Saints Row may be the worst game that I have played this year and is definitely the biggest disappointment I’ve played since Two Worlds. There is no way to sugarcoat this game, there is no “brightside”. We can’t view this game from a glass-half-full perspective. There is nothing redeemable about the Saints Row reboot and that is not even the worst part.
The worst part of Saints Row is that the game doesn’t even have the decency to be terrible. If the game was objectively terrible then it would at least be fun to laugh at. Instead, it is just a middling piece of forgettable media, a failed attempt by Volition to revive the very franchise that they themselves ran into the ground. They had one chance to make this comeback and could not even get that correctly.
Saints Row (2022)
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (reviewed), PS4, PS5
Release Date: August 23, 2022
Price: $59.99 USD
Saints Row takes place in a new location, a desert town out in the midwest named Santo Lleso, and follows a completely new cast of characters, millennials who are dripping in sarcasm and “humor”. Three of our four main characters, Kev, Neenah, and the protagonist start the game as roommates who are also members of one of the three major street gangs in the city: The Idols, Los Panteros, and Marshall.
For one reason or another, each character is cast out of their gang, and they decide that they would rather try to create their own criminal empire rather than be foot soldiers for another. Thus, our “wacky” and “fun” journey begins as we follow the lives of our favorite, tweeting, selfie-taking, “Mugmosa” drinking gang of millennial…heroes(?) as they take on the city and bring the Saints into existence.
Look, I can’t beat around the bush here, Saints Row’s story sucks. Every character is annoying to where I could not get attached to them if I tried. Neenah and Eli are the best of the main characters but that is largely due to the fact that Neenah barely speaks and Eli is just a nerd. But the worst two characters bar-none are Kev and the main character. Neither character shuts up for half a second, or they carry a joke on for way way too long.
It does not help that the main story is as boring and bland as its desert setting. There is nothing exciting or redeemable about this setup. While I can remember each major plot point from Saints Row 2 even though I have not played the game since 2009, I know that I will not remember a single moment of this game within a month.
The biggest issue with Saints Row’s story is that all the dialogue feels like it was generated by a computer. The millennial characters try too hard to be relatable but come off as the fakest characters I have ever seen. It is as if someone created a program that took every millennial joke told by a baby boomer and crafted characters out of it. Just try to make a story that is even slightly interesting out of that.
The gameplay of Saints Row has been a hot contention and for good reason. There is no other way to say this, but the Saints Row gameplay is boring and horribly dated. It feels as though I am playing a 360 remaster rather than a full-blown modern title. The gunplay in Saints Row feels almost identical to that of Saints Row 2. This would not be a problem if this were a Saints Row 2 remaster being sold for $30 but it isn’t, it’s a full-priced experience.
Guns feel weak when shooting enemies as well. Even in the beginning, the enemies were bullet sponges who felt like they existed to sap me of my ammo and patience. Things are made worse by the fact that guns all have terrible accuracy. When firing the assault rifle at nearly point-blank range, my bullets still end up passing through people rather than killing them, and when they already have large health pools, it makes for a not fun experience.
The game has side objectives you can do, and some of them return from older games, such as insurance fraud, which I wish I could have enjoyed. I didn’t get to enjoy it because when I started up the Insurance Fraud mission, the game repeatedly glitched out and despawned every car on the road, and it wasn’t just for that one mission, it would continue on for the next five missions.
Other side objectives were not much better. Doing the robbery missions where you shoot enemies that pursue you feel janky and not fun. If you’re sitting in the car, you are forced to only use side arms such as pistols or SMGS, but if you want to use long guns or rocket launchers, you need to climb on top of the car, which leaves you feeling vulnerable to being ventilated.
Glitches are actually a major problem in the game in general. Bullets not hitting targets, enemies glitching out or not firing their guns, despawning items and objectives, there is nothing more infuriating than being hit by a brick wall that is a game-breaking bug and having to restart the mission entirely. During my time with Saints Row, I experienced more glitches in this game than I have in any other major AAA release in several years.
In fact, the only redeeming quality of Saints Row is the driving. The driving in the Saints Row franchise has always been kind of strange. They kept to a more cartoonish, unrealistic formula, a conscious choice after Grand Theft Auto IV moved towards being a more realistic driving experience. It often divides people on whether or not they hate it.
Now, it feels like driving is the only thing worthwhile in this game. You can turn on a dime with the use of the satisfying drift mechanic. You can also side-swipe cars off the road if they are chasing you. It’s not much, but at least I have a single positive thing to say about this game.
Hearing the characters talk out loud makes me feel like I’m being driven to the point of insanity. Not a single conversation in this game felt organic or anywhere close to reality. Again, it felt as though an AI was randomly generated conversations. I have heard more convincing conversations in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and that is pretty bad.
Where the characters in earlier Saints Row titles were goofy, they at least had a charm to them that kept them connected to the world. Johnny Gat, at least in Saints Row and Saints Row 2, was a likable character because he was an awful person with a sense of humor. The game never tried to make you think that he was anything but a stone-cold murderer.
The same can’t be said about our cast in Saints Row. The game tries so hard to make you think that they are good people but ends up just alienating the player. Kev isn’t a murderer, he’s just a wacky, funny DJ/ Chef! He’s so quirky guys, you’re going to love his random sense of humor!
No, you won’t, you won’t like it any time this absolutely insufferable douche opens his mouth. The voice cast, as much as they try to do a good job, can’t save this game. Emphasis on the word “try” by the way because while no one felt like they were a terrible voice actor, it did not feel like anyone in this cast of characters cared at all and instead were just phoning it in.
Once again to point out the major flaws in our protagonist, the dialogue that the main character says will change depending on the voice you choose during character creation, which is a really nice attention to detail. The only problem is, no matter which voice you end up selecting, all the dialogue is annoying and makes me want to punch them. I’ve never felt the desire to punch my own character before, so Saints Row is breaking new ground.
Visuals and Performance
The graphics are as bad as the rest of the game. Sometimes, for a split second, I was playing a really nice-looking game. The lighting, especially neon-lighting, can look really good at night. But then, I’ll get out of my car and look around and it looks like I am playing a game from the late Xbox 360 or early PlayStation 4. It does not feel like I’m playing a modern game on a modern console.
Not only do the graphics look horribly dated, but performance in the game is unsteady and the framerate seems to bounce around a lot. There is no reason a game that looks this dated should perform this badly, but somehow Saints Row manages to do just that.
Texture pop in is pretty noticeable in the desert as well, but less so in the town, at least. The one nice thing about the games visually is that the character creator is very robust. It is definitely up there as one of the most in-depth character creators in a major AAA game.
I started out my game as a fat, greasy, balding sex offender with an obnoxious voice. But, when I found out that you can download other people’s created characters and apply them to my own, I jumped in and immediately became Waluigi. So, at least they got the character creator right.
This game is a major disappointment in every way. When I saw the last trailer that was released by Volition prior to the game’s release, I saw what seemed to be some good times to be had. But what I got instead with the Saints Row reboot was the video game equivalent of a plain burnt toast.
The cast sucks, the setting sucks, the world sucks, and the gameplay sucks. Not to mention that, even if the gameplay was fun, the game is bogged down with more glitches than I have seen from any AAA game release since Cyberpunk 2077.
Volition tried so hard to move away from its edgy past and create a “smart” game with “biting” social commentary and humor but ended up creating a high-school-tier world that is doomed to fail. While I do not feel like this game is soulless per se, I do feel like anyone who worked on this game who has a soul should feel guilt over driving that final nail into the coffin of the Saints Row franchise. The funniest joke about Saints Row is that Epic was actually willing to pay money to make it an Epic Game Store exclusive.
Saints Row was reviewed on Xbox Series X with a copy provided by Kinguin. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Saints Row is now available on Windows PC (via the Epic Games Store), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.