I love Saints Row, if you listen to our podcast, you’ve most likely heard me wax fondly about the previous games. In 2011, I went to San Diego Comic Con in 2011, the first day as doors opened I rushed to the booth to see a live demo of Saints Row 3 and meet Hulk Hogan who is a voice in the game. I bought off on Prof Genki, I’ve saved the boss from Hell, I’ve more insurance fraud cases than we can count. When Deep Silver and Volition accounded the 2022 reboot I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait. I watched all gameplay, trailers and build boss demos I could. I love the Saints and everything the games in the past had to offer.
Saints Row (2022) has been plagued with controversy before it even came out. Keyboard warriors were upset with the cast of supporting characters and the departure from Stilwater, they were upset that the game was diverging from the raunchy, homophobic humor and trying to treat people of those classifications like human beings. When the reviews began to come out it was bombarded with negative reviews, and it was hard to be sure if it was actually gameplay issues or if it was the droves of internet trolls trying to take the game down.
The game starts with your empire already being built, in a Quentin Tarantino-esque move, we get shot and put into a shallow grave. Flashback to a few weeks ago as you start your job with Marshall, a security agency that basically runs the town. You’re trying to arrest a known criminal, and it true Saints Row fashion you end on your own, shooting through troves of enemies, ending up on top of a jet shooting down foes. From there you start your criminal empire. Your roomates are all part of different gangs, and all drop out due to different reasons, and join in your goal of taking over Santo Ileso.
The crew you live, and most characters, are poorly written and often uninteresting. I found myself in the first few hours of the game trying to pay attention the dialogue and story beats. After a dozen missions, I just didn’t care. Some of it seemed over complicated to just be overcomplicated. There are times where the writers tried to add some pathos to the story, and it just falls flat on its ass. I’m not sure if the writing of previous SR games was actually good or if we are looking back with rose tinted glasses.
From a gameplay standpoint, it’s not horrible. You follow the same open world mechanics as any other of these games. The controls for the most part do what you want them to do and driving isn’t horrible. Different vehicles have different stats and drive different. Most of the guns seem to be missing something. Enemies go from being bullet sponges to be made of tissue paper. A shotgun blast to the face can either take an enemy down, or not even stagger them. It’s a frustrating mechanic that doesn’t feel purposely done.
The side missions are entertaining. Insurance fraud is still a classic, throwing yourself into traffic to create fake invoices to receive money from insurance companies. You’re also running around the town stealing food trucks to create your food truck monopoly or disposing of toxic waste for some of the larger corps around the city. There are other side tasks, such as finding pallets of drugs, taking photos of landmarks or finding shooting ranges. Fast travel has been replaced with finding “fast travel photo ops”. You’ll take a photo of a downtown sign, and now you can fast travel there. These photo ops are not nearly abundant enough, and you often find yourself still driving a good amount of time after fast travel to get to a mission, that just has you drive back across the map.
There are some technical issues I’ve run into as well. Starting a mission to have the screen do a transition, to just have my character stand there with all controls disabled. Other issues have been more fun, in the sense of a car exploding and sending people FLYING or hitting a boulder while driving and completely spinning out of control. One of the main issues I have is during missions, enemy vehicles become bulldozers. You hit oncoming traffic and get stopped in your tracks, they hit oncoming traffic and it’s like bumper cars. This changes the way you would traditionally play, as I would usually push enemy cars into traffic for a little breathing space. Doing this in SR has the enemy vehicle push the oncoming vehicle INTO YOUR PATH.
All of that being said, I’ve still been playing the hell out of it. I think it’s the completionist in me. I want to beat every side mission, I want to collect every picture or find every car piece to create special vehicles. I’m not sure if I want to complete the actual story line. I think some of the issue with that is, I know where it’s going. I’ve seen that I get tossed in a grave, and I’m not sure if I care how I get there. I’d rather just build my empire and live with that. I actually do recommend this game if you’ve enjoyed the SR series in the past, although I would wait for it to either come to game pass or get deeply discounted.
Gameplay- 7/10: While what you do is enjoyable in a sense, the reasoning is not. Do I care why we need to rob a train when I’m already making 250k a day from my criminal empire? No.
Graphics- 8/10: The game does a performance mode and a graphics mode. I personally didn’t see a HUGE difference in these
Sound Design- 7/10: The sound track is bland, and while I enjoy DMX or the Vines, I enjoyed them years ago. Also, where the HELL is talk radio. That was one of my favorite parts of the past games, even the commercials were entertaining.
Control- 9/10: I didn’t find myself too disappointed with the controls. Ebraking while driving or using the scope on a rifle felt fine.
Overall Grade-7.75/10: An ok game in this day and age, that perhaps should have stayed in the oven a little longer before releasing it to the masses.
Saints Row (2022) 7.75/10