Saints Row is better than Grand Theft Auto. There, we said it.
While we love exploring worlds created by Rockstar, there’s something about the customization and outright craziness of the Saints Row series that simply enthralls us. And with Volition promising that the upcoming Saints Row reboot is the series’ biggest, boldest and craziest entry yet, we have to say we’re very excited. Plus, we’ve seen the gameplay to back it up.
Be a reboot, Saints Row presents us with a new group of Saints, and with them a new setting. Santa Ileso is far from Stilwater and Steelport, a bright and sandy western town. There are still urban areas, but there are also vast desert areas. But don’t worry: getting around is still child’s play thanks to all-terrain vehicles and bicycles. The handling and physics models have also been overhauled.
The fact that you can drive through the deserts of Santa Ileso will also result in additional thrilling moments. You might discover crazy jumps, for example. Or you could lead the cops on a dramatic chase. Even in urban areas, engaging the cops will be much more fun thanks to the introduction of a new side-swipe mechanic. The faster you go before suddenly turning into another vehicle, the more damage you deal. And you’ll have to fight, because it seems the police here are more determined than ever to bring you here.
In Saints Row, you will witness the formation and growth of a criminal enterprise. And you will be at the helm. It all starts with a group of friends who rob a payday loan company so they can pay rent. From there, the Saints were born, but to make their mark in Santa Ileso, they have their work cut out for them. After all, there are already three major criminal gangs in the area, and they won’t be happy for anyone else to get involved.
As always, you will be able to create your own “Boss”, and this time there are more options than ever. Make someone pretty, make someone absolutely monstrous: it’s really up to you. Then you can dress them up in all kinds of outfits, like a cowboy or a firefighter, or anything in between. What’s really exciting is that you’ll be able to save character presets, allowing you to quickly and easily change their appearance during gameplay. So you could do a mission as a clean-looking male character dressed of a smart suit, then you could change to a sweaty tattooed woman and a hoodie for the next one.
And customization goes beyond the skin. A range of character skills and perks are available, allowing you to modify the way you play as well as your strengths and weaknesses. If you know you’re dealing with enemies that use fire, for example, you can equip a perk that reduces fire damage. In the gameplay we saw, we witnessed a boon that stuns enemies when they attack you with melee attacks. We also saw the Flaming Punch skill in action, knocking down enemies with a fist of fire.
Personalization extends to other areas of Saints Row too, of course. As we’ve seen before, all of the vehicles you can find in Santa Ileso can be upgraded by visiting a Jim Robs, with everything from performance upgrades to special vehicle skills available. We look forward to combining an ejection seat with the wingsuit to allow us to access those hard to reach areas. Weapons can also be customized. You can simply change the color and material of each part if you wish, or you can drastically change the appearance of a weapon. If you’ve ever wanted a grenade launcher that looks like a piñata, this game is for you.
Ultimately, if you’re worried that too many things will be significantly different since this is a reboot, don’t worry; Saints Row is a Saints Row game through and through. Like the Saints Row games before it, its story will have serious and often touching moments, but it will also be downright silly at times. One mission we got to watch, for example, had the player dragging a member of a rival gang into a Portaloo until he was ready to divulge valuable information.
No doubt there will be more moments like this in Saints Rowof the 25-mission campaign, and there will also be plenty more to do alongside it. Random opportunities to earn money and experience will present themselves as you explore Santa Ileso, and then there will be the Wartable to consider. Accessible from your HQ, the Wartable is where you will plan your domination of Santa Ileso. And as you compete for control of neighborhoods, you’ll unlock new activities that are not only fun, but also rewarding.
Most of these activities are probably familiar to Saints Row fans. We’re just happy to have Mayhem, one of our favorites, back, challenging players to cause… well, mayhem. However, taking control of Santa Ileso will not be a walk in the park. First, you’ll need to establish new business ventures such as Jim Robs, which act as fronts. Then you will have to complete activities for them to grow. All the while, opposing gangs will launch attacks and try to get in your way.
The advantage of being in a gang, however, is that you don’t have to fight alone. You can phone your fellow saints and ask them to help you. Or better yet, you can ask a real friend to help you out via online co-op. The latter is perhaps what excites us the most; we’ve loved playing Saints Row games co-op in the past, and things seem to work the same way here, allowing both players to keep progressing.
We were already looking forward Saints Row, but after watching 50 minutes of gameplay, it’s safe to say that this might be our most anticipated release of the year. It may have a new cast of characters and a new setting, but it’s definitely a Saints Row game. Even better, everything seems to have been cranked up to eleven, including the visuals which look absolutely lavish. Needless to say, we can’t wait to take over a new gang and make it our own. With the increased customization options, including perks and skills, it’s bound to be more fun than ever.
Saints Row launching August 23 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.