I love the Saints Row franchise, so much so that I did a retrospective on the whole thing a while back. I know it’s stupid, but sometimes you just need a bit of stupid in your life. The last full game was Saints Row IV from 2013. A spin-off or two aside, there hasn’t been a ‘proper Saints Row game for almost a decade.
Rumours of a new SR game have been circulating for a while now. A couple of years ago and the developer, Deep Silver Volition, confirmed that a new game was already in development. We SR fans rejoiced… and then it went rather quiet. No news, no updates and some even suggested that the game had been canned. Of course, after the announcement of the game, the world turned to shit with the whole covid pandemic shutting everything down for a while. It affected everything from toilet roll purchasing to game development.
Things began to get back to ‘normal’ and Volition assured fans that Saints Row V was still on the way. We rejoiced once more. Then, just a few days ago and after a few teasers about a reboot, the first trailer for the game was released… and feedback has not been kind.
It just looks very generic, very safe, very… not very Saints Row at all. I’ve watched the trailer several times over the last few days and to say I’m disappointed is a vast understatement. Honestly, I was hoping that, at the end of that trailer, the real Saints would show up and kill the fake Saints. Look, I know it’s just a trailer and there’s still a ways to go until the new game is released next year. Even so, I just can’t get excited about this game at all. Just as a quick comparison, here’s the reveal trailer for Saints Row III.
You can really see a major difference between those two trailers. One is crammed full of fun, character and personality. The other is the trailer for the reboot. I still remember the first time I saw that trailer for SR III, it excited me, it made me want to play the game without seeing any gameplay. I’ve watched the trailer for the new game several times now and all I have is a question… why? I’ve been trying to put into words why I’m feeling disappointed with how the new Saints Row looks and that’s exactly what this article is all about. My complaints aren’t going the ‘woke’ route. I’m not going to blame the devs for selling out and pandering to a more ‘sensitive’ world. But I am going to blame them for being too safe and uncreative.
Let’s just take a quick look at the reason why Saints Row existed, to begin with. Grand Theft Auto was hardly realistic… ever, I feel that perhaps ‘grounded’ is a better word to use. GTA could still be a little OTT at times and definitely had some audacious characters… but you never felt that any of them would become the POTUS after trying to disarm a nuclear missile, to then get kidnapped by attacking aliens and trapped in a 1950s sit-com/simulation of the world… and so on, did you? SR may have started out as a ‘GTA clone’, but it fast evolved into its own thing. That wackiness of Saints Row is what made Saints Row what it was and helped it stand out from all the other GTA clones that were sprouting up at the time. Even going back to the first game where (SPOILERS) my character was dressed in a bright purple pimp suit, armed with a pimp-cane/shotgun was blown up on a yacht owned by the mayor played by The Kurgan from Highlander. These games stood out.
Saints Row has always been… different. The franchise always strived and pushed just what you could do with the open-world genre, they were always creative. Yes, as the games continued, they got more and more… ‘different’. Let’s be honest, they got downright ‘effing insane. Saints Row II has always been my favourite of the franchise. But Saints Row III’s pushing of the crazy made it immense fun to play.
I’ll happily admit that the lunacy of Saints Row IV needed to be dialled back a tad and of all the main games, it was my least favourite. In fact, I’ve always seen the game as a double-edged sword. I think Saints Row IV had some of the best and most clever writing of not just any SR game, but any game ever. It became not just a parody of Saint Row but the open-world genre as a whole. The game was chock-full of really clever in-jokes and references. Shit that a gaming and film nerd could really get excited about. I mean, having Roddy Piper and Keith David in the game as themselves and heavily referencing a certain film was genius.
However, the ending of SR IV really blew open the doors to creativity. For those that don’t remember the short version is that the world had been destroyed and you became ruler of the universe…. oh and also discovered time travel. Seriously, time travel and Saints Row was one of the best pairings since Cheech Marin met Tommy Chong. Time travel man, that’s a door that could give the Saints pretty much unlimited stories and scope. I mean, a friend said how the Saints could be riding dinosaurs while trying to kill Hitler. They could go even crazier than in Saints Row IV and turn up the dial from eleven to twelve.
Still, even if they wanted to reboot, they could’ve done so using the time travel angle. I mean, why not have the Saints go back to the ending of Saints Row II and create an alternate timeline? It could’ve avoided just how insane the game became but still kept its style and tone (and the characters) that the fans love so much. Now, there will be those that will point out a plot hole with changing the course of events, as the Saints don’t become world-famous, Zinyak doesn’t invade and the Saints can’t discover time travel to go back in the first place. Yeah, that is if you use the grandfather paradox theory of time travel. Time travel doesn’t exist, so you can make up your own rules.
Going back in time could (as I suggested) create an alternate timeline. The original timeline still happens in that reality, but now there’s a new timeline where the Saints have changed the past. See time travel, it has endless possibilities. Instead, it looks like we’re getting generic open-world shooter number 478 with insipid, bland characters instead of a new Saints Row game.
Saints Row added a layer of silliness to gaming that few developers dare to push… and we need that because AAA gaming is just becoming way too serious and straight-laced. This new Saints Row game just looks like every other open-world game on the market now, it doesn’t have its own distinct personality. You could’ve given that new trailer a few edits and told me it was the new map/season for Fortnite and I would’ve believed you.