Saints Row game review: An open-world mess beyond redemption

Saints Row. That’s… not a good sign.”/>

Enlarge / Catching air after colliding with a rock is probably the Saints Row the funniest quality of the reboot. It is not a good sign.

Volition

The Saints Row series emerged in the Xbox 360 era as a cheeky and irreverent response to the likes of Grand Theft Auto. By its fourth game, however, the open-world series’ cars, heists, sex toys, and explosive shootouts had seemingly run out of new directions.

Previews have suggested this week’s new series reboot, simply titled Saints Row, could wipe the slate clean to offer a fresh perspective on the crime genre. Instead, this game just wipes the slate clean and leaves it that way.

Saints Row (2022) is the rare open-world game that makes an average Ubisoft open-world game from the past five years seem refreshing by comparison. To describe this game as a throwback to the Xbox 360 era would be an insult to the best open-world adventures of the late 2000s. It can’t touch the adventurous exploration, satisfying mechanics, and supercharged bombshell of 2007. Repressionwhile its hole-filled plot and cookie-cutter characters are no fun to laugh at atleave alone with.

Worse still, if you ignore this advice because you crave mindless mayhem, prepare for a technical and mechanical nightmare. The ratio of this game is about nine hiccups and agonizing technical annoyances for every laugh-worthy explosion or glitchy physical mishap.

A fake Master Chief cosplay

Vous seriez excusé de confondre cet écran avec la série <em>Watchdogs</em> ;  this is just one of the ways the new <em>Saints Row</em> feels creatively bankrupt.” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Saints-Row-badguys-980×551.png” width=”980″ height=”551″ /><figcaption class=
Enlarge / You would be excused for confusing this screen with the Watch dogs series; it’s only one way the new Saints Row feels creatively bankrupt.

Volition

The trouble starts when you try to make sense of what’s going on in this game, which structurally resembles any GTA-like the game of the last 15 years. As a professional criminal, you take part in gigs to increase your notoriety, either through linear campaign levels or through various takes scattered across an open-world map. The game opens with you hanging out with three roommates, each with their own side hustle and business, and the voice acting and camaraderie of these characters is pretty solid. Too bad you spend little time with them. Instead, you’ll waste the first five hours of the campaign working for some sort of American black ops organization, while dressing as a knockoff Master Chief cosplay.

Are you dismantling criminal networks? Fight terrorists? Doing the dirty work for a government that needs buried secrets? Not everything is clear as the dialogue in these missions mostly focuses on your character bickering with their commander in a repetitive and unfunny way. These missions unfold along largely linear paths and offer few creative or overly fun paths to success. Run forward, fire basic pistols and machine guns, and repeat, with an occasionally crudely animated cutscene suggesting these missions are more exciting than they actually are.

Why aren’t these linear levels overloaded with, say, a full arsenal of shoulder-mounted rocket launchers, a tank rolling over another tank, or other ridiculousness that matches the irreverence of Last 15 years of the series? Is it because the writers of Volition want me to care about a whiny commander who otherwise doesn’t exist as part of normal gameplay? If this part of the game is meant to be fun or fun, I certainly didn’t get it.

Les meilleurs moments comiques du jeu ressemblent aux moments maladroits et maladroits de films comme <em>Bottle Rocket</em>but without advancing the schtick in any way.” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Saints-Row-criminals-980×551.png” width=”980″ height=”551″/><figcaption class=
Enlarge / The game’s best comedic moments resemble the awkward, awkward moments of movies like bottle rocketbut without advancing the schtick in any way.

This series of missions ends abruptly, with little clarity as to why your black-ops workload disappeared. Instead, your housemates have trouble with local gangs in the fictional version of this Las Vegas game, dubbed Santo Ileso, and your answer is to start your own gang. There’s more intrigue at this point about each regional gang’s interests clashing with each other, but without any memorable key figures in each territory, the conceit falls flat. Your housemates are the best characters in the game, at least, but they’re underutilized and their chatter is relegated to moments when gunfire erupts, rendering everything they’re talking about indistinguishable. (After completing an assignment, a housemate, who works as a DJ between two crime sprees, speaks out loud about his own social media posts, saying “blessed hashtag” without any sense of irony.)