Saints Row preview (Gamescom)

One of the big announcements during Gamescom is the upcoming reboot of the Saints Row franchise. We got an early look at it, and here’s what we learned.

What we know

As was just revealed, Deep Silver is rebooting the Saint’s Row franchise and longtime franchise developer Volition is back at the helm for this one, simply titled Saints Row. It’s going to be released for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One, and will be an Epic store exclusive on PC.

The reboot takes place in Santo Ileso, which is a fictional location based on the American Southwest – influenced by gambling towns like Vegas and Reno and the many diverse and unique sights alongside Route 66. Here, you and your friends are looking to make a name for yourselves by venturing into crime – which is looking like a solid career path in terms of the potential rewards. While your three friends are Neenah, Kevin and Eli, you’re simply “the Boss”, and you can create a character to your own liking using the game’s character creation suite. Once you do that, you’re off to build your criminal empire with the kind of energy that youngsters usually pour into something like a startup company.

Santo Ileso promises to be the biggest Saints Row location yet, featuring the ability to manage side hustles as part of your enterprise. You can also jump in and out of the game’s co-op mode at any given time as you tackle this open world action adventure together.

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What we saw

This is part of why we’re glad the proverbial cat’s out of the bag now – we first learned about the Saints Row reboot at the start of August, so it’s been a challenge keeping our excitement contained until now. Soon afterwards, we met (digitally) with the team at Deep Silver Volition for a preview of the game, during which we were shown a lengthy demo featuring various parts of the game and had the chance for a Q&A session afterwards.

The demo itself was of the hands-off variety and contained pre-recorded rather than live gameplay, but featured 20 to 30 minutes worth of footage.

What we thought

The Saints Row reboot was definitely one of the bigger game announcements of Gamescom Opening Night Live, and an interesting one for a number of reasons – most of which have a lot to do with the fact that it’s a reboot rather than a Saints Row V, re-imagining the franchise while at the same time staying true to its roots.

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The fact that Volition went this route is an understandable one too. They went all out to the far reaches of the crazy universe with Saints Row 4 and its DLC addons, even venturing into space in their attempts to go bolder, crazier and more over the top. In their own words, “where do you go from there?”, and they have a point. Trying to go even further beyond what they had already would have been unwise, as some of the DLC content for the fourth game already felt like a caricature of what the game stands for. With a reboot, they’re taking a step back and returning to the essence of what Saints Row stands for – tons of weapons, vehicles and crime, with a sprinkling of insanity and over the top humor on top.

What was missing from the demo, from our perspective, was some live gameplay to show how everything will meld together – as we were instead shown video fragments highlighting different gameplay types that will appear in the game. Fine for an initial reveal, but it also leaves us with questions. What will managing your side hustles be like, for instance? We’ve seen a similar mechanic in Mafia 3, so we’re wondering how Volition will handle that aspect.

The developer also promises plenty of signature Saints Row moments that are pretty over the top even though they’ve dialed things back from the previous game, and there should even be a few easter eggs in there for longtime fans. We can’t wait to go hands on with this, and hopefully we can do that before the game launches early next year.

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