Saints Row is better than Grand Theft Auto. There, we said it.
While we love exploring the worlds created by Rockstar, there’s something about the customisation and utter craziness of the Saints Row series that simply wins us over. And with Volition promising that the upcoming Saints Row reboot is the biggest, boldest and ballsiest entry in the series yet, we have to say we’re pretty excited. Plus, we’ve seen the gameplay to back it up.
Being a reboot, Saints Row introduces us to a new bunch of Saints, and with them a new setting. Santa Ileso is a far cry from Stilwater and Steelport, a city in the west that’s bright and sandy. There are still urban areas, but there are also vast expanses of desert. But don’t worry: getting around is still a cinch thanks to off-road vehicles and bikes. The handling and physics models have been revamped, too.
The fact that you can drive through the deserts of Santa Ileso will also lead to some extra heart-pounding moments. You might discover some crazy jumps, for example. Or you might lead the cops on a dramatic chase. Even in urban areas, engaging the cops is going to be much more fun thanks to the introduction of a new side-swiping mechanic. The faster you go before you sharply turn into another vehicle, the more damage you do. And you’ll need to fight, because it looks like the police here are more intent on bringing you in than ever.
In Saints Row, you’ll witness the formation and rise of a criminal enterprise. And you’ll be at the helm. It all starts with a groups of friends robbing a payday loans company so that they can afford to pay rent. From there the Saints are born, but to make their mark in Santa Ileso they’ve got their work cut out for them. After all, there are already three major criminal gangs in the region, and they’re not going to be happy that someone else is muscling in.
As ever, you’ll be able to create your very own ‘Boss’, and this time there are more options than ever. Make someone pretty, make someone absolutely monstrous: it truly is up to you. Then you can dress them in all kinds of attire, as a cowboy or a fireman, or anything in between. What’s really exciting is that you’ll be able to save character presets, allowing you to change how they look quickly and easily during gameplay. So, you could do one mission as a clean-looking male character dressed in a smart suit, then you could change to a tattoo-covered woman in sweats and a hoodie for the next.
And customisation goes further than skin deep. A range of character skills and perks are available, allowing you to tweak how you play as well as your strengths and weaknesses. If you know you’re going up against enemies that use fire, for example, you can equip a perk that reduces fire damage. In the gameplay we saw, we witnessed a perk that tased enemies when they attacked you with melee attacks. We also saw the flaming punch skill in action, downing enemies with a fist of fire.
Customisation extends to other areas of Saints Row too, of course. As we’ve previously covered, all of the vehicles you can find in Santa Ileso can be pimped out by visiting a Jim Robs, with everything from performance upgrades to special vehicle skills being available. We can’t wait to combine an ejector seat with the wingsuit to allow us to access those hard-to-reach areas. Guns can be customised, too. You can simply change the colour and material of each part if you wish, or you can dramatically alter a weapon’s appearance. If you’ve ever wanted a grenade launcher that looks like a piñata, this is the game for you.
Ultimately, if you’re concerned that too many things are going to be significantly different since this is a reboot, worry not; Saints Row is a Saints Row game through and through. Like the Saints Row games before it, its story will have some serious and often touching moments, but it will also be utterly stupid at times. One mission we were able to watch, for example, had the player dragging a rival gang member around in a Portaloo until they were willing to divulge some valuable information.
No doubt there will be more moments like this in Saints Row‘s 25-mission campaign, and there’s also going to be much more to do on the side. Random opportunities to earn money and experience will present themselves as you’re exploring Santa Ileso, and then there’s the Wartable to consider. Accessible at your HQ, the Wartable is where you go to plan your domination of Santa Ileso. And as you vie to take over districts, you’ll unlock new activities that are not only fun, but also rewarding.
Most of these activities are likely to be familiar with Saints Row fans. We’re just glad that Mayhem, one of our favourites is returning, challenging players to cause… well, mayhem. Taking over Santa Ileso won’t be a walk in the park, though. Fist you’ll need to establish new business ventures such as Jim Robs, which act like fronts. Then you’ll need to complete activities in order for them to grow. All the while, opposing gangs will launch attacks and try to get in your way.
The cool thing about being in a gang, though, is that you don’t have to fight alone. You’ll be able to phone up your fellow Saints and get them to assist you. Or even better, you can get a real-life friend to help you via online co-op. The latter is perhaps what we’re most excited about; we’ve loved playing Saints Row games in co-op in the past, and things seemingly work just the same here, allowing both players to keep their progress.
We were already looking forward to Saints Row, but after watching 50 minutes of gameplay, it’s safe to say that it’s perhaps our most anticipated release of the year. It may have a new cast of characters and a new setting, but it is undoubtedly a Saints Row game. Even better, everything seems like it’s been turned up to eleven, including the visuals that look absolutely sumptuous. Needless to say, we can’t wait to take control of a new gang and make it our own. With the increased customisation options, including perks and skills, it’s bound to be more fun than ever before.
Saints Row launches 23rd August on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.