Saints Row Review

Richard Walker

Since Agents of Mayhem failed to do justice to the Saints Row universe, it was inevitable that developer Volition would end up going back to the drawing board. The result is essentially a back-to-basics approach, taking the titular gang right back to its roots, telling the story of the Saints' inception. And, this rebooted take on Saints Row feels a bit like an open world experience from a decade or two ago – it's as if Grand Theft Auto V never happened.

This sort of thing is classic Saints Row stuff.

This is both a blessing and a curse, Saints Row's main problem being the surfeit of optional filler that's been stuffed into its relatively compact desert-encircled city of Santo Ileso. On the positive side, Saints Row has immediate, uncomplicated thrills by the bucketload, but a great deal of it feels hackneyed and derivative. The main storyline only accounts for about a third of the game's completion percentage, which should give you an impression of how many 'Side Hustle' missions, Empire-building Business Ventures, and other superfluous busywork Volition has managed to cram into the game. Some of it's good fun, like the Saints Rows of old, and a lot of it is eye-rolling, repetitive stuff that soon outstays its welcome.

Despite Saints Row casting you in the role of a burgeoning crime boss, assembling a new posse with former gangland rivals and friends Neenah, Eli, and Kev, Volition has you carrying out practically all of the work. For someone who's supposedly the boss, there's very little delegation being done – then again, there wouldn't be much of a game if all you did was dole out tasks to underlings. The primary issue is the sheer amount of side content – after the umpteenth 'Riding Shotgun' mission, for instance, you'll be desperate for them to disappear from the map.

A lack of mission variety doesn't help much either. The majority of objectives involve either driving somewhere really fast against the clock, or shooting a procession of enemies until you're told to stop. Wingsuit Sabotage, Mayhem, masked Heists, and Insurance Fraud are among the highlights, but the likes of Pony Express and Laundromat clean up missions are effectively the same thing, and, as such, grow very tiresome, very quickly. Saints Row's most egregious crime is that it's frequently quite boring, saving its best moments for the story, where the set pieces come thick and fast.

Once you've dispensed with the story, the scrappy vehicle handling and gunplay will only sustain your interest for so long, and while the process of building your Criminal Empire from the Saints' church HQ proves somewhat engaging, that, too, starts to wear a little thin, having saved up the necessary millions to buy up every business venture. Not that there's much to it, mind. You'll consult the map from your base, place your chosen venture, based on those available at your current Empire Tier, then set about completing a set number of missions to increase the amount of cash that each of Santo Ileso's fifteen regions (and fourteen ventures) generate for you.

This being a Saints Row game, there are plenty of leanings towards the outlandish, with the ability to bounce off the heads of pedestrians while gliding through town using your wingsuit, or beating enemies to death with dual-wielded boxing gloves on springs. Compared to Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV, however, Saints Row is a paragon of restraint, doing away with dildo bats, dubstep guns, inflato rays, and the like. In terms of tone, this lies somewhere between Saints Row 2 and Saints Row: The Third, although you can't help but mourn the absence of some of the series' more ridiculous touches, which helped set it apart from other similar games.

The hoverbike is one of the game's best vehicles.

What Saints Row does have, is its fair share of irritating bugs, from minor ones, like your customised clothing colours being reset anytime you browse through apparel at a shop, to major ones, like missions failing to initiate properly, causing the game to freeze. Police cars dissolving into existence out of thin air and some ludicrous car chase rubber banding also prove to be a pain, making pursuit segments even more unfair and frustrating than they already are. You can upgrade your vehicles with nitrous and gadgets specific to each type of vehicle, or outfit it with a tow cable, so you can drag objects and swing them around like a wrecking ball.

There's undoubtedly fun to be had in Saints Row, in spite of the repetitious padding (including an outrageous number of collectibles) and occasional bugs, but ultimately it feels like something of a throwback to the sort of open-world crime saga you might have played in 2008, with very little in the way of anything new or innovative, and an environment short on eye-catching sights. While Volition goes big on character customisation, with a dizzying wealth of options for personalising your boss, it skimps in other departments. Not by any stretch is Saints Row a bad game; it's just one that seems short on fresh ideas, and, as such, a slightly unremarkable way for the Saints to begin their enterprise anew.

Saints Row

As a new start for the eponymous gang, Saints Row ticks most of the boxes, but falls short in offering up anything fresh. A litany of technical and visual bugs also conspire to spoil the party, making for a solid enough, enjoyable, but ultimately uninspired, return for the series.

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Santo Ileso's radio stations have plenty of decent tunes (I found myself locking it to old-school hip-hop on 'The Cipher'), while the character voice work, is, for the most part, very good.


There are various graphical settings to choose from, but whichever you opt for, you'll be getting a nice, though ever-so-slightly unremarkable-looking, open-world experience.


While there might not be anything fundamentally wrong with how Saints Row plays, the vehicle handling and gunplay isn't the best we've come across. There's still a great deal of fun to be had here, though.


Saints Row has hundreds of collectibles, Side Hustles, Business Ventures, and loyalty missions to complete, and unfortunately, there's a lot of overlap and a lack of polish.


A good mix of activities, including a handful of silly tasks to attempt. However, most of the list revolves around Business Ventures and collectibles, so you'll need to dig in for a long haul.

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