Saints Row 2022 is the latest installment in the long-running open-world crime series developed by Volition and published by Deep Silver. This reboot sheds some of the franchise’s more bombastic elements in favor of an adventure that oscillates somewhere between benign humor, and zany with a lower-case Z. While the result is a depiction of the American southwest in Santo Illeso that I enjoyed rambling around, growing my criminal empire, and causing all sorts of trouble in over the course of my 30 hours, it’s one that also felt very familiar to countless open-world games I’ve played over the past two decades, many of which reached higher high than this new Saints game managed to hit.
This new take on the series revolves around your fully customizable character and their three pals who decide to quit their low-level gigs at local gangs and security companies to form The Saints. I liked the low-key and surprisingly positive friendship that exists between your crew. Scenes where we’d just have a chill movie night back at the home base were nice palette cleansers between bouts of mass murder and mayhem. It’s also neat to see your rickety home base slowly grow and evolve over the game, with personal touches like decorations you find while exploring the city.
The mission structure at play here is familiar to pretty much any open-world game since Grand Theft Auto III – go to a place, do what you’re told to do, get a nice reward for your troubles. They range from charming, like joining your pal in their city-wide fantasy LARPing and engaging in high-speed shootouts from the roof of a speeding car, to annoying, like infiltrating a prison with some frustrating stealth sections. Thankfully Saints Row is constantly throwing different mission types at you, and none of them last too long individually.
There’s also a litany of side-activities that crop up as you expand your criminal empire, which constantly provide rewarding diversions and encourage you to visit new areas of the city. These all feed into the game’s satisfying sense of progression. Completing side quests means more money and experience for silly outfits, elaborate vehicles, powerful weapons, and new abilities. These come in handy, as the game has no qualms with throwing a glut of increasingly-dangerous enemies at you throughout the campaign, and I always appreciated having new tools of destruction at my disposal.
The game also offers you a ton of customization not just from your own character, but their weapons, vehicles, and the aforementioned home base. I really enjoyed how much these elements of choice glommed together to create an experience that felt like my own. What’s more, the entire campaign is open for two-player co-op, and having a buddy beside you creates a nice flavor of carnage.
Sadly, Saints Row is marred by a variety of small, yet annoying hiccups, like waymarkers that often don’t show the shortest route to your destination, and world encounters that wouldn’t spawn until I reloaded a save. None of these individually were deal-breakers by any means, but enough of them cropped up throughout my time with the game to form a lot of speed bumps across Santo Ileso.
While Saints Row feels familiar to plenty of open-world games over the past few generations, the one that kept coming to mind was 2014’s Sunset Overdrive. The problem here is that Insomniac’s underappreciated masterpiece covered much of the same ground as this Saints Row, but oftentimes in more entertaining and effective ways. The writing, traversal, combat, and tone in Sunset Overdrive feels a step above Saints Row, which makes me just want to recommend that 8-year-old game instead.
All that said, there’s a good time to be had in Saints Row if you look put up with the wrinkles, and I genuinely enjoyed the dozens of hours I spent in Santo Ileso. Sure, there’s little here in the way of genre-changing or boundary-pushing, but in a year that’s light on major AAA releases, Saints Row might be hitting in the right place at the right time to scratch an itch for a familiar kind of comfort food open-world, and that’s not a bad thing. Saints Row is available on August 23 for $59.99 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, and on PC via the Epic Games Store.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Saints Row.