The gang isn’t exactly back in Saints Row, the 2022 reboot. It’s a new boss, a new crew, and a new city. It’s a different Saints Row for a new audience. Different doesn’t mean bad of course, but it does mean some fans may be in for a culture shock of sorts.
New Kids in the Church
After a brief flash of a better future, we start the story as a young adult, trying to get by in the world. The bills are due, we’re living in a shared house with close friends, and even waffles are a luxury. It includes topics such as clubbing, being paid in exposure, and not being able to trust the boss. It feels designed to be extremely relatable to young people trying to make their way in the world, with a little bit of sitcom thrown in. Only they indulge in the odd bit of crime and associate with gangs here and there.
Our customizable protagonist is trying to make his way by signing up for a private army. There’s some comedy here as he chafes against the rules and a good amount of over-the-top action, but it mostly works as a setup. This isn’t the life for him. He wants to be his own boss. And why not do that with his friends by setting up their own gang?
After some setup, this progresses with each of the friends assigning your missions. Each one furthers a branch of the story, though many parts don’t seem too plot-relevant. It’s a mix of action and comedy. One moment you’re fighting other gangs over territory and the other you’re LARPing and invading cardboard fortresses. It never goes as absurd as Saints Row the Third and certainly not as much as Saints Row IV, but it does have its silly moments and throwbacks to those games. I can’t say the story or characters were anything amazing, but it certainly got more than a few laughs along the way.
A City To Rule
Saints Row (2022) plays much like similar games in the genre. You drive around the city (often in a stolen car) and have plenty of activities to do and space to explore.
The main thread here is to follow the storylines. This usually ends up as going somewhere and killing some people, maybe with a few extra steps. You might need to steal a car or blow up some structures along the way. There might even be a car chase or an escort mission too. It’s nothing innovative, but the combat itself along with some fun dialogue kept me coming back for more.
Where Saints Row (2022) stands out more is the optional stuff. Minigames like Insurance Fraud, where you jump in front of cars and try to send yourself flying for money, helping to pull a heist, or even just leaving a bad review on a gang-protected property so they all come gunning for you. These are the most obvious, but you can also find little extras like taking photos of special spots, completing challenges like driving into traffic, or unlocking special abilities on weapons by performing certain actions with them. It seems like there’s always something to do or something to unlock here.
It’s worth pointing out that you can do this all in co-op with a second player too. Whether it’s going through the story or throwing yourself in front of cars for cash, someone else can join in online. I certainly had a lot of fun teaming up with a friend.
Customization is a big thing in Saints Row. Not only can you customize your body in quite a few ways, with several very inclusive options such as no strict gender divide, vitiligo skin, and prosthetics. Sadly they did drop the British voice option.
In terms of boss customization, options are very detailed and results can vary from fairly accurate representations of people to outright cartoonish. It’s possible to share your creations online too, where you’ll find off-brand recreations of everything from Spiderman to Donald Trump. Despite this, I couldn’t recreate my old Saints Row boss, which was a pity, but reinforces that this is a new game.
Car customization returns too, with plenty of visual modifications to make here and some limited ones around abilities. As always with these games, it’s fun to build up a collection of cars and remake them in your style. Each one even has its own challenge to unlock an ability such as continuous nitro. Guns can be customized too in a similar way.
There’s no putting it softly – Saints Row (2022) is quite buggy in some ways and has several other issues too. For information, the latest patch I have is the 25th August patch and I’m playing on PC.
I’ve experienced animation issues reasonably often. These are usually fixable without too much trouble. For example, I was stuck in a loop of doing the reload animation, but I changed weapon and it stopped. A more amusing one was when I was playing co-op, my partner got stuck upside down and often started vibrating wildly.
More seriously, I’ve had issues like events not loading in. This has caused me to reload. One early example of this was a minigun not appearing in the museum, where it was needed for an event. Another was a mission where I couldn’t use my own weapons and then all my ammo disappeared after. In co-op, only the 2nd player couldn’t pull out certain vehicles from the garage and drive them out with ease as they were too big to appear in the 2nd player’s area.
Beyond that, there are minor annoyances that aren’t bugs, but break immersion. The big one for me is enemies not reacting. A grenade lands at an enemy’s feet or a gun is pointed at an NPCs head, but they don’t do anything.
Accessibility and Ease
While I’ve pointed out many issues, Saints Row (2022) does deserve some praise when it comes to accessibility and ease of playing. It includes eye tracking and accessibility options such as automating QTEs, lowering vehicle speed, turning off time limits, and a lot of options around controls, graphics, and audio.
More generally, it includes five difficulty modes. These can be further customized by several sliders for individual factors of difficulty, so I could choose to have more enemies, stronger enemies but also more ammo for example.
Saints Row (2022) is a mixed bag. The story and characters are only decent and there are a lot of bugs to iron out. The gameplay has only slightly changed since the previous games. That said, the character’s interactions made me laugh and the gameplay is just enjoyable, with a few improvements over the past games’ already solid gameplay and a ton to do.
I found it difficult to rate this one. There are a lot of points where I feel it could be better, but I still enjoyed many elements of this. It’s one that I somewhat reluctantly recommend.
SAINTS ROW (2022) IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Plaion (Koch Media) for a PC review code for this title.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.