Saints Row Review – 8 Months On (PlayStation 5)
With the impending launch of Deep Silver’s next big title, Dead Island 2, and that it’s nearly 8 months to the day since Saints Row launched, I thought it a good time to revisit Saints Row and see what state the game is in today and give it a fresh look.
Since its acrimonious launch last year, credit must be given to the developers and publishers because they’ve stuck by it and have continued to work on the title. We see it all too often when a game’s poor launch consigns it to the virtual gallows before it’s even received a first proper update or any new content – looking at you F1 Manager 2022!
So…onwards. Let’s see what Saints Row is like today, April 2023, after 8 months of post-launch development and new content.
Introducing Saints Row
Saints Row is an action-adventure, open-world video game developed by Volition and published by Deep Silver, released in August of 2022. Set in the fictional city of Santo Ileso, the game puts players in control of a customizable character, as they establish a criminal empire, engage in combat, and complete missions.
The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X versions offer enhanced graphics, faster load times, and a seamless gaming experience compared to last-generation PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions.
A Rocky Launch
Saints Row experienced a rocky launch, with players encountering numerous issues that affected the overall gaming experience. The performance problems included inconsistent frame rates, which led to an unstable and sometimes unresponsive experience, particularly during high-action sequences. This impacted the gameplay flow and made certain segments of the game less enjoyable.
Bugs were another significant issue at launch. Players reported game crashes, forcing them to restart their consoles or lose progress. Others encountered AI inconsistencies, with non-playable characters (NPCs) acting erratically or not responding as expected, making missions and interactions less immersive.
Mission glitches were common, with some missions failing to trigger events or update objectives properly, leaving players confused and unable to progress through the story. Players sometimes had to restart missions multiple times to bypass these issues.
Moreover, the game received mixed reactions from the fanbase and critics alike. People’s criticisms included things such as the character designs, feeling that they lacked the charm and uniqueness of the previous titles in the series. Others were disappointed with the overall tone of the game, which leaned more towards a grounded and realistic approach, as opposed to the over-the-top, outrageous style that characterised earlier Saints Row games.
The departure from the franchise’s earlier style drew criticism. The game’s developers aimed for a fresh start by introducing a new city, characters, and storylines, but long-time fans felt that it strayed too far from the elements that made the series popular in the first place. As a result, the reception was polarising, with some players enjoying the new direction while others lamented the loss of the franchise’s signature charm and humour.
Despite these issues, the devs have worked diligently to address the problems through patches and updates, improving the game’s stability, performance, and overall experience for players – so, let’s find out if all that work has been worth it.
Saints Row in 2023 – 8 Months After Launch
Since its difficult beginnings, Saints Row has been well supported by the development team with continuous development and bug fixes.
Beyond the numerous content packs released, the graphical glitches and other annoying bugs that plagued the game and infuriated the player base have been – as far as I can tell – resolved.
You just have to take a look at the Saints Row patch notes hub page to see that there has been a lot of work done to get the game into a workable state. It’s fair to say that Saints Row really could have done with a few more months of work prior to being released in August 2023. But, as is the way with modern game releases, external pressures forced its release before it was really ready.
Playing Saints Row on PlayStation 5, the game runs smoothly and glitch-free. If it launched in its current state, I feel that the reviews would have been far more positive as the focus would have been on what a fun game it is rather than the dire state players found it in when firing Saints Row up for the first time.
So, I can say with confidence that the technical aspect of Saints Row is now solid. It runs perfectly and the long list of major and minor bugs is resolved.
There are still a few annoying glitches but they don’t impact the performance or playability of the game. For example, I noticed when picking up C4 from a resupply that despite being full, I could continue to pick up but the count didn’t increase. Normally, you’d expect the prompt to switch from “Pick Up” to “Max Amount Picked Up”…or similar.
A more noticeable – and ideally fixed issue – is a graphical issue when drifting a vehicle. There’s this weird ghosting coming off the vehicle’s panels. I don’t know if it’s an intended effect, but if it is it’s a poor one and should be removed or the issue resolved.
These are very, very minor technical complaints though, and do not detract from the overall quality and enjoyability of the game.
But, what about the game in general? How is it to play in terms of content and general enjoyment?
One of the major complaints at launch was that the open-world element felt inadequate. The “world” felt empty. The city was desolate, one-dimensional and flat.
This is still true. If you’re looking for a new open-world game to rival the likes of GTA V or Red Dead Redemption 2, this is not the game for you. Ignoring the general lack of dynamic NPC activity when strolling down the pavement, the characters that are out and about look like zombies. They’re all animated in the same way, all walking slowly, vacantly down the pavement.
Personally, Saints Row would have been better if it had been made in the style of Dead Island 2. In my opinion, the developers would have made a better game if they had focused on the story and not tried to make an open-world title. Saints Row, honestly, doesn’t need to be open-world and even though it is, doesn’t do it very well. And, the reason I mention this, is that the amount of time spent “building” that world could have been spent on getting the game in perfect shape pre-launch.
The campaign could have been expanded upon so the elements that feel somewhat cut back could have been fleshed out. I can’t help but think that due to the amount of work required and the technical issues in the run-up to launch, elements of the game were sacrificed or paired back to get them in a working state for launch.
Saints Row in 2023 – To Buy or Not to Buy
Onto the verdict – is Saints Row worth the money now? In my opinion, yes…absolutely.
Saints Row has always been one of those titles that’s meant to be good fun. And, it is. Yes, it’s got some general design or creative direction issues, but now the playability issues are resolved and it’s a little cheaper than at launch, it’s worth the money and a good buy.
It’s become a theme with games made for last-gen and new-gen, that they’re held back a bit and can look lacking. What I hope is that this is not the end of the Saints Row franchise and there’s a new title in the next few years that learns from this iteration and builds a properly new-gen game.
And for now, the development team aren’t slowing down. There are major content updates and upgrades on the way so there’s plenty of life left in Saints Row yet.