Saints Row could have been seen as an extension of early entries in the Grand Theft Auto series. When GTA went for a more realistic presentation, the Saints Row series delivered an almost cartoonish version of open-world mayhem that I loved. The lengthy 10-year hiatus is now over, as the team at Volition returns to the series and trims out the subtitles with the upcoming Saints Row.
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Saints Row, but let’s start out with the cast of characters. I’ve never been a fan of eccentric and over-the-top character writing, but it seems like that’s all we get. Maybe I’m just used to the Ubisoft style of character growth as they feed us this strange version of how they think younger generations interact. I went into Saints Row with this mindset, but after a few of the main missions, I found myself really liking this group.
For the most part, they’re each a part of a rival gang, but they make it work. Their bonds are strong, and the story spends a good amount of time on providing a believable friendship to the player, which I wasn’t expecting. I was invested in their interactions and how each of them was different, but they still shared some common interests, well, mainly ones that got them into trouble.
During my time with an early build, I was able to explore the main campaign and get a better understanding of why these characters are building their empire. This is further explored in side-hustles that are found around the map, which build on the supporting cast without weighing on the story.
Strangely, the narrative doesn’t gloss over previously established relationships, and many of the early characters you meet already have a history with the crew. I just went with it, though, because I’m jumping out of a plane to glide onto a roof and blow up satellites, so who cares exactly why.
Gameplay is separated into main missions, side hustles, and optional missions. No matter how you spend your time, you’ll be collecting rewards. However, I think some mission types are puzzling by design, which ends up taking needless amounts of time as you figure out what to do. The worst offenders of this would be the fight challenges and history missions. You’re given a radius where the mission will take place and then asked to do something.
However, constantly running around these areas looking for what to do was tedious. This is also found in the photo challenges, where it just feels like the devs said, “We put a photo mode in this game, and you’re going to use it.” Further, there’s a system where you take pictures of objects that you can then add to your base, but I never found myself interested in this feature.
Even after playing for hours, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what players can do in this world. The adventure as a whole feels much more grounded than previous entries but continues to offer moments of insanity as you work towards building your empire and taking down all rivals who come in your way.
Sadly, guns feel a bit awkward to use. I found myself just using a pistol for most of the encounters because the hit rate and damage output of the other weapons weren’t very consistent. Further, some missions just aren’t fun after multiple losses due to the game’s wonky aiming system. Riding on top of a car, I could be shooting the enemy driver directly in the face, and it will only register as vehicle damage. There’s an inconsistency found in the combat portions of Saints Row that I feel needs to be adjusted before release.
If anything, Saints Row proves that the saints still got it. From the opening moments, you’re on a runaway rollercoaster with multiple ways to enjoy the experience. I’m here to enlist into the saints again, but at least I know that there’s plenty to look forward to.
Saints Row is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC on August 23, 2022.
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