The new Saint’s Row game is one that a lot of people have issues with. I’m not one of them. I’m not going to pretend it’s a better game than it is, but I don’t think that it deserves all the hate it’s been getting. And I’m going to spend the next few minutes discussing why that is. Do I expect to change anyone’s mind? No, not really but I enjoy the series, enjoyed the game and it inspired me to make a review for it, so here we are.
My history with the series
I got into the Saint’s Row games a little late. Saint’s Row the Third was my entry point and I love that game. It’s in my yearly gaming rotation since you can just mainline it and complete it in a workday, although I usually still take my time to enjoy it. Additionally, I really liked, but didn’t quite love, Saint’s Row 4 and Gat out of Hell. Still, I was over the moon excited when I saw there was a new Saint’s Row on the horizon. I avoided much of the press, aside from the first trailer for it, as I wanted to go in blind.
Release day and delays
Well, on release my copy was delayed a day so I watched a Eurogamer playthrough of it. I was excited to jump into a new Saint’s Row and since my copy was now delayed, my plans of going in blind were discarded. Eurogamer was not impressed and honestly, I lost some of my enthusiasm too when I saw it. The graphics were fine, but the world felt empty, and they spent their time essentially just doing side jobs and mini games, so it did not feel very exciting. They also touched on the story and how they didn’t like it or any of the characters. By this point I was much less invested in the game but was still going to give it a fair shake.
I’m glad I did. I was off work the next day and dedicated it solely to playing Saint’s Row. I drew the curtains, fixed a beverage and snack and shut out all of the noise from social media surrounding the game. I had been waiting many years for a new entry in the series and I was going to do my best to get lost in it, internet opinions be damned. And get lost in it I did.
I finally got to play it
From the very first mission I was hooked. I thought the setup for the game was fantastic. Maybe I have different standards, or maybe the story it was telling is exactly what I needed at that point. Either way I was all in. The game starts as you get hired on to a security force and it’s your first day…with little to no experience. You cause a lot of mayhem, kill a lot of people and catch the bad guy. A lot of set piece moments and destruction. Then you essentially clock out and go home to live your life with your roommates as if you just left some mundane office job. Later on, things happen, you get fired and the new Saint’s are born…more or less. I don’t want to spoil things too much
Speaking of the “new” Saint’s, I did find the other characters not nearly as interesting as the characters in previous titles, but they did just enough for me care…a little bit. However, I absolutely adored the main character. I felt her jokes landed, her story arch was interesting and I enjoyed spending time with her in the game. I will admit that her story arch may not be the most unique story ever told but it fit well within this universe and kept me coming back.
What I genuinely enjoyed about the game:
- Aside from enjoying the overall premise of the game I liked the gameplay and controls. There is nothing groundbreaking here, and the game does not go out of its way to re-invent anything but what it gives you is solid. The character movement, animation and overall feel was pleasant to control. The gunplay was also a bright spot for me. In this type of game, I enjoy being able to sit back with a controller and have a good time with it. Saint’s Row has aim assist that can be a little too aggressive at times but overall, it was more fun than intrusive. I felt the weapons handled well and there was enough of a variety to keep things interesting.
- I also enjoyed the way the cars handled. No, it’s not realistic at all so if that’s what you are looking for then just know that going in. However, once you get the feel for them it becomes very easy to speed through the city and drift around corners easily. Once I got the hang of it, I was having a blast with it. It made even mundane side missions more fun.
- The typical Saint’s Row humor is there, if not dialed back a bit in some areas. But the game definitely has a wacky side to it. You will go from stealing food trucks or repossessing cars and items to participating in a city-wide LARPing event complete with overly dramatic deaths seamlessly as if it’s just how things typically go. It was fun to be able to go from a firefight to something more lighthearted.
Where I felt the game was lacking:
- I am certainly not blind to the many issues with Saint’s Row 2022. Chief among them, in my opinion, is the city itself. It just feels empty. There are pedestrians and traffic but it does not feel like enough. There are also places to visit, shops to go in and landmarks to explore that feel like they should have more going on but they don’t. There is just enough population at any given area to where you don’t feel alone, but you also feel like you’re not really existing in the same world. In open world games like GTAV, Assassins Creed Odyssey or Red Dead Redemption you felt as though you were part of that world. Here it feels like a game that is populated by NPCs and nothing more. The city looks the part in some areas but never really feels like a cohesive world.
- Where I also felt this lack of cohesiveness was with the story. There is a severe lack of side storytelling. The main story also suffers from weak story beats between some missions making the last few missions not really feel like the natural next step.
- The car physics are bananas. I mentioned I enjoy how the cars handle and I do. When it’s going right its a ton of fun and a great way to traverse the map. But when it goes wrong it’s annoying more than anything. You can go from cruising along to barely clipping an object and the cars goes flying. Or at one point I was driving across a long bridge and accidentally scraped the side and the truck I was in immediately crawled up the side and into the water with no extra help from me. You can also go off-roading, but the game recommends you equip your car with an off-roading kit to make it easier. I agree. However even when your car is properly equipped the smallest rock will either stop your car in it’s tracks or send it airborne in a random direction.
- Lastly, it has…some bugs. It actually took me about five or so hours before I encountered my first bug. However, when I did, it was a progress halting type of bug that I ended up Googling and thankfully someone found a workaround. I also had times where objectives from one mission would not disappear and stay on screen during the next one. Then there was the time my ammo just vanished, in the middle of a fight. All of it, gone. Aside from those, it was largely bug free but each one I encountered required me to restart a mission or lose progress. Annoying, but I was playing the game within the first week of release so it’s not unheard of. Still, it’s worth mentioning even with bugs being a normal part of game releases now.
My final thoughts on Saint’s Row 2022:
I finished the game, credits rolled, and I was dumped back into the world with two more story missions to do. They required me to basically do a lot of side job grinding so as of this review, they are still unfinished. I mention this because it reflects my final thoughts. I completed the game, yet the missions themselves were still incomplete, the story was incomplete. I really enjoyed playing this game, in fact I could hardly put it down. It’s been a rare thing for me recently where I play a game that keeps me thinking about it. One where I can’t wait for work to be done so I can jump back into it. Saints Row provided that for me. I couldn’t wait to jump back in and see what next adventure my character was going to have. But I could not shake the feeling that the game wasn’t ready for prime time yet.
As I was preparing this review, I made the list of what I liked about the game and contrasted that against what I didn’t. What I realized was that there is truly an enjoyable game here, but it is marred by feeling unfinished. More time in development could have fixed the weird car physics, fixed progress halting bugs and fleshed out the world better so it feels like you’re actually there. The controls, gameplay, gunplay and general driving were fun. The main character was great and made up for the rather generic but not completely unlikeable side characters. But it could not overcome the vague feeling of loneliness when playing, and in an open world game it is essential that the world itself is also treated as a character in the game and given life.
Would I recommed it?
This is a hard one. Overall, yes. I think it’s a game people could enjoy if they are a fan of open world games. However, it’s not for everyone. If you can get it on a deal, then it’s worth it in my opinion. It would be an amazing budget title. But it’s not a budget title. At full price it’s hard for me to recommend that someone else spends their money on it even though I still feel like I got my money’s worth.