Release Date August 23, 2022
Genre Action/Shooter
Platforms PS4/PS5/XBX/XBS/XBO/PC
Developer Volition
Price $59.99 US
ESRB Rating Mature
Players 1-2 Players

Rebooting a series is almost always a polarizing thing to do. Nowhere is that more apparent than in video games. Once strong franchises can fall into obscurity if that reboot doesn’t stay true to the originals while pushing the series forward. This was my one big concern when it was revealed that the Saints Row series was getting a reboot last Summer. Saints Row was one of the first games I played when I purchased an Xbox 360 in the Fall of 2012 after going with a PS3 that generation. It was a logical series I wanted to sink my teeth into after avoiding it because I didn’t have access to the first one on the PS3. It became one of my favorite series because it was just fun for the sake of being fun. As the series got into its fourth entry, it got to be completely ridiculous to the point that I didn’t know where they would go with the series next. Volition didn’t either, as we have waited nine years for the next entry in the series. It probably would have been better if we had to wait even longer.

Saints Row dials back many things that were taking the series in a weird direction, like superpowers (which was probably for the best). They also dialed back a lot of the outlandish identity of the game. Volition brought it back to its open-world gang warfare roots. This would work for me if the mechanics were more finely-tuned, the characters were memorable, or it was 2006, but it’s not. It’s 2022, and this game doesn’t align with where it should be. It can be great fun at times, and I enjoyed certain parts of this game, but I felt like I was playing a remaster of the first game more than I did a completely new entry in the series. There just wasn’t enough content to make me smile or surprise me like I’ve come to expect from this development team.

Saints Row did entertain me a lot at certain points in time. One thing I enjoyed was the beautiful game world of Santo Ileso which is very reminiscent of the Las Vegas area. The world has many moments of feeling lively with tow trucks picking up cars on the side of the road, police putting barricades up in alleys, NPCs shooting off fireworks, and much more. I felt like the team did a great job creating a varied game world that isn’t big for the sake of being big. I’ve gotten sick of games with massive game worlds that either fill them with pointless collectibles or become travel simulators. I think this open world is the perfect size for a game like this, and I never feel like I’m wasting time. There’s always something to do nearby. Most of the missions felt repetitive, and there were very few that I felt stood out to me enough to be very memorable. I did enjoy an early mission where your character jumps from car to car in a convoy to get to the front of the pack. It felt like a fun action movie sequence, and I expected the entire game to be like that, but it wasn’t. There was another sequence where you were going through an explosive train robbery. Another had you drag a man around in a portapotty behind your car. These were fun portions, but they never last very long, and you’re relegated to doing mundane tasks again a few minutes later.

The shooting mechanics felt worse than in the previous games in the series. It’s passable, but there were times when the aim didn’t feel as on-point as you’d expect in a third-person shooter. There is no proper cover system in the game, so you rely on manually finding cover and dodge-rolling away from bullets. You’ll have to pull off the occasional execution move to replenish your health mid-fight, which is my preferred method over having to pick up health or anything like that. There’s even a skills system that works on a recharge system that allows you to bind special abilities to four buttons. There are useful skills like shooting through walls or traditional ones like temporary armor. It’s all up to you and how you want to play, and you can swap them quickly and frequently if you want to. I was a little annoyed that grenades and mines were skills, as I feel that’s better suited to something you just need to grab ammo for.

Saints Row takes a conventional approach to driving mechanics. There are plenty of land vehicles to drive around Santo Ileso, but most of the cars handled the same as the next one, so I didn’t have much preference. I did love the monster trucks that can flatten other cars when they run them over. They were really fun to mess around with, and some of them felt nearly indestructible. There’s a drift and sideswipe mechanic in the game that makes chases pretty fun at times. It reminded me of Marked Man in the Burnout series. You can even take a page out of the Just Cause playbook and pop out onto your roof, and launch into a wingsuit glide. There are also things like tanks, helicopters, planes, and boats if those things are more your speed.

Your companions in the Saints are where this game falls flat for me. I don’t feel like any of the supporting cast is nearly as memorable as some of the original Saints characters like Johnny Gat or Shaundi. I did enjoy Neenah a lot because she seemed to be the most level-headed of the group. I particularly enjoyed a scene where she and The Boss were on the couch watching the shopping channel. She seems to have the most gang upside with a love of cars and an affiliation with another gang, Los Panteros. Eli is a nerdy pacifist who doesn’t want anything to do with fighting and has an affinity for LARPing. His side missions were fun to play, swapping regular weapons for NERF weapons. Kevin is the playboy DJ, and he is easily the weakest character to me. As in previous games, you can call in your gang mates for help if you are in a sticky situation. The enemy gangs were equally forgettable, with each gang playing largely the same. I didn’t feel much difference except for different outfits and vehicles. I hoped they’d have different tendencies and AI, but that wasn’t to be in my view.

The character creator can be accessed anytime via the in-game phone and allows you to change practically everything about your character or to download one of the many community creations available. I was simple with my customization and went with the dress shirt, jeans, and fedora combo. You can get much crazier, though, by putting on things like taco hats or a bunch of other random items. This customization extends to your HQ, which evolves as you go through the story. You can add a bunch of collectibles all over the property. I wish there were even more things that you could add here, but I like that this was an idea at all. You can also customize all your weapons and vehicles to your liking, as has been a staple of this series for a while now.

Criminal ventures comprise the bulk of Saints Row’s side missions. You have to purchase each one and complete its set of missions to add more money to your hourly revenue. I love this mechanic, and I wish more games would utilize something like this because I feel it gives you a tangible reason to want to finish these missions. You aren’t required to acquire all the ventures to complete the campaign, but buying half of them is required to unlock the final story missions. The problem with that is that these missions generally aren’t very good. Even Insurance Fraud seems quite a bit more unpredictable this time around and not nearly as fun. The Eurekabator that allowed you to test hoverboards and sticky bombs only lasted three missions and was one of the better sets. Bright Future, on the other hand, had you hauling toxic waste around town for thirteen trips. Not exactly the most fun thing to do in the world. It just felt like these missions were very rushed, and maybe they were. There could have been so much more here. It ended up being mostly filler and a lot of copy-and-paste missions. They aren’t challenging, and they don’t make think outside the box.

Saints Row has many questionable choices that drove me nuts. There were the prompts to return to missions when you barely moved away from them, the instant-fail stealth, and the terrible police AI that you could just lose by going fast enough in a straight line. I was also annoyed at how little you could interact with in the game world. You won’t be entering any of the cool-looking casinos. Forget it. Want a bicycle? You can’t steal it. The world is beautiful, and there are plenty of NPCs around, but I never felt like I could get as lost in it as I can in other game worlds like GTA or even Yakuza, to an extent.

I could excuse a lot of other issues with this game, but one thing I have a hard time excusing is the number of bugs and glitches that I encountered. I have had at least 3 or 4 instances of missions just breaking to the point I had to restart my game and lose my progress on the mission. I’ve seen my player get in a car only to appear on the roof as I start driving or beside a motorcycle. I’ve had times where my car just jumps in the air like I pressed a jump button. It got even worse when I tried to play co-op with a friend. He lost connection a few times, and he had trouble joining my game a few times. It got even worse when his icon disappeared as we were playing. He was still in my game, but we had no idea where each other was. There was also an instance where our car got shot by fireworks randomly out of nowhere that I still can’t explain. It can be a really fun game in co-op, but we got so frustrated with it that we’ll probably never go back to it. It’s a shame, too, because there are so few games that do co-op like this.

I wanted so badly to like Saints Row. I’ve been a fan of this series for a long time, and I am very frustrated that the game was released in this state even after being delayed. It’s not the worst experience I’ve ever had in gaming, but it’s so disappointing knowing what this game could have been. One thing I never expected was that this would be a game with identity issues, but it’s exactly that. It can be a fun time, and I did enjoy myself in short spurts, but it was hard for me to sit down and play it for longer than an hour or two at a time. I hope some patches and DLC can remedy some of the issues I’ve had, but right now, this feels like more of the same and not a proper reboot.

ProsCons
 Beautiful, lively worldRepetitive missions 
 A few fun action sequences Generic protagonists
 Too many bugs and glitches 

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