Saints Row reboot is more grounded, but still totally crazy
What sets the Saints Row series apart from Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto series is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. If GTA is Goodfellas or Heat, Saints Row’s take on a burgeoning criminal empire is more like Leslie Nielsen’s The Naked Gun – and thesticks to this concept brilliantly.
The upcoming reboot has been divisive among some die-hard fans, many of whom are disappointed that it features a visibly young new cast. However, the nearly hour-long preview we got of Saints Row’s gameplay and story elements showed that the reboot’s change of pace and setting didn’t detract from the hectic action and to the bizarre style of the series.
With the next game releasing on August 23, developer Volition is getting back to basics: Saints Row focuses on a team of upstart gangsters trying to take over the city and earn some respect.
The last time we saw the Saints Row series was with its Saints Row IV and its spin-off, Gat Out of Hell. While the series started off as a GTA spin-off, it quickly found its own identity by leaning more into comedy and absurd action. Eventually, the series escalated to battling enemies with big, vulgar sex toys and battling space aliens with various superpowers.
In some cases, Saints Row has surpassed GTA in sheer madness.
I had a blast with Saints Row IV, but it looked like the series might have hit its ceiling prematurely with a Matrix-esque turn as an open-world action game. The upcoming reboot, simply titled Saints Row, brings things back to basics with a new team of young criminals out to rebuild the titular Saints and get what’s theirs.
According to the developers at Volition, the pivot to the series’ roots was to “find its center” and serve as a starting point for wacky action.
“I love absurdity, but if you keep everything at 11 all the time, then you get a little numb, and it can also get hard to appreciate things,” said Jennifer Campbell, lead writer for the upcoming Saints Row. . the more entrenched the game, the more relevant it is to people. I can see myself in many personas – like getting a job after college, paying off debt, and generally being adaptable in uncertain situations.
As with previous Saints Rows games, the reboot lets you plan your own path of chaos to slowly dismantle rival gang power structures, all with a custom “Boss” of your own making. The customization I could see was extensive, allowing you to change your character’s aspect ratios, outfits, and even select emotes to use on your outings. Regardless of what you choose, each crew member will treat you like a true boss of a criminal empire, making room for some truly bizarre and thrilling action moments for you and your potential co-op partners.
The Saints Row series has always done well in giving you options on how you want to build your empire. While there’s a thread of story missions to follow, there’s also the plethora of mini-games and side tasks to deal with. These activities include causing property damage with rocket launchers, committing insurance fraud during heavy traffic (it’s a fan favorite), or simply collecting fancy hot rods hidden around town.
Some moments I could see in this preview featured the mandatory high-speed chases to get away from rival gangs and law enforcement. However, things quickly went off the rails when the Boss used his special suit to fly across the map, bouncing off civilians’ heads to get more air. Another highlight was a mission where the Boss uses a port-a-potty as a wrecking ball chained to his car and barrels through a rival’s base.
It’s so weird, but I couldn’t help but smile as I watched all this chaos unfold. According to the game’s creative director, Brian Traficante, the reboot took a while to find, but they’re confident they’ve created something true to the series.
“Even though this game looks a bit different from previous games like Saints Row IV, as soon as you put the controller in your hands, you’ll realize you’re playing Saints Row,” Traficante said. “The DNA of Saints Row is alive and well; in some ways it just took on a different form as we went through the long process of setting it up. We often wondered, ‘what is Saints Row? But frankly, I think we made it in the end.”
This reboot may have gone back to basics, but Saints Row’s approach to intense action and cartoonish hijinks with a cast of characters hasn’t lost the exuberance this series is known for. Grand Theft Auto and its ambitious scale is all well and good, but sometimes it’s cool to play games that aren’t afraid to mock the genre and turn into a giant playground whenever you want.
Saints Row was released on August 23 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.