Volition’s Saints Row reboot won’t set the world on fire, but there’s a hard-hitting game here with some pleasant surprises.
It takes courage to restart something, doesn’t it? Courage, and no doubt a lot of twisting. It’s a taciturn acknowledgment that something, at its core, still has value – something worth sticking to – and yet it’s also a painful public admission that something else isn’t. not quite correct. Whether it’s a TV show, movie, or video game, I don’t think that’s an easy conclusion to draw… well, not with the eyes of a fiery fanbase , in any event.
Saints Row Review Developer: Volition Publisher: Deep Silver Platform: Played on PS5 Availability: Out August 23 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox X/S, Stadia
Whatever you think of the decision to reboot the Saints Row franchise, it’s hard not to respect developer Volition and publisher THQ for the bold move. I’ll tell you now, before the series reboot, Saints Row and I weren’t on good terms. It’s purple, I think: purple and stupidity. I know this was all deliberate – that the franchise sought to differentiate itself from the many other GTA clones around it by applying purple paint and making each entry a bit larger than life – but there were too many two to my liking. It got too big and heavy and – like Violet Beauregarde’s purple figure – it overshadowed everything else. No, not all games need to be serious and no, not all stories need to be emotional… but not all games need giant dildos either.
So while I enjoyed Saints Row and its sequel, I didn’t enjoy my time with The Third and avoided Saints Row IV altogether, which should give you an indication of my apprehension, reboot or no reboot. I knew Volition could make engaging games with great characters and delightful gunplay, just as I knew Saints Row wasn’t for me. Good. So far, anyway.
Ian and Zoe are giving Saints Row a play with launch day co-op – here’s a stream!
As much as the rebooted Saints Row retains much of its core DNA – there’s plenty of guns and explosions and vehicular combat and an unhealthy dollop of swearing – its madness has been pared back. And while the main characters and their acrobatic stunts are all still a little unbelievable at times, the story or gameplay is no longer overwhelmed with cheap gags and garish visuals. I suspect it’ll still be too silly for some, but I think there’s a lot to love when you realize that beneath the bluster and eff bombs lies a satisfying shooter here that gives you plenty to do and a lot of freedom in which to do so.
You – an unnamed, build-it-yourself creation that can have a southern drawl or a plum English accent; the choice is yours – are a quarter and quasi-leader of the Saints, a burgeoning criminal network. And for a series that’s spent a lot of time making sex jokes, the character creation options are oddly liberating. Whichever character model you choose, you can also choose from a range of voices – there are no gender-based constraints – and wear whatever you want. You – yes, that’s what your character is called; You – are completely non-binary and completely gender-free throughout the game.
That’s not to say it’s all super serious now, of course; the dialogue between the Four Saints co-founders is riddled with the swear words and nonsense you might expect, and while I can’t pretend it doesn’t squeal from time to time, there are undeniably some glitches funny laughter interactions too.
The plot as it is is to establish the Saints as the number one criminal organization in the Las Vegas city of Santo Ileso, defeating your enemy factions – the Panteros, the Idols and the military might of the Marshalls – for supreme reign. No, it’s not an incredibly new concept, but it’s not bad either, helped in large part by the game’s beautifully diverse mission types that keep combat fresh and exciting.
For the most part, you’ll move through the story and main missions at delightful speed, growing your criminal enterprises and recruits while simultaneously customizing your HQ and good self with the profits of your illicit deeds. I can’t say I cared much for the latter – collecting stuff is always fun, but I don’t care to put it on display – but the former punches through the otherwise searing pace. Being pulled out of the main mission path and having to, say, push back the eleven billion toxic waste trucks strewn across the place doesn’t harm the dumping as much as it does its destruction.
Interestingly, a significant part of your early game will also center around LARPing, which is a weird and unexpected diversion that artificially slows your progress. It’s also a dizzying juxtaposition of hearing your character make fake “pew pew pew” sounds and seeing enemies faking their deaths after slaughtering forty people on a street corner five minutes prior. And maybe that’s just me, but it also feels more like a piss than a slightly teasing tribute to LARP and those who enjoy it too.
That said, the shooter is unquestionably brilliant. Each weapon feels and plays a little differently, and each weapon’s challenges – which I’m happy to report buck a recent industry trend by being quickly and easily achievable – encourage diversity. in your fighting style. Granted, auto-targeting is a bit sticky (I experienced it both on and off and definitely preferred the latter), but shooting never gets old in Saints Row, and the more weapons you amass in your cache, the better your experience. the combat sequences – which are numerous – will be.
You can further spice up the fight with unlockable skills and perks that also bring passive and active benefits to your battles. In true Saints Row fashion, this ranges from the normal – say, extending your health bar – to the absurd – how about magic powers that allow you to launch a group of enemies into the air before slaying them. crush to the ground? – and yes, it’s every bit as satisfying as it sounds.
Driving, too, feels good, which means that even the vehicular missions – the chapters I tend to enjoy the least in these kinds of games – are well choreographed, even if the route markers (which are a purple stylistic, of course) are not always strong enough contrast with the busy streets of Santo Ileso. The Drop, dedicated to dreamy synth music, was my favorite station while roaming the streets, side-slipping, and smashing in as many innocent people as possible to boost my XP.
As for Santo Ileso itself? A vibrant world, its inhabitants continue to go about their daily lives despite the city’s unabashed welcome to the criminal underclass, desert scrub sprouting from all sides. By the time you’ve completed the tutorial missions, you’ll be free to explore the entire city at your leisure, with no shallow walkways or difficulty spikes impeding your exploration. Inspired by Las Vegas, it has all the landmarks you’d expect and plenty of points of interest to explore, from the sunny Marina Del Lago waterfront to the sparkling skyscrapers of the Financial District.
That said, there are times when it feels oddly devoid of life – you can speed through certain parts of town without ever seeing another soul on foot or in a vehicle, and it happens often enough to dent the facade. of a city teeming with life – but for the most part its distinct neighborhoods are a fitting backdrop for the dizzying escapades of the Saints, even if it’s not the most memorable sandbox world I’ve ever explored .
That said, Saint’s Row is not without its problems. Until the Breach, a mission where you and your buddies pick up LARP and take a break from all that murder by pretending to murder people instead, is currently unplayable – it crumbles every time I play it. tried on PS5 – and on several occasions I had to reload a checkpoint because the mission was not progressing. Sometimes it was because a character didn’t trigger the next cutscene. sometimes the enemies I had to kill could not be found. A generous checkpoint system, however, means that resetting your last save is rarely frustrating and unforgivable.
Otherwise, though, I can’t help but admit that I’m having a great time – literally – with Saints Row. Yes, the story is mundane at times and yes, much of where this story takes you may seem ridiculous, but it’s to the team’s credit that it deftly avoids the issues of its predecessors and rarely feels gratuitous or malicious. The Saints Row reboot is self-aware and self-deprecating and if you’re able to surpass its earlier reputation, there’s a fast and furious shooter here worth your time.
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