Saints Row is back, and it’s going to be bigger and better than ever!
We were invited to an exclusive press reveal, Q&A and extended video trailer for the announcement of the new Saints Row, and keeping this a secret has taken all of my resolve. Press get these kinds of early access views all the time, and it’s usually not a problem keeping shtum, but I’m a serious Saints Row fanboy, and the new instalment looks incredible. Thankfully, now that it has officially been unveiled, we can reveal everything we know about the new game.
The (all-new) Saints are back!
Saints Row is a full reboot of the franchise. That means not only has it got all-new characters, but they are rewriting the canon completely. Fan-favourites Kinsie and Johnny Gat won’t be reappearing, or any of the other characters, for that matter. You will still play the role of “The Boss”, but this time you’ll be joined by your friends Neenah, Kevin and Eli as you expand and grow your empire. I loved the characters from the previous games, but even though they won’t be returning I have full faith in the team to create a new and lovable ensemble of misfits to join us on our journey.
Together, you will be creating The Saints, and taking on rival gangs Los Panteros, The Idols and Marshall as you battle for control of the city of Santa Ileso. We saw heists, bank robberies, prison breaks, gang takeovers and even an epic set-piece in a dinosaur museum. Whatever you are getting up to in Santa Ileso, it looks like it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun!
When you go up against your enemies there will be a huge variety of weapons, some familiar, others far more exotic, and they will all be customisable. Los Panteros are a street gang, less organised than the others but no less deadly; They’ll come at you with melee weapons like sledgehammers, baseball bats, hatchets (and probably dildos) and any handguns, shotguns and rifles they can get their hands on. By contrast, Marshall is hyper-organised and has access to cutting-edge tech and futuristic weapons like multi-launchers and energy weapons. I feel like I’m going to be saying this a lot, but it looks like a really fun game to play.
Customisation and variety have always been a major focus for the Saints Row team, and this has been expanded on for the new Saints Row. Character customisation goes above and beyond anything we’ve seen before, which is saying something after how in-depth previous games have been. Multiple fully scripted voices can be chosen from, and you’ll be able to create your character as outlandishly as you can imagine.
If you’ve played any Saints Row game before, you’ll be aware of just how many clothing options are available to equip, too. From kinky BDSM gear to the latest in geek-couture, there’s going to be a massive amount of clothing options to complete your desired look (unless you want to run around naked, which will no doubt be an option again).
This expanded customisation extends to the vehicles, too. There’s a huge array of cars, trucks, construction machinery, hoverboards, monster trucks, planes, choppers, tanks, go-karts, armoured vehicles and more that can be customised and upgraded. This was a strong point in previous Saints Row games, and they’ve gone all out for the new instalment.
Welcome to Santa Ileso
As much as I loved causing carnage and devastation around Steelport, there’s only so many games set in the same city you can play before you long for something fresh. With the new Saints Row, they’ve taken advantage of the new hardware available and made a world that’s bigger and better in every way, which for the first time includes vast areas outside of the city. When pressed for details, they couldn’t give a direct size for size comparison, but it was revealed that the world is significantly larger than previous Saints Row games. We were also assured that it has a much higher density of landmarks, activities and lots of opportunities for emergent gameplay in drop-in, drop-out co-op.
Santa Ileso is styled on the Southwestern United States, with nine distinct regions surrounded by the beautiful Southwestern Desert. In our preview, we saw lush golf courses (golf carts!), dusty and ramshackle suburban areas, deserted towns that harken back to the gold rush era, industrial areas with factories and refineries, an abandoned theme park with a huge Ferris wheel, insane waterslides (that I’m absolutely going to attempt to drive a motorbike down), a vibrant neon-lit town with distinct Vegas vibes (drive-through chapels, bars and casinos aplenty), a radioactive chemical plant, affluent regions replete with mansions and private pools, Saints Row’s take on the Grand Canyon and much, much more.
Aside from being varied enough to hold your interest as you move between regions, this gives the developers plenty of opportunities to come up with some awesome scenarios and missions to base in and around these locations.
From one of the many vantage points, you can see right across the city skyline, and it looks magnificent. Skyscrapers tower across the downtown area, as the city spreads out towards the monolithic mesas in the desert that surrounds it. It’s hard to accurately judge scale based on what we saw, but it certainly looks much, much bigger than we’ve seen in a Saints Row game. Another thing I picked up on is that due to the increase in size, it now looks like a far more plausible world in terms of street layouts and highways.
Even within the constraints of what we were shown, the world looks ram-packed full of interesting locations and unique design elements. Creepy art installations litter the front of stores that line the desert highways, and we also saw a clip of a bulldozer smashing through a building, hinting at some level of environmental destruction.
Take to the skies
Saints Row may not have the super-powered flight mechanics of Saints Row IV, but they have kept verticality in the game world. VTOLs, hoverbikes, helicopters, wingsuits and more mean you won’t be restricted to just driving everywhere. When you have a huge game world, you need to get around fast sometimes, but not only that, it’s just more fun when you can stand on a skyscraper, slap on a wingsuit and launch yourself into oblivion.
The gameplay footage we saw was pre-alpha, but it’s already looking incredibly detailed and polished. The lighting is magnificent, and the shadowing gives everything a solid and tangible feel. Saints Row: The Third – Remastered looked great, but this looks like a true generational leap beyond what that achieved. Whereas the previous games had a distinctly cartoony aesthetic, the new Saints Row has much more realistic textures – the water and dusty desert regions, in particular, look stunning.
Although a lot of what we saw is new, it all looks pleasingly familiar. There’s no mistake that this is a Saints Row game, and it looks every bit as fun and playable as its forebears. When I first played a Saints Row game, I spent a huge amount of time just sightseeing and enjoying the world, but in Saints Row IV, because of the super-human speed and flight, I spent less time enjoying the view as it was often just a blur or a distant skyline. The new Saints Row, though, looks like it has enough interesting scenery and activities to make me want to do it all over again.
The developers wouldn’t give too much away in terms of activities outside of missions, but they seem excited to be able to reveal more closer to launch. They did tell us that a few of the most popular activities will see a return in a guise that fits the new world they are creating (there had better be a mayhem activity!) but the only definite returning one is insurance fraud – because throwing yourself into traffic never gets old! They’ve also promised the whole game has been engineered to be playable in co-op, which is a huge bonus. The only thing better than causing havoc in a vibrant city is doing it with your friends!
My hype-meter is off the charts for this one. A huge new world, new vehicles, mega-weapons, enhanced customisation and so much more. Throw in the return of fan-favourite insurance fraud and the promise of all-new zany activities, and this is one game I can’t wait to get my hands on!