It's already been such a jam-packed and exciting year for games, with the biggest games of the year yet to come - and fortunately for us, the exciting to reboot of the Saints Row franchise is just on the horizon!
Now, before we get set to explore the new world of Saints Row and see everything that Santo Ileso has to offer, it might be a good idea to get a bit of a refresher on the franchise and what to expect before the newest entry in the franchise releases on August 23rd!
With development beginning all the way back in 2003, the original Saints Row launched in 2006 for the PlayStation 2 and XBox 360 console generation - and was one of the most impressive open world "sandbox" games for the seventh generation consoles. The game is set in the fictional town of Stilwater, we follow the player-made custom character as they join the 3rd Street Saints gang and help take control of the titular Saint's Row district in the city. You complete a variety of missions throughout the city to battle against, and weaken, the Vice Kings, Los Carnales, and Westside Rollerz.
It's this premise that is built upon for future entries in the series as well - many of the in-game mechanics persist and are iterated upon in each new title, from the in-game mobile phone navigation, GPS, in-depth character and vehicle customization, and more.
Obviously I don't want to spoil too much about the previous entries, in case people haven't seen it or want to go back and play, but essentially the culmination of the first game sees you taking control of Saint's Row for the 3rd Street Saints, and Saints Row 2 picks up about 5 years after the fact, with you (now called the "Boss") waking up from a coma to discover that your gang has struggled in your absence, and three new gangs have taken hold of your territory (the Ronin, Brotherhood, and Sons of Samedi - and later the corrupt organization the Ultor Corporation).
Saints Row 2 does a great job of expanding on the previously established lore, area, characters, etc, while improving the in-game systems that worked so well in the first entry. In fact, the developers were so confident in the success of their game that Saints Row 2 began developing in 2006 before the original had even fully released on consoles.
Much like with Saints Row 2, the 3rd entry in the very successful franchise began development a month before the sequel had even fully released - the support and confidence in Saints Row only seemed to grow as the series went on.
Saints Row: The Third brought along much of what made the first two games so popular and successful - we're facing off against three new warring gangs, we've got our weapon wheel full of impressive tools of destruction to face off against our foes with, and so much more. But this time around they incorporated some new nuggets that sets the third game apart from its predecessors. First off, the structure of the game and missions has a bit more guidance and direction, with the main story requiring quests being played out in certain orders, but it also starts to include a lot more choice and player agency in the story, even featuring multiple endings to chase after.
The biggest departure for the series, however, is likely the tonal changes that start to take root in the 3rd title. We see more of an emphasis on wackiness and comedy than the previous games. It makes the game feel decidedly less "realistic", which is definitely a trend that will continue with future entries!
2013's Saints Row IV took what the third game added to the series, and cranked it up big time. The focus on humor and self-awareness continues in this entry, however as we see the Boss five years removed from Saints Row: The Third, we see ourselves elected President of the United States after we stop a terrorist attack - but then alien invaders known as the Zin show up ready to wreak havoc on earth, place the Boss and all his Saints gang members into a simulation (kinda Matrix-y almost?!) at which point you realize you can control the simulation (I know kung-fu?!) and then boom, now you've got superpowers. You subsequently use those super powers to escape the simulation, save your friends, and defeat the Zin.
As you can see... Things take a pretty distinct departure in the 3rd and 4th titles in the Saints Row series, but its a departure that many fans truly loved. And it's only amped up even further in DLCs that have you saving Christmas by rescuing Santa Claus from the Zin simulation, and the Gat out of Hell standalone expansion for Saints Row IV that sees you playing franchise mainstay Johnny Gat as go straight to Hell to save the Boss from Satan himself. Pretty wild stuff... But it's that wacky, slapsticky, totally outrageous power fantasy gameplay that really began to be the sticking point for the sandbox Saints Row titles.
As the Saints Row series continued to get more wacky and chaotic, it became clear to the Volition team (now called Deep Silver Volition) that a return-to-form on a bit more of the realism was something they wanted to revisit and explore. So while we don't know a ton about the new game, it appears to be going back to the roots of Saints Row 1 by dialing back some of the super powers, absurdity, fighting the Devil himself, etc, while still keeping the power fantasy and chaos/destruction we've come to expect from the series.
"We went to Hell. There truly isn't anywhere to go past that," said Chief Creative Officer Jim Boone during a media event for the upcoming reboot. "While we love the mechanics we came up with, all the superpowers and everything, there just isn't a lot of runway to figure out where you're going to go past that. That's why it was a pretty easy decision for us to go back to our roots."
So what we're getting in August is a fresh new look at what a Saints Row can be - with a whole new cast of characters, a new setting, and a new focus on really establishing and building up your massive criminal empire. And let me tell you: based on the videos we've seen so far, including all the epic customization options, it looks like player choice in how you look, and how you respond and interact with the world around you, is as present and impactful as ever!