’ve been eyeing up encourages an infectious itch to get back out there and scavenge some more.
Scrap items are plentiful in Saints & Sinners, but valuables and crucial consumables are rare, resulting in frequent stretches of nerve-racking tension. There are so many factors and mechanisms working against you while exploring one of the game’s self-contained destinations – limited stamina, breakable weapons, and finite inventory space are all limitations to overcome. Taken together, these mechanics make escaping in one piece feel like a mini-miracle, but they’re all problems that can be circumvented with stealthy sleuthing or adequate preparation in advance.
Everything that makes Chapter 2 so great is essentially the same stuff that made the first game so good. The gameplay is largely unaltered and there are only a few new locations to explore, so the completely new story is the closest this chapter comes to feeling like an actual sequel. Retribution takes place shortly after the events of its predecessor with you once again inhabiting the role of the otherwise nameless Tourist, tasked with running errands for various folks around the flooded remains of New Orleans, Louisiana while uncovering more details about the merciless faction in power dubbed “The Tower”.
Outside of the excellent use of Axeman as an always-watching antagonist and the big climactic conclusion, the plot is too trivial to provide much motivation. It boils down to being strung along a series of fetch quests for a few uninteresting characters with dialogue decisions that only allow you to choose what degree of snark to use in your reply. In contrast to the first, Chapter 2 only has a few notable decision points, none of which have major ramifications in this game.
The wide range of dismal moral dilemmas aren’t replicated in Chapter 2, but there is one big new addition in the form of night time excursions. You’re now able to visit two destinations every in-game day instead of just one, with the second stop taking place at twilight when the undead hordes are inescapable but rare materials are plentiful. It fits beautifully into the Saints & Sinners risk/reward balancing act, and makes for even more magnificent moments of desperation as you push through undead hordes in the darkness to try and make it out alive with the treasures from your trip.
The new additions with Chapter 2 are made so much easier to enjoy now that it’s finally been freed from the Meta Quest 2 where it was exclusively available before. The gnarly PS1-era fog, clay-like textures, crummy performance, frequent crashes, and long load times are all completely gone. Outside of some still low-resolution assets, the hardware upgrade is borderline transformative. If you’ve been waiting on Chapter 2 until it could be enjoyed at its best, consider that wait over.
It isn’t quite a full-on sequel and doesn’t do much to move the franchise forward, but Saints & Sinners - Chapter 2 is still an incredibly enjoyable extra helping of walker-slaying entertainment. Its smattering of new additions and novelties prove compelling enough to make post-apocalyptic New Orleans worth the revisit, especially if you passed on the initial Quest 2 release for a more polished, well-performing, and visually pleasing product.