Saints Row, a franchise that has been around the block a few times. Originally landing as a semi-serious alternative to GTA, but with its tongue firmly planted in a cheek. Nature of cheek to be confirmed. Over the years the games have transitioned into bawdy locker room joke fest with some absolutely ridiculous scenarios. Arguably for the fanbase, the more ridiculous they get the better.
You can’t mistake a Saint’s game. Over the top weapons, puerile humour and hi-octane, yet forgiving action. This iteration does bear those marks, but…
Bring me the Gatt.
I’m all for change when its required, but Saints Row 2022 has some glaring omissions. The game is a grass roots start for the Saints, familiar characters are gone and the landscape sits somewhere between GTAIV desert and Crackdown slums. The narrative is focused on becoming a Boss and building up the gang, all well and good, but the backroom crew don’t give me confidence.
Playing as the main character in this story, you get all the customisations you’d expect and then some. Once that’s done, launch into a prologue shoot out – predictably on rails as they come, and predictably outlandish. There is no mistaking the fact that the game is focusing on destruction and you are the catalyst. You don’t even have to look out for exploding barrels anymore, they pop up with a marker, you can juts hit that button and blow them up without aiming. That’s progress.
After that the game has slow start. Get to know your crew, run a couple of missions and explore the area. Which is fine.
Until it all starts to feel a little ‘Loose’.
Aiming is ‘Loose’, it takes ages to whittle down some health bars. Driving is ‘Loose’, jump into most vehicles and until you unlock customisations they all drive like sardine tins. Combat is ‘Loose’, go in for a takedown and more often than not you’re left alone miming glitchy death moves over a prone victim. I could go on, but they all boil down to gameplay and every ingredient is pulling in a slightly different direction.
The recipe is there, the playground is there, but the whole result just feels a little tacked together.
Welcome to Santa Ileso
The map is big, touted as the biggest in a Saints Row game – it could be. However it feels quite sparse at times.
A lot of the problem is a tight mid desert CBD with towering skyscrapers, surrounded by some questionable Tex-Mex small style towns. It’s a bit of a mixed affair, that does nothing to cement the idea that it could be a functional home for these characters. Other than that there are hilly desert roads leading off into Mad Max daydreams. If the characters really wanted to make it big, they would have turned their backs on this place years ago.
Visually the game falls over too, lurching from moments of PS5 quality lighting to PS3 character models and animation.
It’s also worth noting the writing is pretty much adolescent in tone, the language is beyond necessary and I’m no prude. Just don’t play with kids in the room.
Busy doing nothing, working the whole day through…
As the story progresses, the rep of the Saints grows and their reach expands. This of course means lots of extra jobs appear, side quests, side tracks for tasks. Call them what you will , but they start to overwhelm. Some of them are simple diversions, like rummage in a dumpster for cash or a special vehicle part. While others are needlessly present, like collecting objects to dress up your HQ. There are combat tasks which are obviously the most destructive and fun, they also increase gang revenue in an area when complete.
Revenue which is generated by placing Saints business ventures on the map. This could have been an interesting business management take, but again becomes a mission to first open up a location. Then complete a number of tasks to get the operation running at full tilt. Rinse, repeat, guess the rest.
Paying it forward Saints Row style.
Random acts of violence can also become a chore if you don’t pay attention. Remarkable, I know. Generally other gang members are wandering the street, but even in mission or task related encounters they are ready for some action. As soon as someone (you) makes a move it’s on like Donkey Kong. Then an unlimited number of enemies will keep streaming to your location to join in, until you clear them all.
The reason for this is that they hang back and call form help on their mobiles. To stop this happening you need to stop the calls, but in the thick of a fight it’s a pain to do so. Especially if the caller is behind a building while you are despatching his mates. The best thing about a high bodycount is the amount of money and ammunition that west dropped. The bad thing is that its tiresome, at one stage my crew was fighting about 40 Cops until we moved to an on-rails vehicle chase.
Which incidentally handed out unlimited rockets and unlimited police cars to destroy.
There’s over the top, and then there’s just pointless mayhem without consequence. Saints Row is hitting the second bar for me.
Skills, Perks and Saints Row Opinions.
Of course the game hands you the ubiquitous mobile phone, where you can manage directions, skills, missions and perks.
Perform challenges, missions, collect collectibles and you gain Experience. As you level up you can add extra skills, perks and customisations to your character. It’s all very familiar and because of that, add the most value. It’s an opportunity to tailor your Boss in a way that suits your play style. Something all the individuals of 2022 crave.
Overall I strongly feel the series peaked with Saints Row 3, it had the chaos and crass, but left me with much fonder memories.
I would have loved to enjoyed Saints Row more, but it’s missing the magic of the series, whether that’s a sign of the times or a fail for the reboot – time and DLC updates will tell.
Although I am having a wee smile at my Peaky Blinders style Saints, shame I cant get the accent though.