Exclusive Saints Row Hands-On Impressions
Volition gave us a playable copy of Saints Row last month. I had access to a handful of story missions, some side activities, and the entirety of the Santo Ileso map to explore. Volition encouraged me to drive, glide, and wreak havoc to my hearts’ content. So, that’s exactly what I did. While the content is still very much in development, I was able to understand how the game is shaping up in its early state, and it’s looking good so far.
Cars were almost useless during the Super Sprint or Jump around Steelport super-powered adventure that was Saints Row IV. With this Saints Row reboot, those powers are nowhere in sight, so you’ll be either hoofing it or stealing a random car off the street to get around. Saints Row boasts a totally redesigned driving system that brings new weight and makes it easier to drive. This shifts car fighting from being about guns and drivesbys to the use of the car as a weapon.
It was during an early story mission that I discovered two important features about this new vehicle. The first is the ability of your car to be jolted left and right by pressing a button. This allows you to punch with your car to cause damage or chase down rival drivers. You can also use the cool drift feature to turn your car in a sideways slide, while the camera zooms in and tilts a bit.
Drifting in Saints Row feels very much like a Mario Kart drift, and that’s high praise. No matter the vehicle, drifting will always set your car at a mostly predetermined angle while in the slide, giving you control on the analog stick to adjust your car for ideal positioning when you’re coming out of the turn. There’s no worrying about applying the e-brake too much, having the tail-end of your car whip out too far, or losing too much speed while performing the maneuver. I appreciate that it’s clearly designed to keep you moving and not get in the way of having fun. It was fun to drift around at every turn no matter what speed or how 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. The roof gives you a 360 degree view and allows you to eliminate any Idols and Los Pantheros gang members you are fighting. In the new wingsuit, you can also take off into the sky. If you have the car moving fast enough, you may be able to jump off the roof of your vehicle and fly through the air.
Exhilarating, and one of my favorite activities with Saints Row was wingsuiting in Santo Ileso. A glide can also be started from tall structures such as office buildings or hills around the city, and the roofs of moving cars. You can also find spots on the map that have mechanisms for launching you in the air. No skyscrapers are required. It’s not always easy to find a spot to take flight, but I like how that reinforces the importance of ground traversal and being reliant on driving for most of your trips around Santo Ileso’s districts.
It’s a good way to get across the city in a short time using the wingsuit. While you’re always at the mercy of gravity, diving to pick up speed and pulling up to regain altitude can extend your flight sessions greatly. The feeling of speed, and the control that you feel while flying is something I love. I’d compare it to something between the cape from Super Mario World and Batman’s gliding abilities from Arkham City.
The shooting was the least interesting part of my experience with Saints Row. We had access to a suite of pistols, assault weapons, and rocket launchers, which all perform how you’d expect in a Saints Row game. Some of the wilder weaponry promised by the developer wasn’t available in my time attempting crime around Santo Ileso. Nonetheless, I was able to use rocket-powered explosives as well as lesser ballistics to defeat any obstacle in my path.
Beyond the gameplay itself, the question among the gaming community is whether the experience feels similar to past Saints Rows. Volition has been upfront about wanting to provide a tone somewhere between Saint Row 2 and Saints Row The Third, and from the small segment I’ve played, I’d say it hits that mark. The writing is funny and the humor seems to be in the same league. There’s plenty of cussing, s–t-talking, and other vulgarities which haven’t been present in much of what’s been shown publicly at this point. This is a group that aims to create a criminal syndicate.
The core group is not familiar, but you can meet them and form friendships. It’s one of the best parts of past entries, and I’m looking forward to taking on the world with Eli, Neenah, and Kevin. They complement each other well, and even from the little I’ve seen, I can see where conflicts may arise, but I also get the feeling they’re ride or die for their fellow Saints. I’m ready to take over Santo Ileso with them and be part of the calamity and destruction caused along the way.
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. You can find everything at our cover story hub by clicking on the banner below.
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