The game’s announcement reflected a Saints Row fanbase split in two – between those who preferred the series’ first two games, which were gritter and more focussed on gang warfare, and fans who wanted more of the weird and wacky side embraced by later games which featured super powers and alien invasions. The reboot straddles the line between these two very opposing halves but, instead of pleasing everybody, seems to have left both sides with different things to dislike.
Complaints ranged from the removal of the series’ signature raunchy edginess, the emptiness of the new Santo Ileso world map, and the brand new cast of seemingly bland characters. Most prevalant of all was the claim that a fresh, clean slate reboot simply wasn’t needed.
So the biggest question now is probably – does the reboot actually feel like a Saints Row game? Has the new direction and cast robbed the series of its, admittedly immature, charms? Well, I recently went hands-on with the first four hours of the game and as you’ll see in my video above, the world of Saints Row may have been rebooted, but the gameplay is just as ridiculous as it has always been.
The game starts with a traditionally bombastic intro where you, the Boss, have to fight your way through legions of enemies in an over-the-top action set piece that culminates in a battle on top of a fighter jet. It’s certainly attention grabbing, but it steers clear of being as completely bonkers as the climax of the prologue in Saints Row that sees you clambering up the side of a nuke, mid flight, whilst Aerosmith’s ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ plays in the background.
From there things get a little more grounded as you’re introduced to the world of Santo Ileso and the new cast of characters. But unfortunately it may get a little too grounded for some as Santo Ileso feels just as empty and lifeless as previous gameplay snippets have suggested. The new characters have neither the personality nor the charisma to match the old fan favourites, and while they may grown on me with extended playtime, they’re currently about as memorable as a bag of ready salted crisps.
That said, the Saints Row reboot excels in giving the player a nice big havoc simulator to mess around in. The early campaign missions are fairly varied, with things like shootouts in museums and Mad Max-inspired vehicular combat sections, but I basically snoozed my way through them. It wasn’t until I went off on my own and caused carnage in the open world that I really started to have fun – and once I was on a roll, the game’s unpredictablity often had me laughing out loud.
There are plenty of examples of this in my preview video so do go check that out if you want a really good sense of how the game plays. Overall though, Saints Row seems to deliver the core chaotic gameplay that is the DNA of the series. If you enjoy blowing stuff up, crashing into things and being mean to NPCs, you’ll have some fun here. And that, at least, will be true whether you’re a fan of the first two games, or of Saints Row: The Third onwards.