Saints Row has a long and varied history. We’ve come a long way from the 3rd Street Saints and wills rather distanced look at gangland violence in 2006. Perhaps because the studio’s developers were fed up with its games being dubbed “GTA clones,” or perhaps because the market shifted pretty sharply into the 2010s, Saints Row – as a series – changed quite a bit from its original vision until its hiatus in 2013.
And maybe that was for the best; Ending the series with your main character being elected President of the United States after thwarting a terrorist attack, defending Earth from an alien invasion, and then being planted in a simulated world seemed like good call (but not, before letting him learn the true meaning of Christmas, and of course go to hell).
At Saints Row 2022, things couldn’t be more different. This game – a complete reboot of the series – sort of goes back to the roots of everything; You’re a young aspiring gang member disillusioned with gangland life and eager to start your own crew to break the status quo. To do this, you recruit members of each of the three main controlling factions of the hometown of Santo Ileso: the Los Panteros gym brothers, the anarchist idols, and the private military contractors of Marshall Defense Industries.
You must fight your way through nine districts across the city with the goal of wresting control from everyone and claiming it in the name of the saints. You can take over vacant lots in any county (there’s one in Vegas, rural, suburban, industrial, etc.) and start illegitimate sideline businesses once you have control over them.
As good as all that gang management stuff sounds, it wouldn’t be a sandbox game without driving and gunplay, right? Driving has been completely overhauled since the previous games in the series – thank goodness – to try and get you to rely more on vehicular destruction and get you hitting the road more instead of using jetpacks, for example.
As you can see in the video above, the gunplay speaks for itself – GTA’s gun wheel makes a return, but the actual act of cocking, aiming and firing seems more sophisticated than Rockstar’s unstoppable sales giant.
So this is a game that takes inspiration not from other gaming series, but from the world of movies: the staff at Volition referenced Baby Driver’s snappy, splintering vehicle movement directly, the impactful hand-to-hand combat by John Wick and the over-the-top action by Hobbs & Shaw as direct influences on the title.
With more RPG elements (yes, really), some wacky abilities, and a level of action that would seem a bit too much even in a Nicholas Cage flick (again, watch the video for a breakdown of all those things) , Saints Row 2022 seems like a game bent on shedding the excesses of its past, but stay curious, there’s nothing else that has made the series so popular.
So it’s a bold new reinvention for the series. Just don’t call it a GTA clone.
After a delay announced in November 2021, Saints Row will release on August 23 on PC via the Epic Games Store, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.