Saints Row Review

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Nice empire, does it come in purple?

There was a big deal of concern around the initial reveal trailer for Saints Row in some corners of the internet. Seemingly taking a more ‘serious’ tone than the wacky antics the series has come to be known for, the gameplay and other things were overshadowed by a strange sense of “This isn’t *MY* Saints Row. As someone who loved the third and fourth entries in the series, I went in to the rebooted Saints Row with an open mind to see if the latest entry in the Saints Row Franchise is a worthy one.

The main story of this new Saints Row centres around, as ever, The Boss. This is your own custom character, tailored to outrageous levels in the massively in-depth character creator. It’s all about building a criminal empire in Santo Ileso, a loose approximation of Vegas and the surrounding areas. I’ll be honest, I was a little unsure during the opening hour or two, focusing on The Boss’s employ in a PMC called Marshall, before turning their head to the seedy underworld. It did feel a bit straight-laced in places, with a super crazy opening mission giving way to a little bit more vanilla storytelling. Within another couple of missions though, I was lying on the back of a speeding vehicle, firing round after round into a pursuing horde of enemies, while my partner tried to keep things steady. Oh, and I was in my pants. Because of course.

As the game progresses, you take control of an old church, moving from the apartment shared with your crew, and christen your new gang “The Saints”. Farewell, Third Street, we hardly knew thee. Honestly, as much as I’d liked to have seen Shaundi, Pierce and the rest, the switch to a new crew feels like a good move, and mostly saves the narrative from feeling like a retread of SR4 with a new coat of paint on it. Santo Ileso itself is a fantastic little open world, making each area feel like their own unique district, while also maintaining a cohesive element throughout. There are 3 main factions you’ll face during your time in charge of The Saints, with the Idols, Marshall and Los Panteros all offering up different threats, as well as naturally evading the long arm of the law throughout the game.

Missions are suitably varied, and you build your empire by building new businesses throughout the city, opening up new revenue streams and the opportunity to get your hands on some extremely cool tech as well. A particular shout out has to go to Eli’s LARP side quest, which sees you and your allies don a cardboard suit and run around pretending to be Game of Thrones-esque characters with weapons that fire paper at each other. For the majority, it straddles that line between silly and stupid perfectly. My only real complaint with some of these side quests is that they can go on a little too long, and some are essentially rinse and repeat fetch quests with a gang shootout at the end. However, that doesn’t stop them being fun.

That word, fun, played on my mind as I started to notice little inconsistencies throughout the game. Frame rate hitches (which have mostly been resolved with a patch, I must say), some weird technical bugs and some downright broken AI at times made me take stock for a minute and put my critic hat on to take notes. However, for the most part, it didn’t detract from what Saints Row tries to do for the majority of its runtime. It lets you have fun. Sure, there aren’t the super-powers of Saints Row IV, but to me that’s a welcome change. Yes, things feel a bit more grounded, but the soul of Saints Row is still in there. You can still stuff a grenade down someone’s pants and throw them at a bunch of enemies, but you can’t run up walls and leap across the map in what turned out to be probably the best Crackdown game available. Building your empire is satisfying, and as you progress, your HQ turns from a dilapidated old house of worship to a pimped out palace of decadence, complete with customisation options. The story doesn’t see you become the President of the USA and riding a nuke out of the White House, but this story doesn’t need it. It’s a new tale, about a new gang, in a new city, and it’s got a certain degree of charm to it, despite its (at times) crass subject matter.

I mentioned previously that there were some technical issues while I was playing. Whether it was moments where mission checkpoints didn’t trigger, certain menu options being unavailable or a scope stuck on my screen until I restarted the game, things definitely felt rough at times. I should note, again, that subsequent patches have seemingly ironed quite a few of these out, but although I’ve not encountered them since, they were definitely there. While the game looks fine, I don’t think it will be troubling our “best looking” category in the Game of the Year discussions when it comes to it, either. It definitely feels like a game that’s releasing on all platforms, that’s for sure. There are some graphical options available, ranging from 1080p to 4k. With the 4k option on PS5 struggling to get above 30fps, the sensible option is to go for 1440p high frame rate. Initially, this had a habit of dipping dramatically, but since a late patch, it’s been remarkably smooth, hovering around that magic 60fps mark. For a full comparison, check out our YouTube channel for the comparison. There were no crashes to report, with only minor “open world jank” interfering with stuff. The only real issue I had was a mid-game mission where a checkpoint didn’t trigger, and I had to restart it to progress.

Alongside the main story and empire building, there is also a plethora of additional content to get your teeth into, as is the way with open world games, and if you want to 100% it, you’ll be spoiled for choice here. Whether it’s clearing out enemy gangs, diving in golden dumpsters for new items or drug running in a dune buggy, there’s likely something in here that will happily distract you from the critical path if you feel the need to take a break. There’s also a co-op mode which will allow you to jump into missions with friends and dial up the chaos past 11.

https://youtu.be/-KMIiidIXKE
https://youtu.be/-KMIiidIXKE

8

The Saints Row series has always put fun ahead of everything else, and that’s clearly evident here. While the concerns about a more grounded take on the madness aren’t entirely unfounded, it’s made for a much more modern take on the franchise, while maintaining the soul of what made people fall in love with it. While I did have some issues on a technical side, it rarely impacted my enjoyment of the game. Saints Row dials back the stupid and embraces the wonderfully silly, in turn providing a very enjoyable experience.

Editor-In-Chief - NGB. Started writing for NGB in 2013, 3 years later I was running the show. I love what we do here, if you want to get involved, get in touch! PSN/Xbox LIVE/Steam - Winstano

@winstano

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