Saints Row is a series whose reputation rivals that of Grand Theft Auto when it comes to the open world genre. From grand-scale gang warfare to owning an arsenal of vehicles and weapons that would make the biggest crime lords blush, Saints Row offered an over-the-top experience that very few other games matched. After a couple of mainline entries and spin-offs that focused on the OG Saints gang and their charismatic members like Johnny Gat and our very own President, Volition has decided to reboot the franchise with this year’s Saints Row.
AT A GLANCE
Developer: Deep Silver Volition
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release Date: 23/08/22
Final Score: 8/10
Set in Santo Ileso, a vibrant fictional city in the United States, the story of Saints Row chronicles the founding and rise of The Saints. Your character – the Boss of The Saints will team up with Neenah, Kevin and Eli to face off against the Los Panteros, Idols, and Marshall as you build your empire on the streets of Santo Ileso and battle for control of the city.
Saints Row is a story about beginnings, and instead of running an established gang, you must start from the very beginning and strengthen the reputation of your crew, taking them to global heights. This is where we start our path in the criminal world and thus take over Santo Ileso, district by district with a series of missions or activities. How we do that is up to us, although some prerequisites must be followed to advance the story. There is a lot of freedom, even more than the series is generally known for.
One of the most striking features of this installment is the most awesome character creator that I have seen to date, with a huge number of options and settings to create your dream character. The Saints Row games have always offered a crazy amount of modifications for the player character, but the reboot takes things up a notch. I have seen people recreate striking resemblances to celebrities and other fictional characters. Saints Row sets the bar high for what a character creator can be.
The character you create starts off as an employee in Marshall’s agency, another criminal gang that is a bit more formal and disciplined when it comes to murder and criminal activities. However, things go wrong on your first mission and you soon find yourself on the streets, unemployed.
Once put on unemployment, our avatar decides to start a new organization together with his colleagues from the department, a group that is quite different from the other gangs in the city – Marshall, Los Panteros, and Idols. But for that, they will have to carry out some not very legal work to get the necessary money to start things off.
At some point in the story, your crew arrives at an abandoned church, which becomes their property through the robbery of some deeds, and with this, they take the first step towards creating their criminal group. That’s when our protagonist sees a statue of the saints, and thus The Saints are born.
Without spoiling things too much, the plot retains the cheesiness and humor that the series is known for, although it does stumble a bit here and there, and there are not enough big set pieces compared to its predecessors, which means there are very few memorable moments that make the narrative worth a replay or two. I was really expecting something like the Party Time mission from Saints Row The Third, which has been one of the highlights of my gaming experience. For its part, the plot still preserves the essence of the original titles, but it has been turned down a few notches.
Thankfully one of the biggest attractions of the Saints Row series, the gameplay, sees very few changes, and almost all of them are for the better. Since its inception, this has been the third-person open-world sandbox game where the player is supported with tremendous mechanics to wreak large amounts of chaos through the city. From insurance fraud to rampages to mowing down hordes of enemies, there is no shortage of pure carnage and over-the-top activities in Saint Row.
The driving mechanics have seen improvements, allowing you to ram other vehicles, sideways, and the handling is a bit better overall, although a bit wonky at times. There’s a wide variety of vehicles on offer as well, something the Saints games have always offered, from planes to tanks, you will be spoiled with choice.
The main story missions tend to lack a bit of the creativity that the previous installments had, but they are still quite enjoyable. The main bulk of the fun is however in the side missions and activities that litter the world. Although I did face a few bugs here and there, some of these activities still managed to keep me hooked for extended periods of time.
The soundtrack on the other hand, while it does have some really good pieces, lacks the kind of diversity the previous games offered. It is without a doubt a good collection but compared to the previous games, which had no shortage of songs that elevated the gameplay experience, the reboot has very few really memorable ones.
Saints Row’s unique character style is one of the reasons it stood out from the crowd, and it’s good to see, that it’s still carried over in this series. The visuals feel crisp and there’s no shortage of special effects and explosions. The optimization tends to leave a bit to be desired, especially considering we have seen much better looking open world games run better on similar hardware. But this is something that can be corrected easily with patches.
Saints Row is a really fun and entertaining title, the gameplay improvements are a much welcome improvement over the previous iteration, and the world is a huge sandbox with endless toys at your disposal.