In case a reminder was needed, we are still very much not operating in the “business as usual” space when it comes to the video games market. Even now, big titles are getting delayed and the release schedule for the coming year is looking increasingly sparse. Fear not however, because the new Saints Row is due to be released on August 23rd 2022, and the finishing touches are being applied; which hopefully means it’s now safe from any delays. I was invited along for a closer look at how things are shaping up.
It was made abundantly clear from the start that customisation is at the heart of the player’s experience in Saints Row, underlined by the tagline “be your own boss”. This extends to many areas of the game, starting with the traditional character creation tool. A multitude of options were shown off, such as hair colour, clothing, skin colour and even prosthetic limbs, including several presets to help you get started. If you’re anything like me, a little inspiration is needed to get the creative juices flowing.
As well as having total control over your character’s physical and cosmetic appearance, there is also the option to change their voice too. Once you’ve crafted the perfect gang leader, you can turn your attention to your vehicle. Again, there are a range of options starting with how your drive around looks and finishing up with what’s popping under the bonnet. If that isn’t enough for you, your weapons can even be given a lick of paint to make them personal to your character.
There are over a hundred emotes to try out as you go about your business too, which look just as ridiculous as you can imagine. The nifty part comes from you being able to change your character’s appearance at any time, then seamlessly jump back into the action. It works well, and means you aren’t locked into a specific style once you begin the campaign.
There are loads more items to get your hands on as you progress through the game, from various stores around town. Some of these outlets are new, others will be familiar to fans of the franchise. Better still, everything we saw in the presentation was unlockable in the game and not paid for content.
Saints Row tells the story of four criminals from different backgrounds who form firm friendships and create “The Saints”, beginning their crime-riddled path to gain notoriety across the city. This time around the characters are all new, and you assume control of the leader of the gang. You simply go by “The Boss”.
The language is a little spicy, but the chemistry between each member of The Saints is pretty entertaining and fun to be part of. The overall tone of the game sits somewhere between Saints Row 2 and Saints Row: The Third.
This reboot entry in the franchise is set in and around the city of Santo Ileso, a desert metropolis split into nine distinct areas. There are different factions which The Saints will need to overcome to take over the city bit by bit. We got to see some combat between The Saints and Los Panteros as well as The Idols.
As you may expect, the combat is pretty brutal. You can go toe-to-toe and pull off a range of finisher moves, including the awesome “pineapple express”. This is essentially where your character attaches a grenade to your enemy, and chucks them several feet before they explode. To aid you, there are a range of skills and passive perks that you can choose from to ensure you come out on top.
If gunplay is more your thing, there are a range of weapons to choose from including some rather unusual options. One such example is the “finger gun”, which is exactly what it sounds like. It seems as if there are many ways in which to approach a fight, and they all look like a huge amount of fun.
This approach extends to car chases, where you can make use of the brand new “sideswipe” move. This looked like something out of Burnout, but basically runs any of your pursuers off the road.
We also got to see cars with ejector seats, and characters using wingsuits to zip around the city. The over the top action combined with choice offered to the player makes Saints Row look like an absolute hoot. It’s mayhem, and reminded me somewhat of Just Cause.
There are twenty-five missions which make up the main campaign, alongside ten side missions to get stuck into. These progress the narrative and open up more areas of Santo Ileso for you to explore. Away from these there is a rich world with plenty to do, such as side hustles and “opportunities” which come about organically. Saints Row looks to offer a world that offers something new to discover every time you jump in.
For example, we were shown a raid on a parked security truck, which netted our character some serious cash. However, this attracted heat from the authorities, and the more carnage caused, the tougher the law enforcement became. In fact, the police won’t think twice about ploughing into you at high speed with seemingly no intention to take you alive. Think of the Grand Theft Auto stars system and you’ll get the idea.
Every gang needs a base, and The Saints have chosen an abandoned church for theirs. It’s here that you can access your weapons cache for upgrades and customisation, as well as choosing loadouts. Your hideout can be upgraded as you play, including decorating it with several unique objects such as nifty neon signs and other props.
The war table shows you an overview of the city alongside your innocent looking fronts, which hide your criminal activities. The cool part comes as you take over districts because new gameplay modes are unlocked at the same time.
Mayhem mode was shown off, where the purpose is to cause as much damage as possible. The destruction is rather pleasingly given a cash value as you proceed to smash up as much stuff as possible. Taking control of new districts will populate your map with lots of opportunities, and it looks like it can get quite busy as you progress.
However, for me the most exciting element is the quite literal drop-in, drop-out untethered co-op across the game. The difficulty will amend accordingly but it looks like so much fun sharing the experience with a friend.
I’m very much looking forward to the Saints Row reboot, and you should be too. Santo Ileso is your playground, and you’ll have oodles of customisation options to experiment with. I’m intrigued to see just how effectively the story is told through the campaign missions and how the characters develop, but I’m already planning how I’ll be kitting out my character and taking over the city.
Huge thanks go out to Deep Silver Volition for the invite to the hands-off event showcasing Saints Row. The game will release on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5 and PC come August 23rd 2022. Get it preordered over at the Xbox Store.