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Saints Row (2022) Review

Saints Row (2022) Review

Saints Row is a third-person open world game from developer Volition, and is a reboot of the franchise which had certainly gone places since its original 2006 entry. You’re the leader of a gang in the city of Santo Ileso and want to show the world who’s Boss — and that’s you because that’s what everyone calls you.

I’m not going to bury the lede, I’m a big fan of Saints Row and have played through the series multiple times — I own 17 copies of various Saints Row titles across multiple systems. Heck, I’m a big fan of Volition titles in general and I think I gave a fair score to Agents of Mayhem, so I’m confident that I can do it for Saints Row (2022).

The game begins in true Saints Row style with a bombastic first day at the Boss’ new job. Yadda yadda, something something, the Boss and their friends are on the outs with the local criminal gangs and decide to become the bosses of a brand new criminal empire. That’s the premise of the first few missions and I won’t spoil further, but even by that point Volition had done a great job of putting over how much the Boss and their three best friends really love each other.

The new characters are something that people might have been concerned about when this reboot was announced. Personally, I loved the old characters and their dynamics, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t love new characters too. Heck, the main characters for most of the series only met in the second game! In this game the Boss, Kevin, Eli, and Neenah are already roommates and friends, and this comes across before you even meet them, they leave voicemail messages congratulating the Boss on their first day at work! Each one brings something different to the table and helps to flesh out the cast of Santo Ileso; we even learn actual backstories. Johnny Gat was great, but his backstory was “I live in Stilwater, love Aisha, and like murdering”.

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Kevin considering an extra cheat day on his diet

Replacing the side activities from previous games are Side Hustles, such as leaving bad review scores for restaurants (and fending off the gangs that attack you for it), or destroying telecommunications equipment (using your wingsuit and sticky bombs). You know, normal things. But your main money maker will be Ventures — businesses that the Saints own and require you to do things to keep them profitable. You get a bunch of empty plots of land and can fill them with whichever businesses you want, so long as you can afford the up-front fee. As you progress through the story you increase your Empire Tier, and the higher that goes the more Ventures you unlock.

Of course, each Venture has its own set of related missions adding to your Side Hustles, and these surprised me in how varied they are. True, if you boil them down then a lot involve driving somewhere, shooting someone, or both, but not all of them! The fan-favourite Insurance Fraud returns, and driving toxic waste around is pretty much violence-free by design because if you hit something you need to race to the depot before you explode — so don’t hit anything! Once you begin a Venture it unlocks a number of Threats in the area which you have to deal with to increase your Venture’s income — usually kill some gang members or destroy certain vehicles.

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Or repossess a bank vault

What I really liked most about the Ventures is that you don’t just rock up at a marker and have to do something. You go to a marker on the map and something happens that requires you to go and do something. It’s a world of difference between “now do this” and “I’m waiting in line for tickets, but I suppose I have to do that” or “We’ve finished this thing so head over to the next one when you’re ready”.

Volition has really outdone itself with the world building in Saints Row. From the character interaction to random NPC dialogue, the design of Santo Ileso with its hidden Discoveries, and even what I was just saying about why the Boss is doing a Side Hustle! It’s all perfectly crafted and I honestly love it.

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You can do the Discoveries really early on in the game

Unfortunately, at the time of writing this I have a list of about 15 bugs and crashes that affected my time with the game. I’ve only played it on Xbox Series X so other platforms may not experience the same issues, but they definitely hampered my enjoyment. I had in-game phone apps not loading and requiring a game restart, clothes disappearing and reappearing at random points between entering & exiting a car, the wrong mission prompts showing, map icons missing or wrong… I won’t list all of them, but I was hoping for them to at least be one-off glitches and not repeatable bugs (except for the random freezes), especially since Volition delayed the game’s release by six months. Also, motorbikes nearly vibrating the controller out of my hand when stationary appears to be a feature, not a bug.

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Here you see a placeholder mission in the top left, along with both a cactus and lampost not attached to the ground

That said, Saints Row is an indisputably fun game. It has a terrific brand of humour (the Museum of Art’s tagline is “Come see the beauty we managed to steal”), the driving is smooth (once you get used to how arcadey it is), the world building is fantastic with some neat references (check out Frank’s 80/20 Brewery)... Oh, I almost forgot that I mentioned the Discoveries around Santo Ileso. Landmarks that you can photograph, and 16 things called Hidden History which tell you about the city and the wider Kavanaugh County. They don’t show up on your map, only your mini-map, and only when you get close enough to them, so Volition has really encouraged exploration in this game.

Running on the Series X, Saints Row lets you choose whether it’s looking amazing or running smoothly, and having not upgraded to 4K yet I stuck with 1080p smooth, and boy was it ever. The graphics look great with some nice sandstorm and smoke cloud effects, though I do wish that there was more variation on how the nameless enemy gang members look.

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The wingsuit will no doubt split fans, but I like it

As far as audio goes I love all of the voice acting, the radio has some great tunes, and all of the sound effects are fine. Sure, I basically heard of only one of the artists, and maybe not even that many of the over 130 songs on the soundtrack, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the music as it plays on the 10 radio stations.

Something I’m really proud of Volition for are the number of accessibility options present in the game. Even down to the difficulty and aim assist — you can even disable timers on missions that have timers! Sensitive to certain sounds? Just turn those ones down with their individual sliders. Suffer from motion sensitivity? There’re settings to help you. You can even adjust the UI to suit your tastes!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Saints Row and I’m going to keep playing to get 100% completion. Then I’ll probably play it again sometime soon because it is genuinely fun, and terrifically funny. Once the bugs are ironed out it will be Game of the Year material for sure.

7.50/10 7½

Saints Row (2022) (Reviewed on Xbox Series X)

This game is good, with a few negatives.

A fantastic addition to the Saints Row catalogue, though it’s marred by a bunch of glitches and bugs that keep it just shy of excellence.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Andrew Duncan

Andrew Duncan


Guaranteed to know more about Transformers and Deadpool than any other staff member.

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pucechan - 03:49pm, 22nd August 2022

I'm genuinely excited to play the reboot now! It's a shame there are so many rough spots but I'm glad the game is great despite the bugs. Hopefully they get tidied up quickly!

Acelister - 04:04pm, 22nd August 2022 Author

If even half of the issues I had were fixed it would be 8/10 easily.