Volition went so far off track with Saints Row 4 that the developer couldn’t really see a way forward. After all, superpowers, alien invasions, and computer simulations had little to do with the original street gangs. The reboot is a good way for the media to get back on track when things go wrong. With no subtitles or numbers, the new Saints Row is a completely new start, with a new city, new characters, and a new gang for you to start your own with.
This story takes place in a made-up city called Santo Ileso, which is in the southeast of the United States, close to the border with Mexico. The dusty but interesting town and the desert around it are not only suffering from a constant heat wave but they are also controlled by three gangs. Or, yes, “gangs,” but only Los Panteros still fit the typical image of a street gang in some ways. The Idols are made up of colorful anarchists who take selfies in the middle of battle, while the Marshalls are more like a private military company.
Start For Yourself
You and your roommates are all in different hallways right now. That doesn’t seem like a lot of money, and if you have trouble paying the rent again, you must be tired of working for other people. It’s time to go your own way: Saints! What comes next is a true story about the founding and growth of the Saints, in which you and your housemates are always on the road and grow closer to each other.
If you think Saints Row is going to slow down now, the game will quickly wake you up. Even when you’re making your character, it seems like the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, because it’s easy to make the Joker, a green alien robot, or Donald Trump. You can also copy yourself, and you can change everything about your character at any time. Next, use cutting-edge weapons to destroy an old Western theme park while explosions and hoverjets fly around your ears. One of the first special skills you can get is to put a grenade in the pants of an enemy and then throw them back at their friends as a living bomb. Welcome to Santo Ileso, where today isn’t even the craziest day of the week.
In the world of Saints Row, nothing ever goes as it should. The story missions are a long list of difficult high points. One minute, you blow up an entire museum of natural history. The next, you rob a train or crash into a luxury yacht full of fireworks. Of course, all of these things go up into the sky. But there is also not much talk of driving calmly between missions.
Santo Ileso is free to look around, but Saints Row is not a game for chilling out. If you hit a fire hydrant in the bend, the water jet is strong enough to lift your car several meters into the air. If you hit a billboard with enough force, it will fall down right away. If you hear explosions in the distance, don’t be surprised. A car probably just hit a sidewalk. Sometimes that’s all it takes to blow right up. Even after 20 years, Volition, the company that made Red Faction, still feels the game’s DNA: everything has to break, and preferably in the most spectacular way possible.
Chaos is good for Saints Row. One of the funniest missions is definitely the one where you have to drag a Dixi toilet behind your car and destroy as much street furniture as you can. This time, though, Volition doesn’t give in to the urge to go all the way again. You can still hop around without pants, and if you don’t put them on, a cool emoji sticker of your choice will be put on your chest. However, you can’t use sex toys as weapons and there are no alien enemies to fight. Even though the humor is sharp and often rude, it doesn’t fall into puberty underpants humor or other cheap jokes. Saints Row is mostly about itself, and it shines more than ever in that role.
Support The Local Businesses
Creating your own gang is a key part of this. You plan your first missions in your apartment, but you soon move to a new base. As the story goes on, what starts out as a crumbling ruin becomes a good place to stay. You can also make money by building businesses all over the city. Having a garage in your hallway makes sense, since you need somewhere to pimp your car, but Saints Row wouldn’t be Saints Row without an insurance fraud company, an arms wholesaler, or a LARP castle.
These businesses are like the ones you could buy in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City because they all have a series of missions with a similar theme. For example, your garage needs you to steal certain cars, and the insurance fraud company brings back the familiar missions where you have to throw yourself in front of moving traffic to get as hurt as possible. For your arms dealer, you can “show off” the power of the heaviest weapons in public.
But in Vice City, the businesses were always in the same place. In Saints Row, you choose which business goes where. This may seem like a small difference, but it shows right away how much you and your Saints affect Santo Ileso. There will even be signs for your businesses along the way. You clearly take over San Ilesos one district at a time.
City Trip For Two
Even so, San Ilesos has done very well. It’s clear that the city wasn’t made as a serious piece of decor, but more as a fun place to play. There is a strip of casinos, the skyline is dominated by tall buildings, and there is desert around it for off-road racing. There are also many squares and other tourist spots where you can learn more about the history of the made-up town.
The best part might be that you can explore the game world with friends, since the whole game can be played co-op. Since you’ll be in the city of the host, you’ll also get to see his or her buildings and progress. You just take what you’ve learned to “your” Santo Ileso. Side missions are then crossed off right away, and story missions that have already been done can be skipped when you get to that point in the story. The co-op mode as a whole works well, but sometimes it was hard for us to join each other’s games.
Not much else fits together well, though. We could fill a book with all the things that don’t work in Saints Row, and then we’d probably forget enough to fill another book. Clothing disappears or loses its ability to be adjusted, limbs become invisible when worn with certain items, your character’s voice sometimes changes on its own, you often can’t use weapons all of a sudden, your skills disappear or refuse to work, and sometimes you can’t even finish a mission because a cutscene won’t play or you can’t talk to a character.
And we haven’t even talked about the real problems, like the pop-in, pop-up, navigation that doesn’t make sense, subtitles that don’t match the sound, and mission descriptions that don’t make sense. Don’t be surprised if it says you have to destroy five police vans when all you have to do is turn on some tourist signs. There are also many different graphic options, but the ghosting makes the game almost impossible to play in 4k. Ray tracing also doesn’t seem to add much to some other modes. So, we mostly stuck to the mode where the resolution is 1440p and the frame rate is high.
Just like GTA, it should be clear that Saints Row doesn’t have the same budget for finishing or making the game as Rockstar’s games. Even though there are a lot of bugs, most of them are easy to fix by just restarting the game. So, they are mostly just a mild annoyance that rarely wins. Sometimes the bugs even add to the funny by accident. For example, sometimes your character gets stuck in a certain animation and keeps hitting himself in the face. You can also use a motorcycle to crash into a heavy truck from the side.
But the bugs should not be left unnamed, because that keeps the final score from being even higher. Saints Row does a lot of good, and Volition’s reboot does a good job of bringing out the best of Saints Row, which is building your own criminal gang. The result is a game that, in terms of atmosphere and structure, may be even closer to classics like Vice City and San Andreas than its successors, but it doesn’t even come close to those games in terms of finish. Even though Saints Row won’t be remembered as a classic, the game is still a lot of fun.
Saints Row will be available on August 23 for PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series X|S, and Google Stadia. For this review, the game was played on an Xbox Series X.