Saints Row 2022 Preview: Pure sandbox fun

“Saints Row” got lost somewhere. What started out as a playful “GTA” clone has turned into a super-powerful action game where cars have become obsolete unless you throw them at someone. He is stuck in an identity crisis.

Developer Volition solved this problem by bringing the Saints back to basics. The spin-off, due in 2022, essentially tells the rags-to-riches story for today.

The story takes you to Santo Ileso, a fictional city in the American Southwest. There are bright lights and tall buildings, dusty plains and your own take on the legendary Route 66.

Of course, Saints Row does not keep up with the Rockstar worlds. Even with those from Ubisoft. It feels more like a ready-made sandbox than a place to live, but it absolutely lives up to what the creators decided to do. It’s a world of things that explode Grab the rocket launcher and let’s go!

Although Santa Ileso can’t keep up with the competition, it does the job as a sandbox.

The narrative begins with your first day at work as a marshal. You work in a private military company that follows the TLC code – high-tech weapons, loose morals and a conflicted history. One moment you break through a gang’s Wild West-style hideout, while your underpaid associates die around you, and the next you hang on the side of a hovercraft. So you see, it’s not like any exaggerated ridiculousness has disappeared from the game.

The Saints Creation shows up a few missions later, after tearing through the convoy and jumping between moving cars and truck beds. Noticing your talents, the chief of marshals asks you to ensure safety at a party where, as you might expect, everything goes to hell. You are fired, you and your roommates decide to pick up a piece of Santa Ileso cake. You know, so you can pay off your student loans and afford a waffle iron.

New gangsters, old methods

Battle of Saints Row.

Combat helicopters against submachine guns? Saints Row still likes to overdo it.

Your roommates are a versatile group. There is an accountant and a cracker who drinks a spritzer with white wine, a muscular bisexual guy who hates T-shirts and has a flair for social media, a Latin mechanic who can handle any vehicle. They are New Age bandits who listen to self-help podcasts and take care of their CO2-Make a sign, but don’t worry about leaving bloody marks – especially on the faces of others.

Of course, once you have established Saints by taking over the church, the game is to control the territory. You have access to the planning table in your hideout and choose where to build corporations that serve as cover for your operations. You decide where what to do. From insurance scams to toxic waste dumps, there’s everything to be unlocked. Each option opens up a series of side hiccups for you to get involved in – from the ingeniously named chop pick-up where you steal things with a helicopter, to insurance scams where you purposely throw yourself into traffic jams. Yes, the best side missions from classic Saints Row are back. There are also activities on the gaming phone like the Wanted app to track down criminals if you feel like some action.

Speed, speed, speed!

Execution in Saints Row.

Execute enemies with the press of a button.

As with its predecessors, combat is about running and shooting. There is no contextual coverage system here. However, there is a dedicated kick button, brutal contextual executions, and more environmental threats than a children’s room after a nightly Lego session. While you can aim and shoot things like explosive barrels, you can do so with the press of a button, setting the action at breakneck pace. For example, in the Pineapple Express action, you stuff a grenade into your opponent’s pants and then throw it at his buddies.

Saints Row is about keeping the pace. When you get in the car, you throw your legs out the window and eject the driver. Once you get out of the vehicle, the vehicle literally spits you out. If you accept a car theft job for a local repair shop, each car you need to rob will be marked on the map. It’s practically the opposite of Rockstar’s pursuit of realism where every drawer has to be opened in real time when you rob a house. It’s refreshing to play something so truly old school.

A battle on four wheels

“Regarding the movement mechanics of our game, we definitely wanted it to be fun,” explains lead designer Damien Allen. “You can hop in a vehicle, jump on a roof, jump into a winged suit and fly before landing on another vehicle.”

The only thing that slows down Saints Row a bit is the steering of the vehicle, which is a bit like steering a three-wheeled shopping cart. About the ice rink. Drunk. This is intended by the developers, but is not as satisfying as other open-world games.

“We tend to have a more agile feel for the driving mechanics,” says Allen.

In other words, it’s more of a “ridge racer” than a “gran turismo” – long drifts and stupid jumps dominate the handling. Collisions lead to fireballs in the rear view mirror, side ram to rollover. There is even a dedicated button that allows you to push another vehicle aside.

Tanks in Saints Row.

In addition to the cars that look like tanks, you can also drive the Titans of Steel by yourself.

“The sidewipe mechanics are something you can theoretically [ohne einen speziellen Knopf] could do, ”explains Allen. “You can hit another vehicle sideways and spin it. However, we wanted to make it easier for the player to fight in vehicles without having to rotate the camera, aim behind him and do all these technical things. You can still flip the camera over and fire out the window if you want. But we looked for sharp edges and tried to smooth them.

You might as well drive a tank, regardless of the vehicle you’re using – these are hard destructive bullets.

Saints Row itself is also a bit of a destructive ball. It is a game of constantly moving forward.

Even a jumpsuit with wings does its job. You can run down the street, jump on the roof of your car, then use the jump suit, land on another car and kidnap it. As you improve your skills, you can even use enemies and pedestrians as launchers to keep your momentum going. There are many more possibilities in co-op mode. It’s a clean sandbox.

It’s only logical that the game could go crazy, and so did the missions themselves. It’s a delicate balance as the series lost quite a lot of users as it started dealing with alien invasions and beating hell, but from what we’ve seen so far, it seems to be Saints Row has struck the right balance. Not a single jump over the skyscraper in sight. Wingsuits are much more civilized than legs with strong legs. We’ll see if it lands when it arrives on August 23, 2022.

Kirk McKeand (GLHF) interviewed Damien Allen for COMPUTER BILD.

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