Few games can steer themselves out of a groove when they seem to follow a trend. Grand theft auto changed the fabric of what a videogame could be when it was first released, and further entries have pioneered through the industry. This led many companies to create their own clone of the franchise, both in a mechanics sense and also following a similar theme. But none have managed to break the mould quite like Saints row, who after a very basic first outing, decide to ramp up the crazy setting and lean in a more whacky and destructive direction.
This pattern only grew more out of control from the 2nd entry up until ‘Gat Out of Hell’ the spin-off game that made being president and fighting aliens somehow pale in comparison. This did leave a lot of questions as the series hit the Saints 4/Gat out of hell entry….How the hell do you go bigger than that, there was a simple answer. You don’t.
This led to series creators Deep Silver Volition completely rebooting the franchise, with new characters, a new setting and less leaping at aliens with superpowers (what a sentence). During the announcement back in 2021, we were shown a cinematic that highlighted a much smaller scale that was more akin to Saints Row 2 and 3. This led to a mixed reception as many fans enjoyed the series at its last climax and were hoping for more adventures with the OG saints. Many fans also thought this would be a fresh start and be a more down-to-earth entry (literally) like the beloved Saints row 2 was. Would either side of the fence be happy with what was released on August 23rd? well….just read.
I need to start this review by stating that this game has not received a positive overall reception. Due to a mixture of bugs, some questionable writing, and a mishmash of opinions that flow from the game is very repetitive to its cyberpunk all over again. In my opinion, it’s not nearly as bad as people claim it to be, however, there are clearly some issues within the game which doe include bugs that need to be resolved.
Starting out with a solid cinematic that introduces the Saints in their prime, throwing a party and being the life of that party. This sequence also acts as the character creator in which you can use the game's very detailed character editor. This is a highlight, as the attention to detail for the game's characters spans from the usual facial features all the way to prosthetic limbs. This feature was actually pre-released as Boss Factory and allowed gamers to create their character and load in when they started the game. So far so good yeah? Well, it comes to a swift end as the evening goes on to our main character ‘The Boss’ being buried alive. This in fact was a flashforward, thus back we go a few months before the Saints existed into the game's tutorial in which we work for one of the game's military factions ‘Marshall’.
This is our first taste of combat and in comparison, to other Saints Row games, this isn’t far from what we’re used to. I would go as far as to say that this combat is actually smoother than previous entries. But given the last entry came out in 2015, I would say that this isn’t exactly what I was hoping for with the next leg up after a 7-year hiatus.
Saints’ row’s shooting has always been a little stiff, and that stiffness is still there. Is it improved, absolutely! But this isn’t the kind of thing I’d expect from a new Gen game. That is the only problem I had however and even then I still enjoyed the shooting and combat of the tutorial. With the tutorial done and our first ‘Marshall’ mission complete we can move on to the open world.
This is where the next issue I’ve seen takes place. In the moments after the tutorial mission ends and you meet the supporting character, as well as watch the boss have a hissy fit in their car. While I’m on the subject, the driving is improved from previous entries too, again not to the extent that I was hoping for, but better. Anyway, post tutorial is where the example of questionable writing comes into play. After playing quite a few hours of the game I’m struggling to nail the humour and writing in some of the scenes. That on top of the way that some of the characters act or talk also leads me to question what exactly the motivation for these characters was other than to be young and be some form of stereotype.
This isn’t being critical of all the writing as I genuinely found a lot of the moments funny here and there. A side questline that features LARP is by far one of the best missions of the game and is both entertaining in gameplay and written well. Some moments just went right over my head, and after watching some other reviewers reacting to these moments in a similar way to me, am now under the impression I’m just old and don’t get what funny is (I’M 28! I’M COOL DAMN IT).
Speaking of the missions, there are 2 very different opinions on how they are, and they’re both right! One side is that the missions are all the same and it’s boring, and the other is that the context of the mission is what makes them unique, and they all just feature the same wave-based combat. Both have some merit for the most part, although there are numerous driving and wingsuit missions as well that throw quite a bit of diversity in! We even see the return of insurance fraud which to any returning players is just a big old broken neck of nostalgia. Both also describe the old Saints Row games, which to me means that the formula hasn’t really changed, which depends on how much you liked it will depend on how much you enjoy this game. And that pretty much brings me to the final point I need to make on this game as a whole.
This game as a whole isn’t where a lot of people want it to be, it doesn’t feel like a game that’s on par with GTA6 or God of War Ragnarök. Given it’s 2022, that could be a bad thing. Alternatively, this is the same formula that got us to the point where we were flying through a city and fighting off a zombie hoard in the middle of a crowded city. There is a lot that links back to the games that made this series great if you look for it, and I’m in complete agreement that this game needs some work. But I also don’t think it’s the flop some other reviewers claim it to be. It’s a 2018 game released in 2022 from my perspective, and if I can have some chaotic fun like I could in Steelport (Saints row 3 b****’s) then I’ll enjoy this one.
Overall Saints Row is a more toned down but still whacky 3rd person shooter that has its fair share of laughs as well as bugs. I think that to say this game is trash is just untrue, but to say it’s a masterpiece is also way out of the park. With some bug fixes and a few updates here and there, this could be a solid entry, but with some of the choices made here creatively and mechanically, I do not see this sitting on the Throne that the previous entries did.
Check out Alex's Video Review of Saints Row here:
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