Contrary to what seems (critics’) popular belief, I really enjoyed this new Saints Row game. Sure it has problems, but it’s far from the total disaster many of the review outlets say it is.
Lately, we as gamers have been spoiled when it comes to open-world games. We got Horizon Forbidden West which is well, a masterpiece. We also got Elden Ring which again, is a game of the generation masterpiece. Dying Light 2 Stay Human was amazing as well. All of these games evolved the open-world genre, each in their own way, be it on the world design or quest design or combat design, etc.
This “reboot” of Saints Row, as Volition branded it, is well just another new Saints Row game. Now I understand that from where Saints Row 4 and Gat Out Of Hell left, there was nothing to explore story-wise, at least not with that cast of characters. So the only course of way for them was to reboot the game in a whole new setting with a whole new cast of characters and this, I believe, is the main cause why many critics were angry with the game.
You see, as gamers, we hear the word “reboot” and our imaginations start to run wild. A whole new setting, a new cast of characters, new gameplay elements with new quirky, crazy weapons and who knows what else, and maybe a completely new next-gen engine… just imagine it for a second, this game will be crazy. So when this new Saints Row game turned out to be very similar, in pretty much every aspect, to the previous ones, people got disappointed.
I understand that, I understand expecting more since, as I said, we’ve been spoiled when it comes to open-world games. But at the same time, we can’t expect every open world to be Horizon or Elden Ring. Having said that, I played Saints Rows and I really liked it.
Your character, the Boss, which is totally customizable is fairly similar to the previous iterations of the Boss, a shoot first then shoot some more then just set everything on fire and just leave, without asking any questions type of guy or gal. You are a wisecracking, zero fucks given, and zero stress level murder machine and work as a hired gun for Marshall, a private security firm that couldn’t care less for their employees. You live in a rundown house along with your three other friends: Kevin, Neenah, and Eli. All four of you are in the same shi(t)p. You all have students loan to pay off and well, joining the gangs of Santo Illeso seems to be the only way to earn enough money to pay off those loans
Things happen with these gangs and Marshall so that’s when all four of you decide to go independent and form a new gang that will conquer Santo Illeso… the new Saints are born. From there it’s a race to the top. The Saints will start pulling off jobs that will slowly but surely cripple all of the other gangs and Marshall. You are the new kings of this city and mission after mission the “Purple Shirt Mafia’ will gain more notoriety, get more followers and rule the city.
The main missions are an absolute blast to play as each is very unique with great banter between the cast and usually climaxes with a bombastic set piece. I really enjoyed going through all of these main missions as I didn’t really know what to expect. One moment you are using a bulldozer to destroy a construction site and the next you are blowing up a giant yacht. In the previous installments, the Saints ended up pulling off some crazy shit and while this new iteration is a little more grounded, there are still some crazy and over-the-top action sequences.
There are also some loyalty missions where you help each of your friends and I really loved these missions. The banter between the Boss and the other three is funny as fuck, but at the same time, it felt genuine and strangely relatable. I truly began to care about my friends… nah scratch that… I truly began to care about my family. Let’s just say that Dom Toretto would be proud of this cast of characters.
After completing specific main missions, your “Criminal Empire” level increases, and what that means is that you can start to build new businesses that serve as fronts for your criminal ventures all over Santo Illeso. What these ventures unlock are side missions. So if you build a hospital, you will unlock the “Insurance Fraud” side gig where you will fling your body onto upcoming traffic to get that sweet sweet insurance money. Or you can build a giant fort made with duct tape and cardboard which will unlock a whole excellent LARP-ing side quest for you to complete. There are a lot of ventures to build and each unlocks tons of side missions for you to complete which in turn unlock new abilities, weapons, cars, you name it, for you to use and wreak havoc around Santo Illeso.
Yes, the city of Santo Illeso is completely new. Imagine a mix between Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the American Southwest. It’s a gorgeous new location, very colorful and bright, especially when compared to the boringly gray Steelport of before. Spread out all over the map there are tons of stuff for you to explore, see, kill, steal, collect and do. And the more stuff you complete, the more stuff you unlock that will make your life easier. You’ll get to unlock cool toys like a hoverboard, a hoverbike, VTOLs, cars with different signature abilities and so much more.
Completing stuff also levels up your Boss and you will unlock a whole series of cool and pretty bonkers skills that you can equip AC Valhalla style. Then once a meter fills up, you can execute them by tapping one of the face buttons. These skills range from just throwing a grenade and getting a melee buff so you can go to town on unexpecting fools to call up for backup and even a wallhack that allows you to shoot and kill people behind the cover.
Gunplay feels a little bit weird at the start since you need to acclimate to the pretty aggressive aim assist, but once you understand that, it feels great. Since this new reboot is a little more grounded, the weapons are also more grounded than before, so don’t expect a dubstep gun here. Having said that, some of the weapons that you will unlock later in the game are a lot of fun and have that special “Saints Row” vibe that we all have come to love.
Now to delve a little bit into the problems that I have with this new Saints Row. Well, that’s it though, it doesn’t feel all that new to me. I explained it at the beginning, it still feels like the old Saints Row game, but set in a different city. It plays the same, it looks basically the same and the story is almost a retreading of what came before. Santo Illeso although colorful and has a ton of map markers, feels empty and devoid of life. There are no random world events or encounters to bring this city to life. The enemy AI is still dumb as it has always been, you do something bad, you get notoriety and enemies just keep spawning all around you. Also, the game forces you into fully completing some of the side ventures, meaning that you have to do the same mission 6-7 or even 15 times in a row in order to unlock the next main mission and that’s just unacceptable anymore. Don’t force a player to complete some boring ass repetitive chores in order for him to progress through the game. Yes, the game easily falls into the usual open-world game trapping, repetitive gameplay. So if you haven’t really understood my point yet, this new reboot of Saints Row feels like it’s still trapped in the past and it kinda lacks the much-needed innovation that a true reboot might have brought.
Having said all that, I’m still pleased with Saints Row. The new cast of characters and their interactions with each other is great and is, in my opinion, the best part of the game. As for the rest, if you’ve played Saints Row 3 or 4, you’ve probably seen and experienced everything else the game has to offer and if you liked that, then you will like this new Saints Row too. I am one of these people. Thanks for reading!