From Saints Row’s humble beginnings as a pretender to the Grand Theft Auto crown, the 3rd Street Saints have been on a wild ride. The Boss has gone from leading their gang to rule over the city of Stilwater, to building up a global crime group, making a successful run for President, battling aliens, and eventually riding down into Hell to fight Satan himself.
So… where can you take the franchise from there? Well (after the mild indifference to Agents of Mayhem) Volition probably didn’t need too much tempting before deciding to smash the big red reboot button.
Yes, the next Saints Row is a reboot. You might even call it a “reimagining” with a completely new story, new characters, new setting and more.
Saints Row takes us all the way back to the very beginning – a completely new beginning. The game heads down to the American South West and the fictional city of Santo Ileso. It’s a major shift from the Chicago-esque Stilwater and New York-ish Steelport. There’s clearly more variety to the city’s sprawl, with Route 66 and Monument Valley on the outskirts, and then the city itself ranging from a decaying industrial district, through to a financial centre with skyscrapers, and the playgrounds of the rich and famous elsewhere.
It’s a city that is ruled over by three factions – the traditional triple threat of a Saints Row game. You have Los Panteros who are all muscle and physical power, making their home in the old Scorpion Motors factory, there’s Marshall Defense Industries, a PMC conglomerate that brings high-end tech to control the commercial district, and then the wild Idols, who are motivated by fame and notoriety to hold chaotic parties and run will through the upper parts of the city.
From this setting, the Saints are born. Three of the four founding members start the game working for one of these factions, but, with a little nudging, decide to come together to carve out a niche for themselves. Eli is the planner (and the one not already a gang member), Neenah the getaway driver and mechanic, while Kevin is a DJ, people pleaser, and thrill seeker.
Then there’s you, the Boss. As always, this is a character that you can create for yourself, with Volition giving players what looks like a rather impressive suite of customisation tools so that, if you want, you can try to really recreate yourself in the game. There’s also more voice options than before, with eight to choose from – the cast of actors is something I’m sure Volition will proudly announce in the future.
The good news is that what little gameplay we’ve seen actually looks like a Saints Row game. The series really hit its stride when Volition leant into the series’ slightly sillier elements with The Third, and there’s certainly some of that bombastic over-the-top nature to what is shown off in this reboot. Volition have sought to take inspiration from John Wick for the close-up combat, to Baby Driver for the stylish car chases, and to Hobbs & Shaw as a reminder of the Saints Row series’ highest point.
The core combat retains the run & gun approach of the series, so you really won’t need to take cover much and just run around blasting. It’s full-on arcade silliness, and it looks good.
As you fight to take over the city, you’ll be able to define the kind of game that you play by choosing from the Criminal Ventures that you found in vacant lots that you have captured. These give you side missions and minigames to take on, whether it’s a fast-food chain as a front for a drug-running ring, a protection racket, car theft, gun running, or more. There’s also (and I’m sure this will be popular) the return of the Insurance Fraud minigame, seeing you fling your ragdolling body into traffic to see just how high a score you can set.
The whole story can be played through in co-op for 2 people, if you want. However, one interesting nugget was that there will be what Volition teased as “pranking” in the co-op experience. What this is, I honestly have no idea. Can you just sneak up behind your buddy and pull their trousers down?
All in all, Saints Row feels like the only place that Volition could really take their franchise. A new origin story with new characters and a new setting, all of which Volition hopes will feel more relevant to the modern day, but still with some of that sensationalised Saints Row spice to the action. It’s been a long time coming, but keep an eye out for Saints Row when it releases on 25th February 2022.