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Saints Row 2022 isn’t the Saints Row you remember – and that’s fine

Move over Saints Row 4, Saints Row: The Third, Gat Out of Hell and all the other mad-cap games in the series – this is a reset that's actually worth it.

Saints Row has got a long and chequered history. We’ve come a long way from the the 3rd Street Saints and Volition’s fairly detached view of gangland violence back in 2006. Perhaps because the developers at the studio got sick of its games being labelled ‘GTA clones’ or perhaps because the market was shifting quite significantly into the 2010s, Saints Row – as a series – mutated quite a lot from its original vision until its hiatus in 2013.

And perhaps that was for the best; ending the series with your main character being elected President of the United States after foiling a terrorist attack, defending the earth from an alien invasion, and then being planted into a simulated world seemed like good call (but not before having him learn the true meaning of Christmas, and go to hell, of course).

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With Saints Row 2022, things couldn’t be more different. This game – a complete reboot of the series – sort-of goes back to the roots of it all; you’re a young upstart gang member, disillusioned with gangland life, and eager to set up your own crew to break up the status quo. To that end, you recruit members of each of hometown Santo Ileso’s three main controlling factions: the gym bros of Los Panteros, the anarchist Idols, and the private military contractors of Marshall Defense Industries.

The Boss fires an assault rifle from the roof of a car in Saints Row
There's more of a focus on driving this time.

You’ll need to battle through nine districts throughout the city, with the aim of wresting control from each and claiming them in the name of The Saints. You can take over vacant lots in each district (there’s a Vegas one, a rural one, a suburban one, an industrial one, and so on) and set up illegitimate businesses for your side hustles once you’re in control of them.

As good as all this gang management stuff sounds, it wouldn’t be a sandbox game without driving and gunplay though, would it? The driving has been overhauled completely since the previous games in the series – thank God – to try and get you to put more stock in vehicular destruction, and make you take to the roads more instead of using, say, jetpacks.

As you can see in the video above, the gunplay speaks for itself – the weapon wheel from GTA makes a return, but the actual act of cocking, aiming, and shooting seems more refined than Rockstar’s unstoppable sales behemoth.

Don't worry, customisation is back.

This is a game, then, that is looking not to other gaming series for its inspiration, but instead to the world of films: Volition staff have outright referenced the snappy, shard vehicular movement of Baby Driver, the impactful, hand-to-hand combat of John Wick, and the over-the-top action of Hobbs & Shaw as direct influences on the title.

With more RPG elements (yes, really), some zany abilities, and a level of action that’d look a tad too much even in a Nicholas Cage flick (again, watch the video for a breakdown of all this stuff), Saints Row 2022 seems like a game keen to drop the excesses of its past, but keep that curious, there’s-nothing-else-quite-like-it flavour that made the series so popular in the first place.

It’s a brave new reinvention for the series, then. Just don’t call it a GTA clone.

As of a delay announced in November 2021, Saints Row will be released August 23 on PC via Epic Games Store, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

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