In 2006, developer Volition and publisher THQ launched Saints Row for the Xbox 360, a game clearly inspired by Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series. The original Saints Row was a critical and commercial hit, spawning a franchise of its own. It didn’t take long for the Saints Row sequels to lose sight of what made the original game special, leaning harder into absurdity and abandoning the gang warfare framework in favor of ridiculous storylines involving superpowers, the US presidency, and Hell. The new Saints Row tries to take the series back to its roots and even though it once again features a gang warfare storyline, it still fails to live up to the original.
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The new Saints Row starts off by letting players customize the player character, The Boss. The Saints Row franchise’s character customization options have always been impressive, and it’s no different in the new game. Saints Row character customization lets players tweak nearly every aspect of their character, giving them complete freedom when it comes to making their own version of The Boss. After settling on the player character’s appearance, they can select from a variety of hilarious emotes, including one that’s a reference to FromSoftware’s Dark Souls series and another that lets them walk like a penguin. When players have finished making their Boss, they are thrust into the game’s first mission, and that’s where its bigger problems immediately come to light.
Right off the bat it’s obvious that Saints Row is a janky, ugly game, and the first mission makes that fact readily apparent. The pop-in issues are frequent and distracting, with objects and vehicles seemingly appearing out of nowhere. To make matters worse, Saints Row uses a mostly brown color scheme, and in general the game often looks like it’s lagging a generation behind other modern titles.
Saints Row’s shooting also feels completely off. Players can be standing right next to an enemy, clearly shooting…