Let’s be honest. Saints Row needed a reboot. Narratively speaking, it had gotten so crazy that by the end of the last DLC for Saints Row 4 back in 2015, the protagonist was fighting his way through the demons of hell after becoming ruler of the entire galaxy. So where do you go from there?
A full reboot of course, with new faces and a fresh perspective. Checkpoint sat down for an extended gameplay preview and had the opportunity to chat with the team at Volition about what this change means for the franchise, what excites them most about “going back to the beginning” and the big changes we can expect from the first Saints Row game in eight long years.
To make it clear, this is absolutely a full reboot, a chance to go back to the series origins, telling a story that is contemporary, featuring four friends building a criminal empire and doing things their way. Your character, the boss, can be customised with plenty of options, with no gender constraints so you can mix and match however you want.
Locations in the fictional Santos Ileso look to be varied and interesting. Some are soaked in neon, while others reflect the more rural American Southwest where the game is set.
Art Director Frank Marquart talked about the American southwest, and that there’s so much in pop culture they can draw from, whether it be movies, TV shows, comic books, to try to get ideas to make things visually interesting and fun across the board. “We looked at some of the weird, more interesting outlandish left-of-centre things that you find in the real world out in the Southwest. There’s a pioneering individuality that we really tapped into to help pepper the world and create this really unique space.”
“There’s a pioneering individuality that we really tapped into to help pepper the world and create this really unique space.”
Saints Row features three brand new and very distinct factions, who operate across the games may districts, which we’re promised all have their own unique flair. Los Panteros is all about muscle and physical power, the street-hardened natives. Marshall Defence Industries are a private military conglomerate that come at you with high-end lethal technology. And lastly, there are the Idols, who see themselves as icons in the new world order. They’re self-styled anarchists, often rocking bold pink, hanging out in the mansions, having parties, and creating anarchy.
There’s plenty of landmarks, dirt tracks to jump off and lots of open areas for sandbox fun. Volition noted that “everything should deliver gratifying fun”. As new territories get taken over, you can decide where and which structures you want to control to expand your criminal empire, too. For example, building a fast-food drug-running ring, auto theft or arms dealership. A range of criminal fronts will be at your disposal. Co-op is also a big part of the new Saints Row, with cross-play between newer and older hardware. You can experience the whole experience with a friend at any time via drop-in/drop-out co-op, and you’ll be able to play pranks on each other for good measure.
The team were proud of the fact that this is a world that is densely packed with things to do, and they noted that it’s the largest world they’ve ever created, but certainly not as large as some other games, which was intentional.
“Some of it is discoverables that will highlight when you get close, other things regarding the criminal empire that you grow, with vacant lots you can choose the kind of building that goes there which adds to the gameplay around the city. It’s the densest open world we’ve ever done, and wit the number of mechanics that slowly get revealed along the way, there’s a tremendous amount of depth to it rather than ‘a big gigantic map’ that doesn’t have many things to do.”
The team confirmed that Saints Row will be hitting current gen platforms PS5 and Xbox Series X, but were relatively tight-lipped about what this means for the series scope and scale. Their excitement about what they can achieve now compared to their previous Saints games was palpable though. “We knew our ambitions could be higher. Even just thinking about the previous gen consoles, we struggled making the parts of the world look different. The reality of tech and memory meant that regions looked kind of similar, but now we have areas that look really different.”
“There are things we’ve been able to achieve with this game that we dreamed about doing in the past. Customisation for example there are some things we wanted to do, but couldn’t, but we’ve been able to realise those dreams in this game.”
And if you’re worried that Saints Row won’t be “silly” anymore, don’t worry too much, as it looks to include the trademark madness the series is known for. Despite perhaps not being as wacky as it used to be, Saints Row still has a lot of chaos to cause with lots of insane new weapons, and the brand is more about having fun rather than being serious. Volition noted that it might be a good middle-ground to what Saints Row used to be (with anal probing and dildo weaponry) and what GTA is now.
After spending time with Volition, one thing is certain; the team have been passionately working on this version of Saints Row for a very long time, and they could barely contain themselves when chatting with media about what they have in store. There’s plenty that remains unanswered, but that just makes us more hyped to dive right back into the Saints Row universe for a balls-to-the-wall good time.
Saints Row is launching for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X and Xbox One on February 25, 2022.