Saints Row is a 'New Vision' But With the Same Brand of Absurd Humour and Offbeat Action

Saints Row is a 'New Vision' But With the Same Brand of Absurd Humour and Offbeat Action

Richard Walker

Saints Row's world of Santo Ileso is apparently “a place that bleeds attitude”. It's the “weird wild west”, where practically anything goes. It also represents developer Volition's “new vision” for Saints Row, and, based upon our latest look at the forthcoming reboot, that vision appears to be every bit as extreme as what's come before. You can stuff a grenade down an enemy's shirt, then throw them at a vehicle or into a crowd. You can use an ejector seat to shoot out of the roof of your car, then glide through the air using a wingsuit. You can kick people square in the crotch. This is still very much Saints Row.

The primary twist here is a narrative one, dealing as it does with the origins of the Saints and their rise to power, as four disillusioned gang members join forces to form an entirely new faction. Initially, you'll have to scrape out a living by pulling off low-grade jobs just to make rent, which, during our hands-off look at the game, involves robbing a payday loan store. Grabbing the cash from the safe is the easy bit, but the inevitable police chase that ensues is less clear-cut. Your objective here is to lose the heat, which is infinitely easier given your ability to sideswipe pursuing vehicles, pushing them off the road.

Once you've shaken the cops, the plan involves switching rides, except the rival Los Panteros gang has stripped your second getaway car for parts. The solution is simple: murder 'em all, then steal one of their dirt bikes and ride off into the desert. This is where we're first shown the aforementioned stuffing-a-grenade-down-the-shirt move, affectionately known as the 'pineapple express', and one of the invaluable off-road vehicles you'll need for navigating Santo Ileso's rocky desert terrain. As a primer for what Saints Row is all about, this first mission is really only the tip of the iceberg.

When our gameplay presentation shifts to the city's El Dorado region, we're shown the wealth of opportunities and side hustles you can partake in, which in this specific instance involves blowing up a parked armoured truck and scooping up the cash it dispenses. As you grow your criminal empire, by building certain enterprises in allotted areas you've seized, more and more opportunities and ventures will become available, offering repeatable ways to earn XP and expand your coffers. Insurance Fraud, Mayhem, Drug Running, and Chop Shop missions are among some of the ventures you can expect. And you'll have plenty to spend your hard-earned loot on, from statues for the foyer of your church HQ, in the heart of the city, to new clothing and accessories from the numerous outlets dotted throughout Santo Ileso's retail districts.

Customisation in Saints Row is hugely expansive, eclipsing the previous entries with countless items of apparel to mix and match. You can dress your bespoke crime boss as a firefighter, then decide to change things up with a full cowboy outfit. What's more, you can mess about with your character's look on-the-fly at any time, bringing up your in-game phone's 'Style Lab' app to access every customisation option you've unlocked thus far. You can even completely change your character's physical look entirely, switching gender, body type, face… everything, if you so desire. The Style Lab will also save several different presets for your customised characters, so if you're sick of being a lumbering, musclebound meathead, you can become a leaner, meaner boss in a matter of seconds. Or vice versa.

Volition has also squeezed in vehicle customisation, which goes to similar depths with interchangeable paint jobs, body kits, and other parts, including ejector seats, nitro, and other extras. If you happen to be a passenger, meanwhile, you can shoot from out of the window, or climb out to lay on the roof and shoot from there. Should you blast yourself from the ejector seat, you can deploy your wingsuit, and, if you start to lose altitude, you can boost skywards by bouncing off pedestrians. Sir Isaac Newton would almost certainly not approve of such gravity-defying silliness. When you factor in the game's untethered co-op play, the scope for creating unbridled havoc is immeasurable.

Further missions we're shown deeper into the demo see the Saints stealing an attack chopper, then raining fiery death upon a Los Panteros forge, before touching down to get in close for some slightly more granular destruction. Volition notes that you'll have a massive arsenal of weapons at your disposal, with the option to change your loadout at the HQ. Each weapon has its own signature ability, while passive perks can also be applied to your character, to give you an edge amid a chaotic encounter. Examples we're shown include a personal taser that electrocutes anyone who touches you, fire resistance (useful in the forge, as we quickly found out), a fiery punch, the ability to dual-wield weapons, and any number of finishers and outlandish skills unleashed by activating your 'Flow' gauge.

Skills like these can be respecced at any time, so you can make preparations for specific scenarios, or when facing certain types of enemy, like specialists or mini bosses. In a fight, multipliers rack up the damage and ramp up the rampant mania – taken to even greater heights when you rope in a friend for drop-in/drop-out co-op. Should you choose to enter a co-op session – and the entire game can be played through with a buddy - “all of the content is dialled up,” says Principal Designer Damien Allen. You'll earn and share rewards, too, so there's no arguing over who gets to have the foam finger guns, the exploding thrustbuster football, or the guitar case rocket launcher. If you've no one to play co-op with, or would prefer to go it alone, you can always summon your fellow Saints – Eli, Neenah, and Kevin – to come and lend a hand.

If Saints Row is sounding every inch the classic Saints Row experience, with off-the-wall violence and action, plenty of casual swearing, and an incredibly loose grip on reality, then rest assured that, while that is the case, there will also be serious moments in the mix. “You're doing absurd things, but it [all] feels like it matters... There's a groundedness to it, [to] even the most absurd things you do in the game,” says Lead Writer Jeremy Bernstein. “It has the feel of a Saints Row game, [but] it's not all goofy.” Narrative Designer Jennifer Campbell adds that while the tone is a “little bit crazier” than it was in Saints Row 2, “the humour is a lot closer to Saints Row: The Third”. It's “tonally in a sweet spot between Saints Row 2 and Saints Row: The Third.” That sounds like just about the right amount of silly, to us.

Saints Row is coming to Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC on 23rd August.

  • Will be picking up after review’s drop. As long as the game does decent and keep woke comments out of the game. Miss the old cast, but the characters look cool enough. Excited and worried to see where this game goes.
  • "keep woke comments out of the game" I hope the game is filled to the brim with woke comments
  • @The OG T800

    Well if you want that the game flops you sure can wish that.

    "Everything Woke turns to shit" wont be different here if thats the case.

    I wait for the first reviews of players and maybe then I pick it up when its on sale which probably will be fast.
  • @1
    Hate to break it to you, but modern gaming may not be for you anymore. At least from larger public traded devs, everyone at least wants to seem woke, even if they are not(Looking at Activision....)

    Regardless of your opinion, our society is dealing with a lot of major social issues after many different groups were oppressed for all of human history. The the media world is a representation of public opinion, and public opinion is in much turmoil now as oppressed groups are calling out for the first time in history. Media is always going to be at the forefront of that, and thus so are games, as a form of media.

    Maybe find a new hobby, gaming is just going to make you angry and feel marginalised as large publishers and devs are definitely going to have 'woke commentary' as both their staff and customer base is made up of growing numbers of oppressed groups.

    Try finding a hobby that doesn't involve public opinion if you want to stay away from 'woke' things. Hiking, cycling, and such.
  • @4 I think the problem isn't with these companies wanting to provide representation. I'm fine with that. I personally take issue with fake people virtue signaling and going overboard. It's actually detrimental to the inclusion that rational people want by forcing political issues down people's throats and then moral grandstanding about it. All this does is irritate people on purpose. It's counter productive.

    It's far better to do these things subtly where ignorant people don't notice. Once you make something normal and common it's just accepted by the populace at large. Look at gay people, right? When I grew up in the 90s you almost never saw gay people on tv or even in everyday social settings. It was hidden. That's a shame. But you know a way it became more common and accepted to me (because I was an ignorant teenager that didn't understand gay people since I never knew any) was when you showed me a cool character that happened to be gay. It caused positive connections in my young mind.

    Again, this should be subtle. Instead of taking an established popular character in a franchise and gender bending them to make them trans or suddenly taking a character that has been straight for decades and deciding on a dime to make them gay, just do it a different way. Don't for example make a superman movie and then decide that Superman is now a biracial m to f trans person. That's going to annoy people that aren't against trans or minority representation. They're against you trampling on a character's lore that they love and have grown up with.

    A better way to do this would be to make the Superman movie and introduce a new character in that film. This person happens to be trans, is well written and powerful. They fight alongside superman and even help decide the battle at a key moment in the movie. But here's the important part. At no point during the marketing or production cycle was this character's sexual identity or orientation drawn center stage. It wasn't a case of look at me look at me. I'm a woke director / writer / producer. I put a token trans character in my movie. Give me head pats everyone. No. It was look at this awesome new character in my movie. Oh yeah btw, they have this character trait. It's made reference to during their backstory. And it's a key part of who they are. But it isn't what defines them. They're not a trans person who is a super hero. They're a super hero who is trans.

    Some people aren't going to be able to see the difference here. And that's unfortunate. I'm just saying if your goal is inclusion and acceptance by the ignorant masses at large, it's better to make them attach to a character first. Then reveal that the cool character they like has these features that they previously took umbrage with. It might slowly help them see that it's not a scary unknown thing anymore. Now it's just viewed as normal. That should be the goal for lgbt groups. Acceptance due to them being recognized as normal. They're not special unicorns in our population. They're just like everyone else. We're all ice cream. They're just one of the 31 flavors. I might be chocolate. You're strawberry. And Jerry from down the street is vanilla. All are okay at the end of the day.

    Respect to anyone that read that ramble. I've been listening to way too many debates recently to try and broaden my perspective on issues that I held negative associations and biases towards. So I'm a big long in the tooth as a result. lol
  • @5 There's some merit to what you're saying, especially around characters being charcters first and not tokenised implants. I also think injecting representation into established characters is tricky, on one hand it maximises the audience and forces people to engage with the subject matter but it also doesn't necessarily tell a new story. Making Superman black or gay is not particularly impactful because his history is already well known. Most people I've spoken to want new stories representing their lived experiences.

    That said, I disagree with a lot of the premise. Saying that inclusion has to be quiet, or subtle is essentially policing the representation that some minority groups are allowed according to what's 'acceptable'. For instance, if you introduced a new cool comic book character then casually dropped that they had a same sex partner, is that really representation at all? And even then, people would accuse it of virtue signalling without maningfully engaging or representing the LGBTQ community.

    There's no right way to do it, we just need to keep doing more. People in the LGBTQ community shouldn't have to settle for quiet representation until it infiltrates the public consciousness, that's just trying to appease the under-represented groups whilst allowing the majority to enjoy their media without having to engage at all with the fact queer people exist.

    Staying with superheroes for a moment, it's also disingenuous to suggest that characteristics such as race, sexuality, gender etc. are somehow distinct from the characters themselves. Much of our beloved superheroes' backstories are instrinsically tied to their history. A gay character's sexuality is not the entirety of their being, but it's easy to suggest it had an impact on their growth and history just as Batman's losing his parents did It shouldn't have to be hidden so as not to rock the boat.

    Lastly, it's also impossible to stay under some threshold of acceptability. Simply having a same sex couple in a film or TV show is enough to rile certain people up, just from their existence. Same as many other forms of representation. What "ramming it down your throat" means is so variable, and often over sensitive that it'd be impossible to avoid the label, regardless of how subtly or gently your tried to be.

    I think the whole "get work go broke" malarkey is also nonsense for the most part for many of the reasons #4 stated. It's a different world now in the public sphere and in many ways for the better.
  • @6 Good points. I don't wholly disagree. I do maintain it will go over better with the population at large if these issues aren't made issues in the first place. Meaning we shouldn't even entertain the line of reasoning that being gay is abnormal. It's not. It should just be viewed as a natural thing like being hetero is. But that level headed approach isn't the way a large portion of people think right now due to cultural, theological beliefs or other factors. For example, my parents are older and find same sex couples (and interracial dating) disgusting. It's embarrassing they feel that way. But I try not to judge since they're from a different time that held different values. But even they slowly grew more accustomed to seeing these things as it became more common. On the other hand, if you didn't let it be a slow burn and forcibly threw in their faces at every turn, you're hurting your own cause.

    I'm personally pretty open minded when it comes to alternative lifestyles. I have no issues with the lgbt community for example. But I wasn't always that way. I became open to these concepts over the course of decades as it slowly was integrated into society and social norms. And even to this day, the anti authority rebellious ignorance of my youth will surface when you bombard me with marketing and agenda pushing ad nauseum.

    I find the "woke" generation and policies really annoying. Not because I disagree with them ideologically on a fundamental level. I just don't like to hear people expresses these views in a way that's tantamount to a crying child vying for it's parents attention. And I think most people will understand how it can grate on everyone's patience. Especially if it's the ones you're trying to reach in the first place but are closed to hearing it. I feel it'll be more successful if it's done slowly and with a deft hand over slamming people in the face with it repeatedly.

    Feel free to disagree. It's always nice to engage in a civil debate. :)
  • Was very nice to drop in and read a conversation instead of an argument. Nicely done!
  • Same to you. Always nice when people can keep discussions civil and respectful. GG
  • @Dervius
    Why would you even make a statement about their sexuality at all? If you look back at the history of gaming, I think the vast majority of characters sexuality is never stated or an issue, as it should be. I mean I hate the romance interest in movies just to tick a box, be it straight or gay to be annoying.
    For example: Lara Croft may be a lesbian for all we know.
    Or how would you display a trans person in a video game, without it being forced tokenism? Say its an MtoF. Do you give it a "normal" female character model, after all the goal of a trans person is to be visibly industingable from a real woman or man respectively, right? And if you do there probably will be a contrived situation so the Character can state that they're trans. Or do you go the route of displaying them as some of these "half-assed transitions" and would doing that not be offensive to trans people?
    I mean I agree in theory, that the best way to do "inclusion" is the subtle way, but I get the feeling, that doing that in practice, either won't satisfy the desire for people to be "represented", or would come of as just ticking a box.
    I mean it has been done before all this wokeness started, to just leave it up to your imagination, if a character is straight, gay or trans and that wasn't good enough appearently, so you'd need a blatant statement, which will most probably feel shoehorned in in a game about exploring ancient ruins, Space or whatever, especially if its a solo protagonist.
  • wokeness is all about manufacturing consent and planting the ideas to justify class warfare/helter skelter, and marxist principles to people who are already inundated it from the cradle. Nobody asked for it- corporations signed on to this because shadowy groups like Blackrock have them by the balls along with every other industry. It's no coincidence this all happens with the same script at the same time and pacing with no deviation from the narrative at the moment.
    It's gradual acclimation for social reset and not because they care about whatever weaponized "oppressed" group they are pretending to pander to.
    Nobody benefits from it in the end- not the groups demonized and not the ones placated. All that power is diverted to the statists behind it.
  • What ever happened to just playing the game just for fun???
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