Open-world games are dime a dozen these days, and the popularity of this genre doesn’t seem to be waning down anytime soon. 2022 has been off to an amazing start for fans of open-world games with Elden Ring and Horizon Forbidden West already being massive hits and the likes of Ghostwire: Tokyo and Dying Light 2: Stay Human being received with respectable critical and commercial reception. Of course, there’s still a lot that the year has to offer, including but not limited to Volition’s upcoming reboot of Saints Row.
Saints Row is a franchise that has a sizable fanbase and credibility in the market thanks to its 4-entry strong legacy, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are more than a few fans that are waiting for this game with bated breath for a while now. However, there are more than a few factors that could culminate to make Saints Row an even bigger beast than many might anticipate, and in turn – make it one of the biggest games that 2022 has to offer.
The biggest reason is definitely the fact that the game is a reboot. While previous games in the series didn’t have the most connected of narratives, their settings, and some characters could be recurring which could make them a bit uninviting for newcomers. With Saints Row being an entirely new chapter in the series, Volition can essentially target a larger demographic with the game – which significantly increases the potential sales figures for the game.
On the topic of the narrative, Saints Row revolves around an unlikely alliance of three roommates – who form the Saints Row gang to pay off their massive student debt. Firstly there’s Neenah, an art history student with in-depth knowledge of mechanics and technology. Then there’s Kevin, a former DJ known for hosting the flashiest parties around. Finally, there’s Eli – the frontman of the Saints and an MBA graduate. The three members all seem to have distinct personalities and backgrounds that should culminate to create a fun dynamic between them – more so with the signature sense of humor and writing that has come to define the series.
An open-world game lives or dies by the quality of its sandbox, and Volition’s upcoming game has certainly paid due attention to the setting. The fictional city of Santo Illeso looks to be a sun-draped playground of possibilities and a bustling hub of criminal activity – thanks to the many gangs that thrive in these lands. From what we have seen in the trailers and preview footage, the game’s world seems to be bursting with character and personality – that can be attributed to the popping colors, neon signs, plenty of highways, and so much more. Volition has stated that this will be the biggest city in any Saints Row game to date, and while a bigger square footage doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better experience – we are hoping for the best.
Much like the very first Saints Row, the city of Santo Illeso is home to three major gangs. Firstly, there’s Los Panteros – a gang that thrives on the belief that strength lies in numbers. They like to get up close and personal with hard-hitting melee attacks. Then there’s Marshall, a gang that’s like a private military of sorts – and as such, specializes in high-tech weaponry and technology to overpower and overwhelm their opponents. Finally, there’s The Idols, a group that dons flashy clothes and shares the belief that fame is the key to dominating the streets.
As the Saints, players will take on a number of missions that will make them from a nobody to, presumably, the biggest stakeholder in running the city’s streets and underbellies. The core gameplay loop will still revolve around going from district to district and working your way throughout them to lower a faction’s power level and capture the territory under your influence. That can be done by taking part in the many main missions, side missions, and other activities such as putting up new buildings and businesses such as fast food joints and car dealerships that act as fronts for criminal activities.
The moment-to-gameplay will entail driving to and from locations and taking part in many shootouts with the rival factions. While not the flashiest or the most complex, Saints Row‘s combat system seems to be a simple and satisfying one with every bullet having the appropriate punch and damage. You can shoot from cover to cover, or you could run-and-gun, or you could get up close and personal with high-damage output weapons like the shotgun. There seems to be some decent variety amongst the many enemy types, and players will probably have to change up their tactics every now and then to make it out of situations alive, which should help Saints Row make the most out of its combat system.
Vehicular combat is also an important piece of the gameplay, and players will be able to perform drive-bys from the safety of a car. Additionally, you can also ram into enemies’ vehicles – which also have a health bar, indicating that ramming is a vital part of the combat proceedings. Furthermore, you can also lean at the car’s front to allow yourself a wider shooting range in case the need arises. On the topic of vehicles, Saints Row will feature all kinds of vehicles ranging from go-karts to bikes to helicopters to hoverboards and so much more – all of which can be customized to your heart’s content. Volition promises the best driving mechanics of the series with Saints Row, which has us excited for what’s in store. And if vehicles aren’t your thing, feel free to glide around Santo Illeso in a Just Cause-Esque wingsuit.
Finally, there’s also full support for co-op play. Up to two players can participate in drop-in drop-out co-op, and freely roam the many streets, alleyways, and highways of Santo Illeso, although once you are locked into a mission – your buddy will automatically join you. Upon completing a mission, rewards will be doled out accordingly that will be reflected in each player’s games. Additionally, mission progress made in each other’s games will carry on to one’s own single-player campaign – making the co-op implementation a lot more meaningful than many contemporaries of the genre.
In conclusion, Saints Row looks to be a sincere return to form for the series. A narrative that retains the signature wacky charm of prior entries while also stepping it down a notch surrounds a gameplay loop that puts carnage and destruction at the very center. It’s all seated in Santo Illeso , a bustling hub of criminal activity and seemingly a playground of possibilities. Simply put, Saints Row looks to be getting rid of all the white noise that the franchise accumulated with its last two entries and trimming the fat to deliver an experience that fans of the series have wished for a long time. This combined with the fact that this is a reboot of an established franchise opens Saints Row to a much wider demographic than before, and if Volition manages to do justice to this promising premise – Saints Row could very well end up being a grand commercial and critical success.
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