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Saints Row - We Go Hand-On in Santo Ileso
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 12:00am 22/07/22 | Comments
After spending four hours with the new Saints Row we give you our thoughts on the long-awaited return of the action franchise…


When it comes to third-person shooters and action games, realism, and we’re talking about videogame realism here, is often overrated. Embracing the silliness and over-the-top nature of the medium, when done right, can deliver the goods in a way that’s unlike anything else. The Saints Row series, which began as a riff on the burgeoning open-world Grand Theft Auto genre, quickly found itself in a place where gritty crime drama took a back seat to racking up insurance claims by throwing yourself into oncoming traffic. And then ragdolling to increase the settlement value.

Saints Row, which reboots the franchise on August 23, remains true to the series’ by providing a chaotic crime and arcadey action sandbox to play in. One of the reasons this is a reboot is because the storyline eventually ended up with aliens invading and the entire planet getting destroyed in Saints Row IV. And after spending close to four hours with the all-new Saints Row on PC, playing through the early missions, and even experiencing some co-op, it’s safe to say that fans of the franchise and newcomers are in for a treat.


It doesn’t reinvent the formula, but it does thankfully tone down the superhero/sci-fi nature of the latter mainline games to present something more grounded. As much as bouncing off of the heads of pedestrians to get more wingsuit hangtime can be. Plus, it’s been several years since the last outing and enough time has passed that it can make use of modern hardware by adding new features that make sense for both the free-form open-world campaign and playing in co-op.


Saints Row, which reboots the franchise on August 23, remains true to the series’ by providing a chaotic crime and arcadey action sandbox to play in.



For example, the physics have been stretched to near breaking point in that smashing into one parked car at full speed will see a pinball effect take place if there are more cars. Which is very cool to witness for the first time. It’s not realistic, it’s over-the-top in the best possible way. There’s also the aforementioned ability to fly around in a wingsuit, assuming you’ve got enough height, where you can surf ala Just Cause. And bust out a rocket launcher if you’ve got one.


You can tow vehicles and objects to create chaos, use a big ol’ magnet on a helicopter to lift cars (and a co-op buddy), and use them as a wrecking ball. The rebooted Saints Row features the best vehicle handling in the series to date, arcade-like steering, and drift-heavy racing ala Ridge Racer. The addition of full off-road driving, big jumps, and other stunts feels great, and there’s also a mission or activity (with reward) that takes full advantage or highlights all of the toys and moves at your disposal.

Customisation begins with your character, and the recent release of Saints Row Boss Factory was just our first taste of the levels of customisation available. A balding overweight gentleman covered in glistening sweat wearing a jacket with no shirt and George Costanza glasses? That’s my B. Boss Factory and the in-game character customisation tools not only serve as a way for players to flex when they create their Boss (and you can go as crazy as creating what looks like a for-real Shrek), but it doubles as a mic drop when it comes to the sheer number of choices at your disposal.


It's where the customisation begins, and seemingly never ends. Setting the tone for some impressive levels of detail covering vehicles, weapons, and even how you decide to tackle side-missions and activities and grow your little crime family in Saint Ileso.


Customisation, of course, begins with your character, and the recent release of Saints Row Boss Factory was just our first taste of the levels of customisation available.



It was great to see all of that in action, but it was detailed and outlined before going hands-on. One of the first big question marks I had surrounded the third-person combat and how that felt to play. And whether or not mission design and AI were at the sort of level that would make the game stand out - even amongst other Saints joints. How the narrative fits into the chaos, and whether or not that side of it would be secondary to you creating your fun. Turns out the story stuff is a lot more involved and intricate than the previously released pay-day loan robbery sequence showcased a while back. Not in a bad way, and certainly in a way that feels like classic Saints.


The story is a nice blend of past games with new characters and several modern touches. A fictional but not-so-fictional America where things like wage stagnation and predatory corporations rule the day. This is Saints Row at its most overtly satirical too, especially when it comes to mercenary-like figures taking over the security and policing of society. It’s outright cartoonish too, giving off the vibe of Looney Tunes meets Grand Theft Auto - which to me might just be a match made in videogame heaven.

When it comes to the combat and missions, at least with this pre-release build, things are fairly standard. In that apart from some weird controller aim acceleration, the action in the new Saints felt pretty good but not exceptional. Like the driving, it’s very arcadey, with weapon selection and explosions being the tactical order of the day. Auto-targeting explosive barrels might not be the height of clever design, but it leans into the explosive action and overly heightened physics of the world. This side of Saints Row has always felt a tad lacking, where tools and how you use them mattered most.


The good news is that the tools are great and the addition of skills and perks that let you plant grenades in the pockets of close enemies and then hurl them at others, are fun and in line with everything else. There’s also a DOOM-style Glory Kill system that charges up over time, but instead of gruesomely ripping apart a demon and playing marionette with their entrails you instead bitch-slap, combat roll, and suplex in some fun (if overused) kill animations. With weapons, skills, passive abilities, and execution moves being a key part of the combat have a great flow.


There’s also a DOOM-style Glory Kill system that charges up over time, but instead of gruesomely ripping apart a demon and playing marionette with their entrails you instead bitch-slap, combat roll, and suplex in some fun (if overused) kill animations.



Something that is amplified and heightened by the robust co-op where you can wingsuit, team up, take on activities, and even progress the story with a friend. It’s a host and peer-based setup though progress we’re told will carry over to your own save if you play solo in another session. Co-op is just about a genre unto itself, and if you’re a fan of teaming up with a friend to play something with a big dose of action and sandbox creativity then Saints Row could very well be theco-op game of 2022. With the vehicles, weapons, physics, wingsuits, customisation, and many, many different activities - there’s a lot on offer. As someone who loves nothing more than a slice of co-op, the new Saints Row is now one of my most anticipated releases of the year.