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‘Saints Row’ Is Getting A Reboot And We Got To See It Early, Here’s What We Learned

When Saints Row first released it was a bizarre, but albeit mediocre, Grand Theft Auto clone. However, there was one part about it that separated it from GTA and would go on to become the bread and butter of the franchise. It was incredibly over the top. Not that GTA was ever known for being tame, but Saints Row took everything up another level whether it was the hit missions that required beating up people in hot dog suits, or throwing yourself into traffic to commit insurance fraud. The game was a relative success, with everyone praising the more absurd aspects of it, and every game afterward built on what made the first game work.

Once we reached Saints Row IV and Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell the development team had really run out of options. They gave their characters superpowers, blew up the earth, and tackled God. For a franchise that had been built on absurdity, there was nowhere else to go. This is why it wasn’t really all that surprising to find out that they were planning to reboot the game.

After teasing the reboot on social media for a few days, Saints Row was officially announced at Gamescom Opening Night Live. The trailer featured a group of friends getting ready to ambush a deal gone wrong so they could steal their weapons. However, mid-theft they’re caught and are chased all across a town that is a less than subtle nod to the American southwest. Amidst the trailer, we get to see some of that classic Saints Row absurdity before it ends on a shot of the main character.

This was a fun way to announce the revival of the Saints Row franchise. It’s been six years since the last game and fans have been anticipating a new one for quite some time. We were lucky enough to see the game early and we can say that, while it will feel familiar, this is still going to be a very different Saints Row game.

Saints Row

Let’s start with the new. The biggest difference being the Southwest America setting that the game is going to be taking place in. The fictional town of Santo Ileso is something like a weird mix of Las Vegas and New Mexico. This is a big change from the previous two games which were set in the metropolitan Stilwater and Steelport. While the world itself has been advertised as the largest they’ve ever built, there’s a different feel to this setting compared to the previous cities. The previous games were dominated by an urban setting that featured skyscrapers and alleyways. This setting helped contribute to the larger-than-life feeling that the game’s previous protagonists all lived with.

The new Santo Ileso setting, at least from early video and screenshots, doesn’t give off quite the same vibe. They have promised an urban setting, but anyone that’s ever been to Vegas can confirm that there’s much more to the American Southwest than just the Vegas Strip. It feels more enclosed. Buildings aren’t quite as big. Looking off in the distance shows mountains and desert. This helps everything feel more packed in and assists with the more grounded story the developers are trying to tell.

Saints Row is a reboot.” said CCO of Deep Silver Volition, Jim Boone. “This is a chance for us to go back to our origins and get back to that more contemporary crime angle, that we love and what Saints Row is known for. It was a great opportunity for us to tell the story we wanted to tell and most importantly tell a story that is contemporary that we think the people will relate to.”

Creating a story that is meant to be contemporary is obviously a stark difference from previous games where the idea of the main character being a murdering psychopath was played off for laughs. The way they made sure nobody ever felt weird about that fact was by making sure everything around the character was even more over the top than them. Villains? Somehow even more murderous. The setting? Yeah sure gang fights are going to take place and that’s just a part of life. By the third game, the Third Street Saints were pop culture icons. This was a world that matched the characters in it and the reboot will need to do the same if a contemporary setting is going to work.

One way they’re trying to emphasize how this game is different is that, during the presentation, none of the developers ever called the player group a “gang” but instead chose to call them a business. Members of the business were “employees” and not gang members. This implies a game that is trying to move away from the street gang origins of the original and move into something a little different.

Saints Row

While the setting and characters may be new, this is still a Saints Row game and that means there are going to see familiarities. For example, the city has been divided up into three different groups all with different personalities and quirks. Each group owns a different portion of the city and the player will be battling them for territory throughout the game. That was the original Saints Row formula and it is nice to see it returning. However, unlike previous games, instead of just throwing opposition groups into random districts they’re meant to reflect the personalities of the areas they reside in.

“This is the most variety that we’ve ever packed into a Saints Row game.” said Frank Marquart, Art Director at Deep Silver Volition. “Rancho Providencia has a grittier, weathered identity to it that reflect the Panteros home turf. The El Dorado district is grime mixed with glitz, with colorful and illuminated nighttime displays competing for attention. And in contrast Monte Vista offers pools and parties. Home to gated communities of the rich and powerful.”

There will of course be side-missions to complete and this is where we are going to find the most of that old Saints Row feeling. Even if the main story is going for a more grounded feel that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun throwing ourselves into traffic. These side missions have always been the heart and soul of the Saints Row franchise and it just wouldn’t be the same without them.

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