Saints Row: Hands-off Gameplay Preview
It is almost time folks, soon we will once again be decked out in purple, hijacking tanks, destroying city blocks and throwing ourselves in front of moving vehicles. Yup Saints Row is just around the corner and let me tell you, I am excited. But with this being a full reboot of the series, I can’t say I didn’t have my worries. Would the replacements for Gat, Shaundi and Pierce lack the same chemistry? Would the new city be boring? Would it be a serious title that shunned the traditional Saints absurdity? After sitting through a gameplay demo with the Volition team, I can confirm that all of these worries were unfounded and by all appearances this is the most Saints Row Saints Row game yet.
The first thing that is obvious is that this is a game that knows how to have fun and to have fun tailored to each individual player’s desires. Everything I saw oozes with the type of manic freedom the serious is known for, only amped to 11. The team have clearly used Saints Row 3 as the start point and just upgraded from there. Every single element has received an upgrade, from the world to the combat, and it is obviouis that everything has been taken apart and put back together in a way that encourages the type of mania that only Saints Row can supply.
The world itself is pretty darn impressive. Previous Saints Row games have always been city-based. There wasn’t much in the way of exploration outside of driving around the streets, but that is no longer the case. There are massive desert areas that can be driven through with reckless abandon, posh neighbourhoods full of mansions and swimming pools, industrial areas ripe for taking over and glitzy strips of casinos and nightclubs. There is more variety in this game than in the previous games combined (if you don’t count space and hell I guess) and I am excited to explore it in depth when the game is released.
Saints Row has always had some of gaming’s wackiest side activites and this version is no different. From returning favs Insurance Fraud and Mayhem to some new, unannounced activities, Saints Row is chock full of mental things to do outside of missions. This time around the side activities are linked to the business that players will get to buy and manage throughout the city and completing the activities will give bonuses to these businesses, unlocking weapons, cars and boosts in the process. It is a nice simple system that should give Saints completionists some satisfying rewards for their efforts.
The combat has had significant upgrades as well, both on the player and the AI side of things. The opposing gangs seem more distinct than ever, with each of them having their own unique AI patterns. For example, one gang favours sheer strength and will tend to rush in for an up-close kill, whereas another will go down the superior numbers route. This leads to a seemingly much greater need for strategy when encountering enemies. Weapon choice, boosts, and upgrades all can be changed on the fly to make sure you have the best gear for any situation you may come across.
As for the characters themselves, everything I have seen so far makes me believe that they are going to be just as loveable as the original crew. There seems to be a great sense of friendship between them and banter feels natural and in no way forced. It is obviously hard to say with any certainty if this new crew of Saints will be remembered as fondly as Gat and co, but I can say they are off to a good start. It was always going to be a massive challenge for Volition to top the original crew but I would say they have a better than even chance of doing so with this group of oddball characters.
In all, my time watching Saints Row settled any worries I had and convinced me in no uncertain terms that this is a Saints Row game in every way imaginable. The humour is there, just as sharp as ever. The sense of manic fun that only a Saints game can provide is present and all of the gameplay elements feel like evolved and improved versions of what we played in Saints Row 3. I am more excited than ever to dive into this game and frankly August can’t come soon enough. If you were one of those hardcore fans upset about the loss of the original crew, I beg you to hold your judgement because this crew is well on its way to becoming just as memorable and that is perhaps the best thing I can say about Saints Row so far.