I’d pay good money to get the original Saints Row’s Blinged Out Ride added to the upcoming reboot. Normally, I balk at the idea of single-player titles having multiplayer modes tacked on or otherwise tenuously linked to the main game. But Blinged Out Ride, one of Saints Row’s six competitive multiplayer modes, was really something special, even by today’s standards.
Technically the mode is still around, but 15 years after Saints Row’s Xbox 360 release, its lobbies are ghost towns. So unless you can scrape a private match together, it’s all but extinct. The premise was that, split into two teams of up to six players each, you had to “bling out” your car by raising cash (either by collecting gold chains or killing enemy players) and then driving it to a garage. You won by upgrading your car to level four, driving it to the victory zone, and protecting it till the clock counted down.
The concept was certainly simple, and that’s one of the reasons I loved it. There are so many titles I’ve just bounced off because of the time investment required not to master it but just to come to grips with its basics. Every time Overwatch has a free weekend I dip into it, but the sheer range of characters and abilities proves a significant obstacle.
Not so with Saints Row multiplayer — within a few minutes of diving into Blinged Out Ride I was having the time of my life, blasting away from the back of a Pimpmobile while a bullet-riddled sports car tried to ram us off the road. If you ploughed enough time into it you could earn extra clothing items and costumes (none of which involved microtransactions), but you could also just run around in your boxer shorts, collecting gold chains, and laughing like a drain at all the mayhem.
Because Blinged Out Ride matches were, more often than not, a little chaotic. If it were resurrected today it would never be an esport, but one of the things that made it such a joy was you had a chance to claw victory from the jaws of defeat right up to the end of the final countdown. Playing Rocket League, it’s pretty easy to get disheartened and lose interest when the opposing team is miles ahead, feeling that you’ve got no hope of staging a comeback.
But in Blinged Out Ride, all it would take was a few concentrated assault rifle bursts to destroy your enemy’s car and knock it down a level. Instead of resigning themselves to losing, your team would become increasingly frantic, racing to vantage points or risking your own ride to cut them off at the pass. If you were on the “winning” team, things were nearly as tense as you watched for any lurking aggressors.
Frustration was rarely a factor though, even if you ended up being murdered by someone wearing a Santa hat and a zebra coat. On the other hand, Overwatch’s Escort missions can be infuriating, particularly if the teammates you’re playing with are determined to do their own thing, roaming free as the payload takes hit after hit. But in Blinged Out Ride, you were driving the payload – if it was getting shot at, even if your teammates were being idiots, you could grab the wheel and try to steer it out of harm’s way.
Sure, you could compare Blinged Out Ride to Grand Theft Auto IV’s multiplayer, especially since Saints Row started life as a Grand Theft Auto clone before it grew beyond that. But bigger isn’t necessarily better, and while it didn’t have a huge number of maps, Saints Row’s smaller levels made for more focused fun compared to Grand Theft Auto Online, where you can roam for a while without seeing another player. I initially grumbled a little that I couldn’t deathmatch my way across the whole of Stillwater, but seeing just how carefully crafted each map was quelled those complaints.
The more creative you were, the more fun you’d get out of Blinged Out Ride. Sure, you could go hunting for gold chains or wait for that Uzi to respawn. But why not grab one of the non-blingable cars and launch it, Fast and Furious-style, off a roof and onto the road below, just as the opposing team is passing below? I never actually landed on their car any time I tried this, but watching them panic and step on the accelerator never got old.
There was plenty of player-to-player combat, but people would always keep one eye on their respective rides, for fear of coming back to a smoking wreck. Even if you did meet your end at the barrel of a gun or under someone’s tires, you were able to leap back into the fray, after a short respawn gap. As widespread as battle royale games are, the prospect of in-match permadeath doesn’t appeal to me.
In Saints Row’s Blinged Out Ride, death could be swift, but it was rarely boring and never unfair. And once you were back on your feet, there was always the delicious prospect of revenge, whether it was mowing them down or kicking them to death with your fluffy bunny slippers. At that point you’d realize your team was a man down because you’d been tempted to seek vengeance.
Speaking of temptation, the lure of microtransactions is hard to resist, which is probably why Capcom keeps foisting Resident Evil multiplayer games upon a disinterested public. My two fears about seeing Volition and Deep Silver give us some sort of Saints Row multiplayer game or spin-off is that it’ll become pay-to-win or it’ll jump on the battle royale band wagon.
Still, given how many mainstream multiplayer titles beg for your constant engagement and mire themselves in po-faced lore, there’s no better time to bring back Blinged Out Ride’s silly but oh-so-satisfying shenanigans for the new Saints Row.