Last month, developer Volition provided us with a playable build of the new Saints Row. I was able to access a few story missions and side activities as well as the entire Santo Ileso map. Volition encouraged me drive, glide and wreck havoc to my heart’s content. That’s what I did. Although the game’s content is still in development, I was able understand the early stages of the game and its potential.
During the super-powered trip that was Saints Row IV, cars were rendered nearly useless when you had the option to Super Sprint and Jump around Steelport. These powers are not available in this Saints Row reboot. You’ll either be hoofing it, or stealing random cars from the streets to get around. Saints Row has a completely reworked driving experience. This brings a new weight to driving, and shifts the focus from gunfights and drivebys to using cars as weapons.
In an early story mission (which you can read about in our Saints Row cover story), I learned all about two key features of this new driving model. The first is the ability to move your car around by pressing a button. This allows you to punch with your car to inflict damage on other racers or to run them off the road. Another is a new drift that turns your car into an upside-down slide, while the camera tilts and zooms in for additional effect.
Drifting in Saints Row feels very much like a Mario Kart drift, and that’s high praise. You can drift with any vehicle. Your car will be set at a predetermined angle during the slide. The analog stick allows you to adjust the car’s position when you come out of the turn. You don’t have to worry about the ebrake being applied too often, having your tail-end whip out of control, or losing speed during the maneuver. It’s clear that the e-brake is designed to keep you going and not hinder your enjoyment. It was just fun to drift around at every turn, regardless of how fast or slow it was.
Playing as the very capable protagonist known as The Boss, you’re able to get on top of your vehicles, even while moving. On the roof, you have a full 360-degree vantage to take out any pesky local gang members from the Los Pantheros or Idols factions you may be locked in battle with. The new wingsuit allows you to fly high in the air. If your car is fast enough, you can leap off the roof to soar through the air and get away. Or, you can land on another set to use as your own.
Wingsuiting around Santo Ileso like a deadly and maniacal flying squirrel is exhilarating and some of the most fun I had with Saints Row. The highest structures, such as an office building, or the hills and mountains surrounding Santo Ileso, can be used to launch a glide. You can also find spots on the map that have mechanisms that will lift you into the air. No skyscrapers are required. Although it can be difficult to find a spot where you can fly, I enjoy the fact that this reinforces ground traversal and your dependence on driving for most trips around Santo Ileso’s areas.
Utilizing the wingsuit is a great way to make it across short spans of the city quickly. You’re still at the mercy gravity but diving to increase speed and pulling up to gain altitude can help extend your flight time. It’s amazing how fast you can fly and how much control you have. It’d be likened to the Super Mario World cape and Batman’s gliding skills from Arkham City.
From my time with Saints Row, the shooting felt the most mundane. A range of assault weapons, pistols and rocket launchers were available to us. They all performed as you would expect in a Saints Row video game. I was unable to access some of the more advanced weaponry promised by this developer while I was attempting criminal acts around Santo Ileso. Nonetheless, I was able to use rocket-powered explosives as well as lesser ballistics to defeat any obstacle in my path.
Outside of the gameplay, a question in the gaming community is whether it feels like past Saints Rows. Volition stated that they wanted to create a tone between Saint Row 2 & Saint Row 3 and I have found it to be true from what I’ve seen. The writing and the humor seem to be in the same league. You can see a lot of s–t-talking and cussing. After all, you are part of a group that aims to create a crime syndicate.
This core group of Saints is new, and you get to meet and become friends with them. This is a great part of previous entries. I look forward to taking on the world together with Neenah, Eli, and Kevin. They complement each other well. I have seen enough to know where there may be conflicts, but I also feel they are riding or dying for their fellow Saints. I am ready to join them in taking over Santo Ileso and witness the destruction and calamity that they cause.
Be sure to check out all of our Saints Row coverage throughout the month like our Rapid-Fire Interview with Jeremy Bernstein, Lead Mission Narrative Designer. All information can be found at our cover story hub. Click the banner below to access it.
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