In my opinion, Saints Row hasn’t been great since the second game in the series, and I’ve been dying for a remake of Saints Row 2. So when the day came, when it was announced that the reboot of Saints Row had been announced, despite the disappointments of the past few years, I was infuriated. Is it finally time to take back the series’ glory once and for all?
The game begins as a new employee of a security company called Marshall Industries. Your first week on the job is going well as you successfully get a promotion and then get fired the same day. So what should you do? You start a criminal gang, of course, to take away the pain of failure and failure! In the prologue, freedom is limited, you are driven like a cow on your way to the slaughter, and you shoot at just about anything that moves. Here you can also learn game mechanics. The prologue felt unnecessarily long because throughout the process, I just sat and waited for an opportunity to go on a journey of discovery, stretch my legs, and really look around. When the time finally came, the city of San Eliso unfolded before us, heralding a great deal of chaos and confusion.
We play the boss, an adrenaline junkie who’s happy with guns who acts first and thinks second, and to help us we have three BFFs and buddies. Eli, the gang’s book, he didn’t fight with his fists, but used his developed brain to act as the gang’s strategist and mastermind. DJ Kevin appears to be allergic to fabrics, is often bare-chested and has a six-pack, and is a man with contact lenses. Last but not least, we have Neenah, the group of car crazy self-proclaimed drivers and grease monkeys. These form the core of our little gang, as we work day by day to form a criminal empire and rise to the top, they are needed because going it alone is not a wise choice, at least not against other gangs.
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Speaking of gangs, there are many in San Eliso. In one corner of the ring we have the tough gang Los Patrones with their muscle cars and red. On the other side of the ring, we have idols who are a bunch of anarchist revelers who love neon colors and baseball bats. You might think these two big gangs would be enough, but no. Last but not least, we have the Marshalls, a huge private army with tons of resources and weapons to back them up. For those hoping for some familiar faces, unfortunately, I have to disappoint you, as this Saints Street reboot has a brand new story and a brand new roster of characters. That means no Johnny Gart this time around.
Instead, it’s clear that Volition wants to appeal to a new generation of millennials who grew up on Fortnite and Snapchat. You just need to see how the characters look and how the menu is available as a mobile app to get an idea of the age groups the developers have in mind.
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The game world feels quite large, if I remember correctly, there are 17 full zones filled with a lot of stuff to immerse you in. Unfortunately, I can see that the game developers could have done more to make the city feel more alive because the city of San Eliso is lifeless. You don’t notice the whole thing when you’re speeding down the street in your car, but when someone like me who loves to investigate starts exploring, you’ll notice that it becomes a bit of a backdrop. In my exploration efforts, I found a lot of cool places like big casinos and power plants, but none of them to really explore. There’s not much to do in any building except you want to get a tattoo or buy clothes, which I found a little difficult as there only seemed to be about eight different character models for people and enemies on the street. It’s like fighting clones over and over again. The gang has the feel of four different guys, and sometimes when they attack in groups, you can fight ten big savages with identical-looking beards.
Even if the game world is somewhat lifeless, you won’t be hanging out in the game. If you don’t delve into the main quest, there are plenty of side quests to have fun with. How about an app called Wanted, where you can hunt down wanted criminals, just like in the old west, with the small difference that they won’t be caught alive, and there’s no sheriff who hires you? Or maybe purge the community of gang activity? Personally, I was pretty disappointed when I thought they removed the insurance fraud quest, but I was as happy as a kid in a candy store when I realized you could unlock it further into the game. You don’t want to miss the chance to experience the job as a crash test dummy again after so many years. There are also some photo missions where you have to take pictures of famous places in the game called Photohunt. Just to name a few. But that’s not the only time you’ll use your mobile camera. To pimp your HQ with cool stuff and make it look like a gang den, you use your camera to snap some selected things hidden around the city and voila, they’re in your decorating app. How amazing! These gadgets are visible by their slightly bluish glow, and I quickly learned that you should be looking for these gadgets later in the day as they are easier to see.
Game developers have rejected their morbid humor, feeling like they want to make a slightly more mature game for the wider market, but sadly I miss the really stupid stuff in old games. Sure, the humor is still here and there, but it’s not as vulgar and crazy as it used to be, which probably says more about me because I’m missing it. There are many missions, some are really fun, like you have to explain someone escape from prison, or you have to commit a big train robbery. Or even if you go to an island and fight to the death with everyone you meet, the weapons you wield are random.
The graphics could be better though, although it’s by no means an ugly game. But for a new generation of consoles, I expected something more. Since I started playing the game very early, I ran into a few bugs, some minor and one major. The worst is in one mission where you have to kill the police force entering an area. Unfortunately, their car gets stuck on a bridge and never shows up, trying to reach them, instead ending the mission because you gave up on the area itself. It was very frustrating because it was in a major quest that had me tearing my hair out in sheer frustration. Minor bugs like GPS markings on roads sometimes disappear, but I can live with that. But hopefully these will be resolved when the game is released to the public.
I have to say, this game left me very divided about what I really thought. A part of me sees that this could have been better in many ways. More variety, more vibrant cities, better graphics, stronger characters and better vehicle physics. Maybe Volition should stop focusing on GTA and just run its own games? But when I play games, the other part of me is actually fun, and for me it’s the most important thing after all. This may not be what I was looking for in New Saints Row 2, but it’s at least a step in the right direction, and I find it interesting. It might make me happy until I smash skulls with Kratos and Atreus in November.