Developed By: Deep Silver Volition
Published By: Deep Silver
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S & PC
Reviewed On: PS5
The Saints Row series is a game which is known for its over-the-top gameplay from its flashy combat to its ridiculous character customization. The past series manage to go all the way until Saints Row 4 but for this game, developer Deep Silver Volition decided to hit the reset button. But was it worth it in the end?
Building The Saints Again
The story starts off as you are enjoying a party in your gang’s house but then abruptly pulled into a flashback where you are a rookie in one of the factions, the Marshall Defense Industries. Slowly you are introduced to your friends, Neenah, a female Mechanic who is in another faction, Los Panteros, Kevin, a waffle-loving DJ who has ties with another faction the Idols and last but not least Eli who hates violence but has the smarts to start a business empire.
You, aptly named “The Boss”, together with these friends will create a faction that will be known as The Saints as you go through troubles and gang wars with other factions as you prove to be the best gang in Santo Ileso. The story missions play out as you expected with your character always choosing the craziest idea to deal with situations.
Speaking about choices, you have minimal story choices in this game everything your character does is out of control besides maybe one time where you are given an option to kill or spare a person. The only other variable you can do is how you place certain buildings in Santo Ileso as you expand your underground empire. As far as I know, the building placement does have minimal effect in gameplay or story.
I felt the story portrays that there is a camaraderie between you and the other three characters but how it all started or how you guys met is barely spoken off. This just makes how your character interacts with them weird as you do not feel the bond between them from the beginning. It is weird because I do feel that these characters are unique and interesting but I just can’t feel the ‘click’ that makes you care about them, especially how the game uses this bond as a story motivator in the end.
The Ugly Truth
Now I played this game on the PlayStation 5 but this game is also available for the last-gen consoles so I was not expecting much in terms of visuals but this game manage to look like belongs in the PS3 era. I understand artistic visuals and making the game look a little bad to help with the open-world performance might be a good tradeoff but Saints Row even manages to botch that. The game struggles to even make shows look smooth or how some environmental textures just look like it is a low res picture being dumped into the game at the last minute.
I found weird-looking interiors when looking through a window, characters shadows with rough edges and many more without even trying to look for them. The game looks even worst during cinematics as certain visual errors will be more obvious since it is not a pre-rendered cinematic. There are also weird pop-ins in the game where certain objects like cars, NPC and boats will just disappear when you get closer to them while some will pop up at a further distance.
Environmental wise the game has about 50% of cityscapes and 50% of barren lands. Traversing Santa Ilaso, I notice the cityscape looks very dull. I tried my best to make the game look better by adjusting all the different graphics quality options that are available but for me, it seems like the best way to play this game is with a high framerate as not only does the visual not look that much better to me in Quality mode, the game also was unplayable in 30 frames per seconds with its terrible aiming mode which I will talk about more later.
Audio wise the game does have license soundtracks that you can listen to on the radio while on vehicles but other than that, Saints Row audio is disappointing with sound effects like in vehicles that tend to get annoying because it produces a single tone without many fluctuations. For me, the only thing that worked was during certain scenarios on missions, the game forces a soundtrack which fits the situation but those happen maybe around two to three times during the whole story.
Build A Boss
Before we jump into gameplay, I would like to talk about how Saints Row handles customizations as it is one of the highlights of this series. First, character customization is quite in-depth with the ability to adjust almost everything up until your character’s private parts. You can unlock more stuff for your wardrobe as you progress in-game with some silly-looking ones like a taco hat which makes this feature fun to play with.
Second, not only are you able to customize yourself, but you are also able to customize your vehicles, weapons, gang members and home base. I liked how the game handles customization from the ease to do this anytime on your phone app for your characters and the rest in specific areas available in your home base. The developers have this feature fleshed out nicely and is one of the features that felt complete in the whole game.
Your character also has skills as you progress but you are allowed to only equip up to four of them with passive skills being applied as you unlocked them without limit. There are also perks which you can equip as you unlock them using in-game cash which makes finding certain combinations between the skills and perks to suit your playstyle quite rewarding.
Nothing New Here
Saints Row is a third-person game and if you told me this game is priced as a full game, I would not have believed you. Every part of this game felt so in a better or worst term, cheap. Looking past the visual already highlighted above, the main gameplay which should be run and gun gameplay felt so bad.
Aiming in this game felt terrible on the controller, it might be better with a mouse and keyboard though. Even the developers knew that the shooting in this game is so bad that they added an auto-aim feature into its accessibility menu which will allow you to lock on to enemies just by pressing down the L2 trigger if you choose to turn it on. This is even made worst by the guns with some of the gun crosshairs barely making sense with the bullet spray, especially on automatic guns, being so spread out.
I gave up trying to use any automatic guns and felt that the basic pistol was the best gun in the game as it has nearly zero bullets spread and with the auto-aim, holding or tapping L2 while spam firing R2 yields the most efficient way to mow down your enemies. Now I am not new to shooters as I do play a lot of them on consoles but something felt wrong with how Saints Row handles the gun controls and I think the developers knew that by not only adding an aimbot in the game but even having prompts to shoot certain environmental objects like exploding barrels during gunfights.
So with gunplay out of the way, let’s talk about the driving in this game. I am happy that the game has a variety of vehicles in the game with some fictional things like a hoverbike and even a VTOL plane which I liked how the game handled its controls but all the ground vehicles felt very bad to drive. Most cars felt the same to drive in with the exception of some trucks or tanks. It seems like you every car has the same speed and turning radius to me and this is an assumption as the game does not even have a speed indication for any of the vehicles.
I obviously felt how underdeveloped the driving mechanics in this game by how your character has only 2 to 3 animations for entering the car. This is even made worst by the repetitive engine rev audio as you drive for like almost 5 minutes across the map on certain missions. One thing even mess up is how I was jumping into a yacht but your character voiceover cue says “Ah a car, just what I needed”. I understand that this is not a driving game but for goodness sake, the amount of little effort placed on this mechanic is unacceptable especially when I am forced during certain missions to drive across the map with a certain vehicle.
Scratching The Surface Of Issues
Saints Row is a big game to develop and I understand that there will be issues but I suffered some game-crashing bugs minutes into the game. Minor bugs like animation bugs, sound loops, models clipping and ‘T’ posing are all present which is quite common but during my gameplay to complete the story of the game, I had a total of 5 crashes and some UI bugs that bricks the game. The first one I had was during the first time I was given the option to customize my character, I entered the Tattoo customization and no option was shown. I tried to return back to the previous menu but nothing I did worked anymore with the game not responding to my control input.
What is frustrating is these game crashing bugs can happen in the middle of a mission, and if you crashed before completing the mission, you have to replay the mission all over again. This is even made worst by how the game blocks you from fast travelling during missions so if you drove all the way across the map and the game crashes, get ready to do it all again with the game’s terrible driving mechanics.
There are also mission bugs with one mission having you kill enemies but then spawning the enemies on an overhead freeway which made it difficult to kill them as you are not allowed to leave the area to access the freeway. I only manage to complete this mission after restarting it countless times just to try to have the enemies spawn as close as possible to the edge of the freeway so you can headshot them and if they retreat even an inch back after being shot, I was doomed to restart this mission all over again.
There is also a mission where enemies try to assault you just to arrive at the location but just bug out stay in the car and lets you shoot them without firing back. I just do not know how this was allowed to happen especially since this mission is a story mission so it should be something that should be caught during development.
A Minor Reward For The Faithful
Luckily, the game does have its okay moments with certain missions being entertaining like the story arc for Eli where you are forced to play role-playing with him and other members of the Santo Ileso community. For me, it was the only thing memorable enough that stood out in what I thought was a dreary game. Other than that there are some references to movies like one section where it felt like a scene from Mad Max: Fury Road which I feel can be hit and miss at times as not everyone will get the reference or jokes.
There are also some fictional weapons like a rugby ball which sticks to an enemy once thrown and launches them to space which makes the gameplay fun but I didn’t use it much during firefights as I just return back to my trusty pistol. There are also melee weapons that are fun looking like a big bone but they are just horrible to use with their weird targeting and horrible attack animations.
If you love collectibles, there is a lot in this game as you can try to complete every task in the game. I would say this game has “longevity” but with its terrible gameplay and bugged, doing everything might be a challenge. You can also hop into the co-op and play with friends but it just feels like an after though as there are no co-op-specific events or PvP in this game. It took me some time to even join a co-op game even with matchmaking available as most people just wanted to play this game alone.
What I Liked About Saints Row
- Customization – The amount of customization in this game is excellent for not only your character but also your vehicles and weapons.
- Over-the-top humour – Some jokes might miss the mark but you can get some giggles in the game
What I Wished Was Better
- The Visuals – The game does not look good at all even by last gen standards
- Gunplay – Aiming with a controller is just awful with even the developer acknowledging it by adding an auto-aim function
- Vehicle Mechanics – With how many types of vehicle are available, it is sad that all of them drives the same.
- Game Crashing Bugs – Too many bugs in this game cause the game to crash or stop mission progression.
Was It Worth A Reboot?
Saints Row as a series has been known for its over-the-top story and gameplay and the latest reboot does show that expect is still intact. Sadly, the whole game is brought down by its visuals, gameplay and bugs. The generic gameplay and sleep-inducing driving are somewhat issues that are not acceptable for a full-price game in this day and edge. The only feature that felt really complete is the customization in the game which is its only saving grace. it seems like Saints Row might really need a saint to help them fix all these issues and save the series before they even think about a sequel.