While the Saints Row reboot takes the series to a new city, introduces a new team, and revamps the open-world crime game’s overall structure, the humor remains intact. This is what makes it different from the “Grand Theft Autos” and “Far Crys” world.
Fans know they’re playing Saints Row when they say, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” It’s a refrain I caught on while hauling poisonous waste through city streets or engaging in intense, live action role-playing combat in which I non-lethally slaughtered my enemies.
The campaign asks players to do a lot of strange things, but it never seems too absurd. This is the knife edge that the developers at Volition are constantly walking on with this reboot. With a clean slate, the team could have scrapped everything about the series after its absurdity reached the point where the heroes were fighting aliens.
NEW PLACE AND NEW FACESSaints Row is more down to earth as players explore a new city called Santo Ileso. Inspired by Texas, Las Vegas and a bit of Albuquerque, players create their own version of the Boss, who turns out to be a soldier from the private military corporation Marshall. The protagonist lives with three roommates: Kev and Nina are both connected to their respective city gangs, the Idols and the Pantheros. Meanwhile, Eli, the brains behind the operation, is constantly looking for ways to make money using his technical skills.
The smaller cast gives more room to create more well-defined characters as players learn about the poor group. They want to live a relatively straight and narrow life, but are forced to create their own criminal organization because career opportunities are closed to them.
Since players start from the first floor, they will have the opportunity to build their growing empire. Through intimidation, the Saints obtain ownership of an abandoned church and several city properties. Players will have to place businesses on each site and these businesses make money.
They also unlock side missions scattered around the world, and by completing these missions, players can help raise capital for their business. They can also eliminate rival gangs and police presence to raise more funds.
MONEY IS POWERCash is important in Saints Row because it rules everything around the protagonist. New themes cost money. Weapons and subsequent upgrades require more money. Even after stealing vehicles, players will still have to pay modders to equip them with nitrous oxide, a towline, and an off-road kit. Even Boss perk slots, which give players various secondary abilities such as fire resistance or increased ammo collected, cost quite a bit of money.
Money even plays a role in campaign progress because players must spend money to unlock more adventures, and they will need to complete each business’s quest line to complete the requirements to advance the story. This “Saints Row” is different in that players don’t actually take over the map from rival gangs, but instead use the business to establish dominance in the area.
It’s a worthy change of pace for a franchise that ends up feeling a bit boring and relies heavily on the quality of the venture’s side quests. Some of them, such as the laundromat, where players dispose of bodies by taking them to a designated location, are enjoyable. Others, like KAKTS Radio Station, are full of bugs because it’s hard to see if players are making progress. This mission is more burdensome than it’s worth.
BUGS AND GLITCHESTo make matters worse, the crashes create a frustrating experience and can sometimes make missions nearly impossible. Players will spend some time reloading the game whenever they encounter an annoying bug, like one that distorts the perspective of helicopters. They are difficult to deal with, but luckily I haven’t come across any that would break the game.
However, it’s a shame because most of Saints Row is fun. Again, the chore of accumulating money to complete the campaign is tiring, but this is balanced by the humor that ultimately saves the experience. The campaign looks like it was written from popular posts on Reddit.
Whenever I was on a driving assignment, motorists tended to drive like the people on the IdiotsInCars subreddit. Walking around Santo Ileso, I could have sworn I’ve seen moments like this in PublicFreakout. For WallStreetBets fans, there’s even a mission where the Saints do a little stock manipulation.
It’s one of the reasons the Saints Row reboot’s humor feels more layered, smarter, and more understandable, even in its wildest moments. During a repo mission to tow a tank, I said to myself “I can’t believe I’m doing this” after dragging heavy armor around the map on SUV with a burst tire. But during the entire fiasco, I couldn’t help but think of the Ukrainian farmers who were essentially doing the same thing to Russian tanks and giggling at the thought of how art can often imitate life.
3 stars out of 4Platform: PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox OneRating: Mature