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Saints Row 2022 teaches the old school franchise some fresh moves

The Saints Row reboot is just about a month away from launch. We got to go hands-on with it ahead of time to see what's in store for fans and newcomers alike!

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There’s nothing quite like being your own boss. Setting your own hours, choosing which projects to take on, making those big decisions no one else can make, and going on chaotic, murderous rampages with bullets flying everywhere and explosions popping off like fireworks. Ya know, boss stuff. The Saints Row series has always done a fantastic job of making you feel like you might be the greatest and toughest boss to ever exist, but after some hands-on time with a PC build of the upcoming reboot I feel like they’re really taking things to the next level.

Saints Row 2022 Preview 01
The Saints are back and ready to rumble!
Source: Saints Row

As we’ve mentioned in past previews, this is an all-new crew and origin story for the Saints. Players will explore the city of Santo Ileso this time around. It’s a large city full of slums, skyscrapers, and plenty of trouble to get into, surrounded by a desert badland that would give Mad Max a run for his money. The whole city is essentially run by Marshall Defense Industries, a high-tech industrial military-type corporation headed by the ruthless Atticus Marshall.

There are two gangs causing trouble for the residents of Santo Ileso as well. The roided-up Los Panteros aren’t afraid to throw their weight, or you, around in a brawl and will do their best to leave you flat as a pancake. Then there’s the tech-savvy pseudo-altruistic ravers known as the Idols, who claim to be fighting against big business, but seem to truly only be serving their own interests. All three groups have their own weapons and character classes that players will have to contend with, sometimes even in tandem.

Once again, players will take on the role of their own custom-made boss to lead the Saints as they fight tooth and nail to become the biggest, baddest gang on the block. And while the Saints Row series has always featured a ton of customization options throughout its existence, the team at Volition really seems to be doing their best to crank it up to eleven this time around. Not only can you make a truly over-the-top playable character with massive bulging parts wherever you choose to put them and a palette of skin tones that range from natural to neon green, you’ll also get several other gameplay-related options that will unlock as you fight your way through the new Saints Row.

Saint Row 2022 Preview The Idols
The idealistic partyers known as the Idols are one of the gangs you'll face off against in Saints Row.
Source: Saints Row

Along with what seems like a boundless amount of cosmetic options, players will also unlock perks and skills to aid them. Skills are special moves that players can access during combat if they have the special energy to use them. This includes things like throwing a smoke bomb to get out of a sticky situation, or my personal favorite, the ability to shove a grenade down an enemy’s shirt then throw them into a crowd of their friends. Players will get to slot up to four skills at a time to call upon during combat, but there will be plenty to unlock and choose from as the game progresses.

The perks are a more passive feature and have three tiers: Minor, Major, and Elite and players will be able to purchase active slots for each tier with money they earn or steal on missions. Perks will be things like moving fast when crouching and aiming or accelerated abilities when low on health. Players will be able to swap in various perks and abilities to match their play styles or perhaps if they need certain ones to help out during a mission.

When the game starts, you’ll be living in a rundown apartment with your three besties/crew and an adorable orange kitty cat named Snickerdoodle. However, you’ll soon find your way into some brand-new digs that you’ll be able to customize by taking pics of items of interest around the city which will unlock them to place wherever you see fit in your hideout.

Saints Row 2022 Preview Tank Mayhem
All the over-the-top action of previous Saints games seems to have remained intact.
Source: Saints Row

Beyond all the new and returning meaty customization options, Saints Row is still feeling like its parents’ child underneath all the new-new. As someone who has played every Saints Row game since the second one thoroughly, I feel as much as things have changed for the reboot the core gameplay that made the series a success seems to be intact here, but also much more polished and ready to meet a new generation of consoles and gamers alike. Players will still find themselves getting into tons of firefights and going on insane missions straight out of an action flick like they have in the past, but adding in things like the perks and skills and giving the physics a decent overhaul things are feeling new and familiar at the same time so far.

Much like in past Saints Rows, there’s not much, if any, of Santo Ileso that you can’t explore right off the bat, and there looks to be plenty to check out. Fan favorite side-missions like Insurance Fraud are back along with some new ones inspired by previous Saints titles such as Choplifting, which lets you use a helicopter and magnet on a wire to pull off some incredible heists. There’s even a more modern side-mission that has you go to businesses run by your rivals and essentially give them a bad Yelp review. The fewer the stars you give the place, the more difficult it will be to clear out the squad that shows up to beat you down for your review. Of course, you’ll still duke it out to protect your turf as well and there are plenty of other activities to give a try such as wingsuit gliding and hunting down drug and dumpster stashes. My time with the game was limited to only a few hours but by the end the parts of the map I had explored were sprawling with optional opportunities.

As I mentioned before, the game’s physics seem to have been tweaked as well and that was on display nowhere more than with the vehicles. All the cars I took for a spin seemed to handle similarly to previous games, but when they took to the air off a ramp or got a boost from the water coming out of a busted fire hydrant there was a lot of flipping and spinning. There’s also a new sideswipe attack players can pull off to slam enemy cars off the road.

Saints Row 2022 Preview Hover Bike
The vehicles in Saints Row are just crazy as they've ever been!
Source: Saints Row

There have been plenty of vehicles that were “extra” in previous Saints games, and this time around is looking no different. One mission had me hauling a giant storage container using an electro-magnetic tether. Another mission found me crushing cars in a monster truck, and yet another found me destroying a construction site using a bulldozer.

Overall, I found my early experience with the Saints Row reboot had a vibe that falls somewhere between the original series’ second and third game. The main storyline seems slightly more down to earth like Saints Row 2 than the bombastic insanity that was the plot of Saints Row 3. But inversely the action has all the flavor of 3 with a little 2 sprinkled in to keep it anchored down. It’s feeling like it's doing all of this while also carving its own path with many of the new customizable features and a new city to conquer as well. As a Saints Row fan, I personally like that we’ll be getting a chance to start fresh because honestly I wasn’t sure where the series could go after the cosmos and the afterlife had been conquered. Will this fresh start hit the mark with all Saints Row fans? That remains to be seen. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait long to find out as Saints Row 2022 is set to launch on Aug 24, 2022, for the Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, and PC via Epic Games Store.


This hands-on preview is based off a PC build of Saints Row. Hotel and travel were provided by the publisher for the preview event. Saints Row is set to launch for PC vis Epic Games Store, Xbox One, Xbox Seriex X|S, PS4, and PS5 on August 24, 2022.

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

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