The Saints have undergone changes in their upcoming reboot, which is simply titled saints row. Not only have the game removed all the numbers or subtitles, but the absurdity has also been cut down a bit. However, this does not mean that it does not exist; just below the previously set absurd game maximum of dildo bat simulation and literally flying through hell. Judging from early gameplay, this slightly toned down approach still feels silly enough to work.
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People usually don’t question weirdness saints row game, but some were after the reboot. The game’s official Twitter account even shot back to those who are unhappy with the new direction, saying that Volition is not backing down. The younger and more modern team radiated a different vibe, with some suggesting that this meant more down to earth and less eccentric.
However, it doesn’t seem to track at all when you see the game in action for an extended period of time. A recent 45-minute demo of Volition contained some wacky moments that reminded me of the old Saints. The writing still leaves a lot to be desired, as it seemed to have the structure and rhythm of comedy without any strong punch lines, which is disappointing. However, more silly bits pop up as you play.
For example, players can gain height by hovering in the new wingsuit while dive-bombing pedestrians. It makes absolutely no sense, but it’s fun to see and gives the game a more dynamic and skill-based way of getting around. Using an ejection seat from a car to then slide and crash into random civilians seems as silly as it is funny. The new Thrustbuster isn’t meant to be moved, but is a football weapon that sticks to enemies (and vehicles, presumably) and pushes them through the air at high speeds, resulting in ragdoll-infused comedy. This is combined with other weaponry such as a piñata launcher and a force field that allows players to shoot through walls. There are likely more outlandish weapons (and tools, judging by the hoverboard in the screenshot above), but the examples shown off by Volition seemed to be just what the series needed: weird but effective gadgets.
The missions seem to reflect this tone. One of them had a bar fight where Volition was able to show off a few over the top close-quarters moves like a fiery Falcon Strike and an attack that slaps a grenade at an enemy and tosses them up like an explosive sack of potatoes. This then naturally led to a section where The Boss is dragging a portable pot with an enemy inside, using a compartmented toilet as a filth-filled destruction ball and interrogation device. And, having received the necessary information, the player descends to the party from above and blows up everyone in the mansion in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of one of the most famous Saints Row third missions. It’s a varied quest (admittedly filled with a set of fairly standard shooting and driving mechanics), and the game would win if all 25 on the critical path were just as layered and weird.
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Lead writer Jeremy Bernstein talked about how the team approached the absurd without going too far for it. He said it was important to keep it grounded, however ridiculous it might be.
“For me, what holds something to the ground is the emotional reality of it. It doesn’t matter how absurd a thing is as long as there’s an emotional truth behind it,» Bernstein explained, before turning directly to the aforementioned portable pot section.
“This mission, in which the idols are going to kill Kevin, is serious, it seems serious to the Boss and it seems serious to you. What you do to save him, like headbutting a guy through a jukebox or dragging him in a portable pot, is absurd, but the emotionality behind it is very real. It gives you great balance when doing absurd things, but it’s important. Absurdism for the sake of absurdity where it seems fluffy and felt where it means nothing. We have worked hard to avoid this. Even the most absurd things you do in the game have a grounding to them.»
It can feel like jumping back and forth between mundane cutscenes and moments where the player is dragging a man in a container filled with his own poop can feel like too much. Creative director Brian Trafficante explained how the team tried to carefully balance the way they performed these different tones, the flexibility given to them by the IP itself.
«One of the challenges saints row is that you can really do anything,” explained Trafficante. “It has so many different tones, like humor or dramatic moments. And what we’ve really come to is understanding exactly where we want to be and the frequency and placement of things.»
It is these aspects that make Saints Row Saints Row, but this reload seems to borrow from the more general open world template as well. It has a large land mass filled with icons and a map screen that looked pretty similar to the one in the previous version. The Saints games that are now about ten years old. Some actions – such as Mayhem – are exactly the same and seem to be part of a fairly typical territory capture cycle.
This traditional open world style of clearing maps can be enjoyable, especially if the core mechanics look as solid as they do here, but it’s been done quite a bit over the past few years. saints row it doesn’t look like it’s trying to innovate in any way and is trying to be just a safe release of a coveted franchise. When asked what sets this game apart from its open-world competitors, Traficante mentioned its setting and large map. The extensive customization only seems to add to its spice, but bragging about the size of the map is exactly what many other developers do, and also where their games tend to pull. It remains to be seen if the game can handle its size without feeling bloated like other games.
Much of the game as a whole is yet to be seen as it’s still three months away and apparently has a lot to show but saints row still pretty promising. Many elements in the game are reminiscent of what saints row were, but covered with a fresh coat of paint. This time the paint may not be purple, but purple enough where needed.