Back in Purple with ‘Saints Row’ [Review]


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Ready for our Saints Row review? Many gamers were looking forward to getting their hands on a new “full” Saints Row title for a while now. The series started with new releases every two or three years but the last Saints Row title that was a full release, if you exclude Saints Row: Gat out of Hell from 2015, was Saints Row IV from 2013. So loosely it has been almost a decade and the fanbase’s hopes were high to get a new kind of Saints Row experience with a load of new and innovative gameplay mechanics.

Did the developer Volition match the expectations of the gamers? Did they manage to show to the haters of the franchise that they are not just a GTA clone? We played the title and prepared this Saints Row review for you, so you have a better idea of what you can expect from the game before you buy it.

Saints Row (2022) review

The title might suggest that this is simply a remake or remaster of the original Saints Row from 2006, but this is not the case. This is important to explain right from the start. This game has never been there like that before and it’s not just something old with new graphics. It could have easily been called Saints Row V or gotten any other title. And what about me? Who am I to be qualified to talk about the new Saints Row? I played a bit over 12 hours of the game so far and played every other Saints Row game before in the franchise, as well as similar games that it could be compared to. Not trying to brag, just to let you know I actually played the game before writing this and that I did play it for longer than 30 minutes.

Update from the 29th of August: The story in the campaign is critically shorter than expected and leaves you to complete the game at about half the time of what was originally expected from it, if you exclude repetitive business-building and side-missions. This makes me drop another star from the rating from 3.5 down to 2.5.

What’s the Saints Row plot like?

The game loosely takes place in the present time and you will play in an open world that loosely resembles the area of Las Vegas, including the city, but also a bit of the outskirts. Without trying to give away too many spoilers, the story is about the conflict of established gangs in the area and the founding of the Saints. Any previous plot points from other titles of the franchise are not continued. We are jumping into the game in a new location and with all new characters.

Saints Row Review - Character Lineup
Image: Volition, Deep Silver

Since this sounds like a prequel, one might think that the setting would then take the player back to the eighties, which would make sense, but we are in 2022 and people have smartphones rather than walkmans. Does that make sense? No, it doesn’t. But if you are looking for something that makes sense, Saints Row is not your kind of game of franchise anyway. The newly founded Saints then try to get established themselves as a gang and not get killed off in ongoing conflicts.

Building up your character and your gang

After creating your own character you start right into the game and as you play your character can receive experience points and level up to learn new skills. To progress your companions, gang headquarter, vehicles, and gang members you can complete quests, but some aspects can also be paid for with in-game money, such as buying new parts for your weapons or cars.

Idols Gang
Image: Volition, Deep Silver

As you gather money in the game, you can also buy businesses to make more money, which helps you to buy even bigger businesses, to make even more money, and – you get the idea. All of this is nice but it does not seem to be any special. It basically gives me the very same Saints Row experience that I already had. You progress through the game and it’s all fine, but I am missing some innovation here.

About the open world of Saints Row

I’m fine with the setting of a fictional Nevada area but I think the world should have been bigger and more vivid. I get that the area of Nevada is not a lush green paradise but I just feel that everything is just brown and gray and then there are the sandstorms that don’t make it any better. Even the neon lights in the casino area just don’t feel as colorful and alive as they could have. The NPCs are not really well prepared. From the looks they are fine but the way they behave is just not what I’d expect from a new game in 2022.

The same goes for how cars behave. Especially when a hostile vehicle is chasing you, I found that any kind of vehicle can somehow manage to accelerate just as well as you can no matter how fast your car goes. It just feels wrong that an off-road vehicle can catch up with a muscle car in a second and has no issues chasing and attacking you at all. Feels fake and unreal.

Anything about the graphics of Saints Row?

Again, I would have to say, everything is kind of okay, but nothing that impressed me. It is all the basics for a title that is released in the year 2022. It might be even absolutely comparable with GTA V, released originally in 2013. You don’t have an easy task as a developer if you compete with companies like Rockstar Games, which also take a long time to deliver a game, but do so in very high quality.

Any bugs and issues to run?

I played and tested the game for the Saints Row review on an Xbox Series X console and what I am reporting here might not apply to other platforms as well, but certainly, things that might be worth sharing. I understand that Saints Row is still just fresh off the launch, and patches or updates are likely to come soon, but some issues are just not easily acceptable for me. For instance, there are graphic issues, like a ponytail being shown without clipping through the roof of a car. I can imagine that any kind of larger hairdo will equally not clip and just be shown on top of the roof of the car. I can’t imagine that truly nobody had noticed that sort of issue in quality assurance tests or beta phases with gamers.

Saints Row - Casino Heist
Image: Volition, Deep Silver

Okay, but we are playing Saints Row and we do it for fun. True. Visual issues can be overlooked because we are playing to have a good time. Though some other issues make it hard to have a good time. For example, at times the game would just cease to accept button input, and eventually, you will need to restart the game to fix that. Another thing that can happen is that you can still move but you can’t interact with the world anymore. Or your weapons are showing up in a wonky way and you’ll also not be able to use them anymore, so it’s not just a visual glitch.

While these things might not hinder you so much thanks to open-world gameplay and autosaves, sometimes there are spawn issues that make it challenging to complete a mission. For instance, it might be that you have to defeat four cars and the enemies that arrived in the cars, but maybe one or two of the cars spawned on the highway on top of you on a different level of the world. If you try to take a car to get there, you’ll also fail because you eventually will leave the mission area in order to get up there. Eventually, that will happen or not happen to you if you’re lucky, it’s still not cool if it happens and I hope fixes will come soon.

So is Saints Row worth it?

I’d say that everybody who liked any previous game of the series will also have a good time with the new title – even more so after a few updates and patches have hit us perhaps. While being a Saints Row fan, I also have to say that the developers have failed to introduce anything new to the series and mini-missions feel too repetitive. It’s the very same experience, and it’s fun, no doubt, but with so many years since the last release, and with so much inspiration from all sorts of games around, they failed to introduce new aspects and this might make it hard to win any new fans to the franchise.

Panteros Gang
Image: Volition, Deep Silver

While I have not yet finished the campaign, I can tell that once all businesses are set up and all story quests are taken care of, it might become old quickly. You sure can get a good 100 hours less than 50 hours with the game perhaps but not including an online mode, like GTA Online, is the biggest miss here. Overall the game had so much potential to attack competition and establish itself (once more) with the gamer base, but the lack of innovation and the lack of open online experience, beyond coop, just makes me sad because I wanted it to be good and I wanted to spend more time with it. I hope that they might deliver something like that in a quality-of-life update later on.

When I first started playing for the Saints Row review I recorded some of the gameplay for you. Below I prepared a recording of the first couple of hours into the game from creating a character to founding the saints for your review. This should certainly provide you with some good footage to judge the game yourself but it will also contain spoilers since it will lead through the early parts of the game along with story-related missions.

YouTube: Let’s Play Saints Row [Gameplay, No Commentary]

Photo credit: All images shown are owned by Volition and Deep Silver. The material shown has been provided to us as part of a press kit. The video has been recorded by the author.

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Christopher Isak
Christopher Isak
Hi there and thanks for reading my article! I'm Chris the founder of TechAcute. I write about technology news and share experiences from my life in the enterprise world. Drop by on Twitter and say 'hi' sometime. ;)
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Had great potential but lacks graphic fidelity, innovation in gameplay, true online experience, and the story is critically short leaving you quickly only with repetitive side-quests.Back in Purple with 'Saints Row' [Review]