Saints Row | PS5 Review
Saints Row is an action adventure game and the latest in the popular franchise that first graced our screens on the Xbox 360. It has been a long and arduous 9 years since the infamous alien invasion that caused a complete destruction of Earth, but now we’re back with a reboot that seeks to take us all the way back to the beginning. Saints Row is developed by Volition and published by Deep Silver and is available on Windows PC, PlayStation, and Xbox, and for my review I was playing the PlayStation 5 version, with a review key that was very kindly supplied to us by the wonderful folks over at Plaion.
Saints Row 4 saw the destruction of, well, everything, so of course this new instalment in the series is a brand-new, fresh reboot of everything that was lost. You play as “The Boss”, a character that you can customise until your heart's content. You are joined by three friends Neenah, Kevin and Eli who will be working alongside you to build a brand-new empire, with a fresh wave of Saints to rise up in a fresh, new city known as Santo Ileso. As well as your humble crew, there are also gangs vying for power in the city and as such you’ll find yourself pitted against Los Panteros, The Idols and Marshall Defence as you climb and crawl your way to the top of the urban food chain where everyone wants to become the top dog and run the city. Each gang has their own unique personality and focus. For example, Marshall Defence is essentially a private military corporation but then on the other side of the spectrum you have The Idols who are an anarchist gang who focus their efforts on clubs and nightlife. Santo Ileso is broken up into nine different districts, and throughout the game you must complete missions and side hustles that will allow your empire to grow and your power to span across each of these districts.
Throughout the game, you’ll be spoiled with ways to expand your criminal empire. As well as the main story missions, you’ll find a variety of side hustles that include things like @TCHA where you have to go to a local eatery or bar and leave a negative review, the worse the review the bigger the response from the rival gangs who own these businesses. There are also missions known as Choplifting, where you have to use a helicopter to acquire a specific vehicle, and you must safely transport it to the back of a flatbed. Alongside this, there is also the return of the classic Insurance Fraud side hustle, where you have to ragdoll yourself around a speeding highway and earn as much elicit insurance money as possible. During these side hustles, there are bonus objectives to complete to gain additional money or experience from the mission. Alongside these side hustles, the city is filled with collectibles and experience to be found stashed in the form of dumpsters and drug caches.
I think it's important to preface the next few sections here with this - I have lots of happy memories of sinking MANY hours into the first three Saints Row games back in the Xbox 360 days, so to say I was incredibly happy to cover this is no understatement and as such, all my opinions and such are based off someone who's a fan of the franchise. Saints Row was never a copy or alternate version of Grand Theft Auto. It has always had its own personality and its own fire that it offers with its tongue-in-cheek humour to the crazy weapons - the dubstep gun, the dildo melee weapon, I could go on for a while - all the way to the alien invasion that destroyed everything. So with all this in mind, I highly expect my review to differ from many others, because it really is hinged with a lot of nostalgia for me.
The first thing that really stood out to me upon starting my adventures in Santo Ileso was the character creation. You're not bound by, well, anything, which resulted in me having a rather bizarre looking character that I spent HOURS cackling at, and mixed with the visual choices, I was also able to provide a suitably unfitting voice for the character meaning that every cutscene or phone call with NPC’s turned into a comedy sketch all in itself. This freedom really just allowed me to tap into the goofy, loopy fun that I had years ago when playing my way through Saints Row 3. Within Santo Ileso, you’ll be able to go shopping till your heart's content to customise your character even further with ridiculous outfits that will complete any look.
The combat throughout is fairly standard and what I already knew of a Saints Row game, with an arsenal of guns to unlock and melee weapons. Unfortunately, there’s no dubstep gun or giant dildos to use to subdue your foe, but there are still plenty of things to spice up the combat. As you gain experience, you’ll begin to unlock special abilities such as the ability to shove a grenade down an enemy's trousers, and the rest is history. Fans of previous releases will be familiar with the way the combat feels, and whilst I didn’t mind it I did find that the combat system hasn’t really aged terribly well and at times felt clunky and felt more reminiscent of an Xbox 360 release, rather than a game that's just come out. If it wasn’t for the nostalgia and prior experience of the franchise, this fact might have had more of a negative impact for me review wise, but I do feel like it's part and parcel with the Saints Row franchise, and that it fits well with its goofy, irreverent nature. The general difficulty isn’t anything too extreme, but if you find anything too difficult or frustrating there are a decent selection of accessibility options that will take away some of the stress and strain from the player, such as turning off the timer for timed missions. My biggest frustration came from the driving because at times the cars could simply catch the breeze wrong and suddenly be flying into the pavement, hitting a fire hydrant, and then you're absurdly boosted into the air. Again, this didn’t become a severe annoyance, because it's things like this that made the wacky experience what it was.
I never experienced a massive amount of bugs throughout my time in Santo Ilesto, but the ones that I did experience were fairly minor and happened before release, which came with a day one patch. Quite often I’d be in the middle of a firefight with a rival gang and the enemies would just stand there frozen. I even had the first “boss” during one of the opening missions just freeze in place and let me destroy him. Similarly, friendly NPC’s would do the same sometimes during combat, and I once failed a mission five times after an NPC died because they decided to put the controller down and go out for a wander. Overall, I feel very conflicted about this latest addition to the Saints Row franchise. I had a lot of fun, and it felt like a Saints Row game, despite missing key players from the previous releases. However, this nostalgia feeling has almost allowed Volition to get away with slightly dated mechanics, clunky combat and ridiculous bugs. With that aside, I cannot deny how much fun I had and how happy I was to revisit this franchise after so many years. To this day, Saints Row the Third still remains one of the few games that I have gotten a complete 100% on (yes, I collected every one of those sex doll figures). I think the main question for me is - am I likely to do the same with this Saints Row? Am I so immersed in it that I want to collect EVERYTHING? The answer is YES!
Lj’s Rating: 4 out of 5.
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Many thanks to Plaion for the Review Key.