I was never a big fan of the GTA Lite series that was Saints Row. However, a reboot so long after GTAV must add something new to the genre, mustn’t it?
Unfortunately, GTAV will be the yardstick this game is judged on.
Starting with a flashback scene to show how you were once at the top, this new Saints Row immediately drops you into the role of your created character. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, your character is an asshole, that’s putting it mildly. I’m not talking about Trevor or Michael from GTA, I’m thinking more of the dialogue you get in a Create-A-Wrestler mode in a WWE game.
The first few levels of the game fail to get the heart racing much either and I’m playing this post the massive patch released in November 2022 to fix the launch issues. You have a third-person run and gun level that takes too long and highlights how bland the shooting mechanics are.
Enemies appear, you sluggishly move the crosshairs and aim for their head, then they stutter and you have to shoot them again in the head. I usually judge a game with guns on the ability to take someone down by shooting them in the head. The aiming and general combat in Saints Row remind me of any game from the PS3/X360 era.
Saints Row isn’t responsive, the enemies have no AI and any powers or perks you get just make the combat more unbelievable. Case in point, sticking a grenade down an enemy’s trousers and throwing them into their own gang. If that sounds like a fun crowd control measure, it is, the first 20 times anyway. Unfortunately, the game does a poor job of drip-feeding unlocks to you. This one is overpowered and should have been a late-game unlock.
As well as uninspiring and dated combat, Saints Row just doesn’t make you care about what you are doing. You could mistakenly think that you are already the top crime boss in the area right from the beginning. It takes about ten missions before you realise you aren’t even in a gang yet.
Compare and contrast this beginning to the snowy heist gone wrong and the subsequent escape in GTAV. It was immediate, and visceral, and gave you a taster of what to expect. Saints Row, feels like your character is playing a training simulator.
The whole thing just feels unnecessary and that’s a shame because GTA5 came out two consoles ago, so the need for a new open-world crime game is pertinent. Saints Row just badly misses the mark despite some redeeming features.
The driving and physics aren’t awful. Cars handle relatively well and there are nice xp boosts for near misses and driving into oncoming traffic. The wingsuit, like they do in most games, shows the scale of the map and the speed is handled well by the game engine.
If you like a map that has plenty of tasks to check off, this is a game you will get plenty of enjoyment for doing just that. Side hustles take many forms, and there are obligatory robberies and photo challenges to do.
Where it really grates is the story missions. On paper all the missions are interesting, and if described to someone would sound like a brilliant time, they just aren’t. Riding on the back of a harrier jump jet, having to fend off gang members while trying to bring it down, should be something as fun as you get in the Just Cause series, here it may as well be an on-rails shooter as you are guided to shoot explosive barrels set in just the correct place.
The game’s description is
Welcome to Santo Ileso, a vibrant fictional city in the American Southwest. In a world rife with crime, a group of young friends embark on their own criminal venture, as they rise to the top in their bid to become Self Made.
If only it felt like that’s what you were actually doing.
I really wanted to like this game, as there is a gaping hole in the market for it, but unfortunately, you are so removed from feeling anything when playing that it just becomes a box-ticking exercise.