Saints Row is looking to reinvent itself with its 2022 reboot. We’ve seen new gameplay and we’re very worried.
Oh, Saints Row. I really wanted to look forward to you! After all, you’re getting back to your roots with the 2022 reboot, in that it’s finally about some good old gangster warfare in a realistic setting. And then there are the fantastic customisation options, which I would wish for in really every game. Yes, in every game! Even in Tetris.
But the new Saints Row has a completely different problem. And I don’t even mean the identity crisis the reboot is in.
No, I’m plagued by entirely different concerns Because developer Volition, after some racy cut trailers, has revealed gameplay that shows Saints Row as it’s ultimately meant to play. And that’s what has me trembling. Here, the new Saints Row seems to be oriented a bit too much on the third part of the series from 2011.
What might sound quite promising on paper for series fans and veterans has major downsides. The new Saints Row seems to have fallen out of time and emulates a game model that was perhaps still current eleven years ago.
Why the new Saints Row scares me
What did Volition show? After several story and gameplay trailers and an excessive showcase of the truly impressive customisation options, the developer studio finally gave us an in-depth look at the game world – 45 minutes long, to be exact.
Volition presented a few main and side missions, showing what open world and graphics have to offer, plus a handful of other details. You can watch the spectacularly edited gameplay here:
What exactly is the problem?
Short and to the point: Volition seems to have barely developed the gameplay, mission design and open world. Because after Saints Row 4 and Gat out of Hell focused on superpowers, the reboot returns to a (comparatively) more realistic approach. This means that the latest part strongly resembles Saints Row 3. Too strong.
The Gameplay: In terms of gameplay, Saints Row has seemingly hardly developed any further since the previous parts. In the gameplay, the new boss shoots his opponents down with a rather handsome selection of weapons or goes into direct close combat. Finishers or special attacks are used, which are very much in the direction of superpowers. We’re already familiar with this from Saints Row 3 and 4.
I can no longer fly in the reboot, but there is a wingsuit or other wacky gimmicks that can definitely benefit the gameplay variety. However, I get the impression that the developers are not being too precise with their realistic claim for Saints Row. Be that as it may, I can also transform my character into Shrek, for example. Read more here:
By the way, there is still no destructible environment or cover system. Instead, I run back and forth like a startled chicken while firing from all guns. Fortunately, the enemies in the gameplay shown so far don’t make too intelligent an impression either. They rarely if ever take cover or vary their approach when fired upon. The hit feedback could also be more satisfying, so enemies stumble or twitch when they are hit, but not necessarily where it should hurt.
The Missions: The Saints Row missions shown can actually be summarised quite compactly: The boss (i.e. my character) runs or drives somewhere, shoots a few enemies, presses buttons or blows something up. In combination with the unimpressive gameplay, one could at least hope that activities aside from the main story would be a little more impressive.
But curiously, Volition has chosen to feature old familiar missions that have evolved little to nothing in over ten years of Saints Row history. I shoot at pursuers from a moving car, blow up objects in my immediate vicinity under time pressure or get pushed around by vehicles and enemies with ragdoll physics.
Fans of the series already know all this inside out. And I’m almost a little shocked that the developers seem to be treading water here. I wonder if Volition has consciously decided to stagnate here in order to let old veterans wallow in nostalgia. But it certainly seems a little comfortable.
At least I am promised a little tactical depth with a kind of war table in the headquarters, which I use to manage my criminal empire. But nothing about it seems really complex or exciting so far. I expect nothing more and nothing less than an entertaining sideline that I have to deal with every few hours in order to guarantee a steady in-game income.
The game world: What we have seen of Saints Row so far does not exactly lead us to hope for a lively or immersive game world. Even in central locations, there are few passers-by on foot or behind the wheel of vehicles. Here, a lively fauna or weather effects such as whirlwinds or sandstorms (just in keeping with the desert setting) would make up for the impression of a rather barren and dreary game world.
The NPCs themselves are not exactly convincing with their human behaviour at close range, and apart from communication via emojis, the possibilities for interaction are limited. Accordingly, the civilian population seems like an only partially convincing backdrop. Other big-city open-worlds have managed this better for years.
Of course, I don’t want to jump to conclusions here; I really like the desert of Saints Row, for example, which is bursting with flora! How varied the game world of Saints Row ultimately turns out to be can be verified at the earliest when it is released. Differently designed areas could certainly contribute to the open world feeling, but the (inner) city in particular still seems too empty and lifeless to me at the moment.
The graphics: The game at least looks quite solid and can be seen especially its respectable lighting effects lush explosions. However, the new gameplay also proves to be a double-edged sword: the stiff animations and faces are hard to ignore, popping objects and the rapidly decreasing level of detail in flight or from a distance can be frightening at times.
Yes, Saints Row was never a graphical plank and neither will the reboot. But we could have expected more from a new open world game in the year 2022 – especially in terms of far-sightedness.
Saints Row wants to reinvent itself after a long hiatus, but dares to step too little out of its own comfort zone in terms of gameplay, mission design and open world. The result could be a solid sequel to Saints Row 3 – which should have been released years ago.
Conclusion of the editors
If Saints Row weren’t a reboot, I’d blame the game for kicking on the spot. But that’s actually not right. After all, developer Volition has already ventured into completely new realms and even playful experiments with Saints Row 4 and Gat out of Hell. So the 2022 Saints Row is not stepping on the spot, it is even taking a few steps back.
Sure, graphically it’s definitely prettier than Saints Row 3 and especially the complex customization options of character, cars and weapons delight my tuning and artist heart. But the fact that Volition seems to have developed little to no further in terms of gameplay, mission design and the design of the open world frustrates me immensely as a fan of the series. Precisely because Saints Row will be a reboot. Because if the row is now driven against the wall after a much too long break, the damage will be much greater than if Volition had simply taken a few more years.
Why is there still no coverage system after four parts of the series? Why wasn’t hit feedback or physics tinkered with? Were there no better ideas for main and side missions than to warm up what fans of the series have already played to vomit? In my opinion, Saints Row should rely less on gimmicks and a well-known and sucked-out formula, but should venture into new playful facets.
Of course, Saints Row has other problems. With regard to his own playgroup, for example, Volition has completely sat between the chairs. Of course, I try to stay optimistic about the August 2022 release, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me.