Few games or sagas can boast of the same, but ‘Saints Row’ peaked a few years ago. Top of excesses, of nonsense, of possibilities before the player. Since its second installment, in 2008, Volition introduced in what was born as a sandbox criminal in the purest ‘GTA’ style with a very special sense of humor. As it was what gave it a unique personality, they stepped on the accelerator in the following installments.
The third part, for example, was an absolutely runaway ‘GTA’: the codes of this type of game (taking over areas of the city by defeating rival gangs, myriad secondary missions) raised the bar thanks to thunderous weapons and vehicles (the unforgettable purple dildo, the lunar jeeps). The fourth game sent us to the White House to face an alien invasion, in a title that directly gave us powers and was closer to the fever of the time for superheroic sandboxes, such as ‘Infamous’, ‘Arkham’ or ‘Prototype ‘.
That’s why, it is curious that Volition has decided to renew the game by returning it to its originsThat is, turning it back into a title that drinks heavily from ‘GTA’ and its portrayal of a mindundi who wants to become a kingpin of organized crime. Luckily, that purpose didn’t just come out of nowhere, and from what we’ve been able to see in a few hours’ session with the game, the studio hasn’t just turned the system off and on again. First, he knows that humor has become a necessary hallmark for the series (little more needs to be added on that subject: it is there and it works, if you are interested in gross and incorrect jokes). Second, he knows that you have to take care of the technical sections beyond presenting a huge playing field.
Be the saint you want
One of the indisputable attractions of this ‘Saints Row’ is the extreme ability to create a character entirely to our liking. The usual options of hairstyle, size, gender, voice and limited clothing possibilities that increase exponentially to infinity are part of the appeal of the game, both generating an avatar that looks like the player and the opposite. These changes can be reversed at any time thanks to an app that our protagonist has on his mobile.
This is an interesting incentive, but something old-fashioned: video games have long reached a certain ceiling with this type of instrument, and in the end creating hideous Frankenstein’s monsters is fun, but it has a limited scope. Luckily, the game allows you to start from a series of pre-designed typologies that can be easily and quickly modified. In short, it is a fun aspect of the proposal, but far from the most attractive.
However, what Saints Row has experienced is a readjustment of its action and driving mechanics. Vehicles feel firm and heavy, and a simple cornering drift system lets you start driving at high speeds pretty much from the start, on a heist mission from the main campaign. Of course, the open world is at our disposal and we can start getting on any vehicle from minute one. Volition has also done a good job of giving cars, trucks, motorcycles, and more very distinctive weights, speeds, and handling quirks.
the relative surprise comes, in this section of “old mechanics, new sensations” with the sections of action with weapons: ‘Saints Row’ seems to give considerable importance to this section and places a long section of confrontation with shooting and persecution as soon as the story mode begins, with our / our protagonist as part of a private security force that controls the city of Santo Unscathed. The action with weapons is indeed a leap from previous deliveries, softer and less precise.
Here are the action sequences (with all the limitations that you want to put on a title that, in addition to managing this type of mechanics, has to accommodate literally hundreds more, that is, it is not a ‘DOOM’ that can be allowed polishing his ideas to exhaustion to make a good shooting game) are excellently executed, with good ideas such as the kick to distance enemies or the bloody executions. They improve notably, without going any further, to ‘Saints Row IV’ itself, hilarious in its nonsense but technically fairer.
Otherwise, these first few hours of gameplay present an open world to explore and terrorize, and it is appreciated that Volition knows what we are coming for from moment one. There is no slow discovery of mechanics and secrets, but in just one hour of play we already have, for example, a mobile phone full of apps that will help us improve the character in different aspects, from skills applicable to combat and driving trees of skills that we can place on the crosshead to shoot them at any time.
the house of shells
In fact, mobile is not a new idea (we already had it in the last ‘GTA’s), but it is remarkable how well it is implemented in the sandbox structure, maybe even better than in ‘GTA V’. Not only can we immediately access, as we have mentioned, the trees of experiences and improvements, as well as changes in appearance -which would be nothing more than a menu on steroids-, but the mobile greatly facilitates the management of missions, which go beyond a main trunk and a bunch of secondary ones.
Here each of the places to visit to activate improvements (weapons, vehicles, wardrobe) have their own missions attached. There are typologies of missions grouped by themes, and there is a whole mobile app, Wanted, to play bounty hunters and earn money. And of course, there are challenges that are more or less heavy, more or less entertaining, to complete in order to obtain prizes that range from the cosmetic to the really useful.
It’s still too early to tell how this will jell into a full quest structure, whether the details will eat up the whole or the main trunk be well defined enough. For now, the mobile helps not to get lost and to put some order in that heap of humorous chaos that is ‘Saints Row’. After the summer we will know if this return to the origins has been a good idea, or if we miss the extreme madness of the last installments.
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