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Saints Row Review, Pros, Cons – The Final Verdict

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Even though it’s been nine years since Saints Row IV, not much has changed, to be honest (minus the superpowers and alien invaders, obviously). Saints Row, which is just the name of the game, is a reboot of the series. It has a whole new setting, new characters, and a new story, but the gameplay structure that the series has used since the beginning stays the same. It’s a third-person shooter with missions that takes place in a sandbox, but the sandbox feels like it was brought over from the PS3 era of open-world design.

As you move through the main story, the map gets more and more covered with activity icons, to the point where the map screen stops showing some types of markers and moves them to their own tab. In 2022, it seems like too much, the kind of fat that would make a Ubisoft game blush. But Saints Row gets away with its brazen content padding because its gameplay is always over the top and it likes to do stupid things.

Still, Saints Row is at its best when everything is going crazy. There’s no other tone like it, whether it’s during the main mission with a lot of action or when you’re just trying to stay alive against a dozen SWAT teams. From the beginning to the end, there are only stupid jokes and a lot of violence. It’s like a cartoon version of Grand Theft Auto.

It all starts with the game’s character creator, which is very good. You can make any kind of murderous antihero you want, and you can change how they look at any time during the game. No matter who or what you choose to be, your creation is the star. In typical franchise fashion, your “Boss” is made out to be a born killer, a comically violent force of nature who blasts their way through the criminal underworld to start their own gang, the Saints, in the first few hours of the game.

On your quest to take over Santo Ileso, you have three best friends with you: Eli, who is good with numbers, Neenah, who is a dangerous driver, and Kevin, who is a big, shirtless muscle. As far as characters go, Saints Row’s are pretty normal and, you could say, a little dull. Their more serious parts don’t really go with all the killing and plots that aren’t afraid to be silly, but they do make your Boss stand out, no matter how silly they might be.

The story has some really great parts, but it all seems to move a little too quickly. The main missions take up about a third of the game’s 25-ish-hour campaign, which makes it hard to show how the Saints got to where they are now. Most important plot points happen without much warning, and cutscenes move you quickly from one part of the story to the next. In the end, it does work, and by the time the credits rolled, we felt pretty good about it, but there was definitely room for a more complicated “from rags to riches” story here.

But the fact that we want more story missions shows that the game’s side activities aren’t as good as they could be. This is the most feature-packed Saints Row game so far, and it also has the series’ biggest map by a long shot, but a lot of the things to do just feel like busywork. Returning missions like “Insurance Fraud,” in which you jump into oncoming traffic to make a lot of money, are still a lot of fun, but they pale in comparison to “Choplifter” missions in which you move containers from one place to another or “Insurance Fraud” missions in which you jump into oncoming traffic to make a lot of money. Wowzer.

It wouldn’t be so bad if there were just a few of these tasks scattered around the city, but as we said earlier, the map is full of icons. Even though you don’t have to do them, Criminal Ventures, as the game calls them, are by far your best way to make money. You need that money to build more businesses and then move on to the next story missions. And to be clear, if you play Saints Row, don’t expect to learn a lot about running a business. You can choose where the fronts go, but that’s pretty much it.

Thankfully, the title’s punchy gun-based combat and arcade-style driving make the busywork (mostly) bearable. It just feels good to play. A system similar to DOOM, in which you regain health by doing brutal takedown attacks, gives each battle a nice flow, and as you level up, you get access to different special skills that can change the outcome of a tough fight. A welcome change to the way Saints Row is played in almost every way.

Along with the standard difficulty settings, there are also a lot of options for making the game easier to use. You can change how damage is dealt with, how strict time limits are, how autoaim works, and more to suit your needs. You can also completely change how controller inputs are used.

And you know what else is important? Co-op, because it works really well in this game. You can play the whole game with another player online, including the main missions, if you want to. As you might expect, Saints Row is funnier when you can mess around with another person, even though the co-op mode can sometimes be buggy. Any progress you make with a friend is carried over to your single-player campaign, and vice versa. This can make it easier to finish boring side jobs.

On the other hand, Saints Row looks like a game from the last generation. Not ugly at all, but not very pretty either. The game’s graphics options leave a lot to be desired. The character models are pretty basic, and the generic NPCs are especially boring. If you care more about performance on PS5, you can choose between a locked 60 frames per second at a very muddy 1080p or 1440p with a frame rate that aims for 60 but often drops. At 30fps, the resolution can go all the way up to 4K, but for a game with so much action, the halved frame rate is a turnoff. But those desert sunsets are beautiful, and the game’s graphics are definitely helped by its dramatic lighting.

Conclusion

Saints Row is a mostly successful reboot, even though it sometimes feels dangerously out of date in terms of its open-world design. Its story and characters aren’t always interesting, but the game is fun to play and has a funny, dumb sense of humor. Even though the characters have changed, Saints Row is still Saints Row. It’s just bigger and probably better.

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