WHERE do you go when your series protagonist has ended up as Emperor of the Galaxy? To the American Southwest, if you’re Saints Row developers Volition.
The beloved over-the-top action-comedy sandbox crime series is getting a hard reboot next year, launching on PC and next-gen consoles on February 25 (subject to COVID-19 related delays, obviously).
The game will be set in the city and region of Santo Ileso, located in the Southwestern US – an area of stunning scenery, interesting culture, and best known to many people as the setting for the TV shows Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
The story will concern four friends who decide to create a criminal empire start-up in the city – led by you as The Boss – and chart their rise to power as they take out the three groups controlling the city.
Speaking to Australian games media (including GOA, which is why you’re reading this!) ahead of the announcement, the development team at Volition explained the story is a hard reboot with no story or in-universe connection whatsoever to the previous Saints Row games – and no cameos from any of those characters, either.
The development team explained decision to hit the reset button was brought about by the fact that, by the end of Saints Row IV, your character was Emperor Of The Galaxy and Johnny Gat was Ruler of Hell, which meant there wasn’t really anywhere else to go from a narrative perspective – and I have to be honest and say I see their point.
Saints Row III and Saints Row IV were legendary in being ridiculously, insanely over the top with envelope-yeeting humour and a fantastic selection of bizarre and improbable weapons including a dildo bat, a shark-launcher, and possibly the greatest weapon ever included in a video game, The Dubstep Gun.
This time around, the wackiness has been scaled back somewhat, although the dev team were at great pains to point out the rebooted Saints Row is still going to be an over-the-top action-comedy experience that fans of the series will enjoy – noting there’s still a huge gulf of wackiness between GTA and how thing were at the end of Saints Row IV to work with.
While the preview wasn’t hands-on, I was certainly intrigued by what I saw. I loved Saints Row III and (to a lesser extent) Saints Row IV so have a special fondness for the series and am excited to see what the reboot offers.
Santo Ileso certainly seems like an interesting place – it’s a nice change from the generic Stilwater and Steelport settings of previous games, and I do like the American Southwest as a setting too.
The plot is that your character – The Boss, but unrelated to The Boss from the other games – has come to Santo Ileso to start a new life and because honest work is for squares, has decided that a criminal enterprise start-up is a much more interesting way to make the fat stacks necessary to be a Big Money Playa.
The enlist the help of three friends, all of whom are working for one of the existing crime organisations in Santo Ileso – you’ve got Neenah the wheelwoman and mechanic, Eli the accountant and money man, and Kevin the adrenaline-junkie DJ. They’re a motley crew, but I liked what I saw of them in the presentation and will be very interested to see how the team interacts in the full game.
As the fact sheet for the game explains: “Ultimately Saints Row is the story of a start-up company, it’s just that the business The Saints are in happens to be crime.”
While the new game has no story or universe connection to the previous titles, the developers have said some of the mission types from Saints Row III/IV will return; I saw a clip of a character ragdolling around through traffic like in the “Insurance Fraud” missions from the earlier games, and one of the screenshots refers to a casino heist so it stands to reason we’ll get to do at least one of those too.
One of the new aspects of the game will be the ability to establish businesses in certain parts of Santo Ileso, such as arms dealerships, toxic waste dumps, and vehicle chop shops, which will form part of your criminal empire and no doubt provide income and other bonuses as well.
Santo Ileso has nine districts, ranging from a glitzy Las Vegas-type entertainment district to an industrial estate to a fancy rich people community to the CBD and obviously lots of desert too.
The setting is also very much a sandbox, and there will be range of vehicles including cars, bikes, go-karts, aircraft, a wingsuit and even hoverboards for players to use to get around.
In keeping with Saints Row style, we are also assured there will be lots and lots of guns, and the developers have also confirmed there will be untethered drop in/drop-out co-op as well – meaning your friend needing to go and deal with kid who won’t go to bed mid-mission won’t wreck the play session, especially because they should be able to drop back in when they can.
The presentation certainly highlighted a lot of locations, the new characters, the factions, and general style, but I didn’t see much in the way of extended mission gameplay or story cutscenes to get a feel for what those might be like. Hopefully there will be some hands-on preview sessions in the coming months and I can try the game out and share some first-hand impressions.
Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m very much looking forward to the new Saints Row. I agree with the dev team at Volition that a hard reboot was necessary given how Saints Row IV ended, although I will admit to being a bit sad that we won’t be seeing more of Kinzie.
Based on what I’ve seen and talking with the developers, there’s definitely plenty to be excited for with Saints Row – and I’m certainly very excited to see the series making a return and looking forward to causing some tongue-in-cheek chaos in a new setting with a new crew.