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First impressions of Saints Row: Nearly endless customization possibilities in a living, breathing world

The Saints Row reboot is a return to form for those familiar with its larger-than-life, zany antics, while ensuring it anchors itself with more realistic themes than some of the series’ previous entrants.

The Saints Row franchise first hit our screens in 2006 and has spawned multiple games, from sequels to spin-offs Agents of Chaos. Now, Volition is bringing it back to its roots with the Saints Row reboot, and from what we’ve seen so far it looks like it’s going to be chock-full of things to do.

In an interactive preview event, Dexerto got the chance to test the gameplay of what players can expect in the brand new location of Santo Ileso – and we can’t wait to explore this world for ourselves.


A wingsuit in Saints Row
Will / Deep Silver

The vibrant, lively city of Santo Ileso can be traversed in many ways.

Santo Ileso is spacious and lively

If one thing is certain, it’s that Santo Ileso was designed with the mindset of the city, which is a personality in its own right. This dense setting for the game’s narrative – inspired by the American West – features nine teeming boroughs. It was something I loved most about my time with the preview, since open-world games that really focus on characterizing a world are the ones that help me feel most connected to the story (and immersed in it).

From what has been shown, the region is full of lively NPCs traversing the city, standing around in groups, or playing music outside in the streets. Additionally, there are emotes to choose from in the game, ranging from unique walking styles to playing the guitar, and these NPCs will react to how she act and bind you to this world as a resident and not a spectator. During our preview, Volition revealed that Santo Ileso is full of little details to discover that while they don’t contribute to the progression of the game, they do help bring more depth and life to this world. It’s beautifully rendered and beautifully lit, and I can’t wait to explore it for myself.

Early in the game (which follows more of a linear arc but offers plenty to do off the beaten path), the Saints themselves have yet to be formed. As you follow in The Boss’s footsteps, you’ll slowly build your power and notoriety over time as you begin to create criminal ventures out of what will become your gang’s headquarters: the Church. Away from the chaos, this space can be customized with over 100 unique props to discover – including a metal rabbit statue – going really crazy Saints Row form. From here you can expand your reach to 14 criminal ventures such as arms dealing and unlock features and instances that you can gradually complete.

The boss does a wheelie in one of the neighborhoods of Santo Ileso
Will / Deep Silver

There is plenty to do in all nine boroughs of Saints Row.

Side hustles scattered around the world are available as repeatable quests to earn that all-important cash and EXP – and what’s a criminal enterprise without plenty of cash? These also serve to introduce you to the specific mechanics of the game. In our preview, we were shown the Side Hustle “Riding Shotgun,” which, as the name suggests, sees you riding a shotgun and fending off an onslaught of enemies. This introduces players to the mechanics of car surfing, where you climb out of the moving car straight onto the roof to get a better shot at the vehicles that are hitting it.

Volition has also managed to remain fully aware of how out of this world the game can be. While no superpowers were in sight during our preview (we’re looking at you, SR4), you can still eject your car to leap into the sky and glide away in a wingsuit (while bouncing off pedestrians for a bit of a height boost if you notice that you are losing altitude). One mission featured The Boss tossing a member of one of the game’s three enemy factions, the Idols, around in a portable potty attached to their vehicle in order to destroy their camp. What’s more Saints Row as the?

While it’s obvious that the story doesn’t aim to reinvent the wheel and seems to be more of standard turf warfare fare, it was noted during the Q&A section of our preview that the game strikes a middle ground between realism and comedy. More meaningful story beats – including one in which one of The Boss’s teammates, Kevin, is kidnapped – definitely appear to be present, but the development team indicated that the overall tone has a humor that’s closer to SR3, while still being overall is less dark than that of SR2.

Buckaroo shop in Saints Row
behavior interactive

Customization is a big part of Saints Row.

Customization lets you play your way

I have to say Volition hit the nail on the head when it comes to customization. From returning shops from previous entries like Leather & Lace to newer ones like Buckaroo Leggin’s (see above), there are many clothing options to unlock and dress up your boss as you play. Additionally, you can also save presets and change your entire look right in the Style app (or Saints HQ) before jumping right back into the action.

Everything from hair, voice, skin (texture and color), sex characteristics and body controls can be tweaked through an extensive system, with different “types” of face parts like eyes and nose shape to choose from to create who you want your boss to be be.

Customization options can be unlocked throughout the game, allowing you to tweak 80 possible vehicles in Jim Rob’s garage, each with their own presets that you can choose from or modify with paint jobs and body treatments. Signature abilities like the aforementioned ejection seats can also be equipped here. Different enemy types can be taken down with some of the game’s many abilities, including a flaming punch and the Pineapple Express skill, in which The Boss hurls an enemy into the distance with an explosive attached.

A hoverboard in Saints Row
Will / Deep Silver

Hop on a hoverboard to traverse the city in style.

Co-op seems incredibly seamless, allowing for drop-in and drop-out play while you team up to do everything together, whenever you want. Rewards and EXP are shared between players, meaning you also have an incentive to team up. In our preview, we were shown two players teaming up to tackle Chaos mode, in which you’re tasked with destroying as much as possible within a time limit.

During the Q&A portion of our preview, we were also told that there was a big focus on accessibility so you can further customize your experience outside of the game itself. This includes everything from difficulty options to Tobii software integrations, changing button grips to toggles, and the option to hide UI elements like the GPS on your screen.

A promising restart for The Saints

Saints Row looks like a promising reboot for the series that goes above and beyond with obscene customization options – who’d have ever thought they’d want to put their gun in a guitar case sooner? This beautifully designed open world seems to be full of customizable skills and options to help you navigate Santo Ileso.

Vehicles like dirt bikes, hoverboards and helicopters, signature abilities and an upgradable HQ mean fans old and new will have something to make their time as The Saints’ boss an absolute blast.

https://www.dexerto.com/gaming/saints-row-first-impressions-near-endless-customization-in-a-living-breathing-world-1826268/ First impressions of Saints Row: Nearly endless customization possibilities in a living, breathing world

Emma Bowman

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