Saints Row - Saints Low

FakeSympathy

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PsychedelicDiamond

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I finished it yesterday.

There's something a bit sad about it. With 3 and 4 I got the impression that Volition lost sight of what people liked about the first 2 games, with the new one I got the impression that they fundamentally understood what people enjoyed about the first two SR games, they just failed to replicate it.

And that really gets you thinking, you know? We think of SR2, especially, as a certified hood classic now, but mechanically there wasn't really anything too breathtaking about it. The opposite, if anything. Where GTA's mission design started to go into a more cinematic direction and focus more on one off setpieces, Saints Row firmly held onto driving cars and shooting guns as its main gameplay mechanics. And neither of those were even implemented in an especially sophisticated way.

Briefly I started to wonder whether I remembered SR2 more fondly than it deserved, but whenever I go back to it, I start to realize just how many fun little mechanics, minigames and side activities it had, that none of its sequels, including this one, ever brought back. The ability to pick up pedestrians or enemies and throw them around, the ability to pick up random objects and use them as melee weapons, the side activity that had you spray sewage around, the hostage minigame when you carjacked a car with passengers in it... Saints Row 3 stripped most of the fun from this series, and they never bothered to bring it back.

The new one tries to go back to the basics, but in taking this series back to its roots it actually shoots right past even Saints Row 1 and ends up with something that's basically GTA Vice City without the Scarface references. The premise is as basic as it gets, you're trying to get a criminal enterprise of the ground with some of your mates, so you secure business opportunities, pull jobs and pick fights with the larger gangs that run the city. Simple enough, good enough. In theory. It's effectively the same premise as the first three Saints Row games, doesn't have their structure, though. See, where in SR1 and 2 every individual competing gang had their own series of missions that you could do in any order, this one's all over the place. Whether that makes a difference at the end of the day is debatable, of course, but I do kinda miss the more methodical structure of the early games, where you took out enemy enterprises, all the gangs had their own arcs where the cutscenes after missions occasionally cut to their leadership reacting to what you just did, you know, it all conveyed a sense of progression where the pacing of the new games just feels like it's stuttering along to a pretty abrupt conclusion.

On a fundamental level the gameplay's not too different from the old Saints Row games and, thank god, much less reliant on the janky gimmicks of 3 and 4. We're back to driving and shooting. The driving's functional, essentially, the combat gets pretty old. Most of the game has you fight of waves of enemies with very rudimentary AI and the combat never really acquires much in the way of variety, or challenge. Weapon variety and enemy variety both leave a lot to be desired. Honestly, the most redeeming features SR2022's gameplay has are its absolutely stupid physics. Enemies get hurled around for hundreds of meters when they are caught in an explosion, and so do cars, if you hit them right. That's where a bit of that early PS3 era charm actually comes through.

The actual mission design has its moments of actually trying. It's still the old driving and shooting, but they try to keep the whole context around it fresh occasionally. There's a train robbery, an assault on a caravan, shooting your way through an office building, a prison break... by no means do all the missions feel unique but at least they vary up the locations some. Most of them would have fit just fine in an older Saints Row game. It just doesn't help much that those older Saints Row games were a good bit longer and better paced. What stands out are a series of missions based around a city wide competetive LARP which... well, you know, I didn't find it especially funny when Sunset Overdrive did it either, but at least it's something different. Plus, it has the only exchange in the game that got a smile out of me. "I'm looking for someone to grind with" the protagonists nerdy friend says. "Don't we all?" the protagonist replies. Eh, it worked for me.

On the other hand, you got the businesses you can buy which all open up their own side activities, unfortunately enough the majority of these side activities boil down to some type of collectible hunting. Go somewhere and fetch a specific car. Go somewhere and make a specific photo. Go somewhere and fetch another specific car. Go somewhere and tow a specific car. You get the idea.And, you know, it's not like the game doesn't have a ton of collectibles already. Drug packages, photo opportunities, decorations for your HQ, those weird tourist destinations where you can listen to lore about the city the game's set in, it really wants you to explore the world. Which is something you might not do otherwise, because the games map, the southwestern city of Santa Ileso is, putting it bluntly, a boring desert shithole. Invoking sort of a small, sad version of Las Vegas where there's little to see and little to do.

I don't mean to dedicate too much space to the writing in Saints Row, considering it was never a series with much focus on that, but it's fairly bland all around. Even at its most grounded, in the first two games, it was about cartoon gangsters fighting with cartoon physics in a cartoon city where all the business names are dick jokes, even before SR3 ditched that in favour of very poorly realized comic book camp. But what the earlier games managed to succesfully convey was that it was about ruthless, cuttthroat criminals and the protagonist came out on top of it, mostly on the virtue of being the most ruthless and cutthroat among them. The new SR, while in many ways feeling like an attempt to return to the style of the first two games, really sands off the edges in its own way, though. The Saints, in this game, are represented by a trio of nerdy kids that are fairly bland, mainly on the virtue of having to serve as straight men to the protagonist, who's written as a goofy meathead. On the other side of the ring, your enemy gangs consists of a bog standard latino gang, a group of what I imagine liberals think anarchists are like and a private militia, none of which get a while lot of characterization. Gone are the charismatic leaders and lieutenants of SR1 and 2, what remain are generic mooks.

There are many series that peaked early and then kept lingering around in a state of stagnation or decline, but something about the SR series' weirdly abrupt and weirdly consistent inability to surpass, or even remotely replicate, the level of quality of a 2008 game always made me wonder, you know, what gives? So here's my thesis statement: Saints Row 3 and 4 removed most of what its predecessors had in terms of gameplay and content variety in favour of flashy gimmicks and second rate spoof movie humor. Saints Row 2022 does away with those gimmicks and that humor, but, for the most part, doesn't bother to add the gameplay and content variety back in. What does that leave us with? Something that's less annoying and less padded than the last two SR games, but hardly any more fun. And that's disregarding an abundance of borderline game breaking bugs, like the game getting stuck of loading screens, failing to spawn NPC's or failing to trigger flags in missions that occured regularly enough to chip away at all my good will. By the end I had not much left.
 

CriticalGaming

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@PsychedelicDiamond Good review! I think the takeaway everyone seems to come out of this game with has been consistent in that SR2 was the peak of the series and Volition has been floundering with it ever since. I don't know why they can't seem to get their act together but I'd be shocked if this doesn't shutter the studio entirely tbh.
 

twistedmic

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]The new one tries to go back to the basics, but in taking this series back to its roots it actually shoots right past even Saints Row 1 and ends up with something that's basically GTA Vice City without the Scarface references. The premise is as basic as it gets, you're trying to get a criminal enterprise of the ground with some of your mates, so you secure business opportunities, pull jobs and pick fights with the larger gangs that run the city. Simple enough, good enough. In theory. It's effectively the same premise as the first three Saints Row games, doesn't have their structure, though. See, where in SR1 and 2 every individual competing gang had their own series of missions that you could do in any order, this one's all over the place. Whether that makes a difference at the end of the day is debatable, of course, but I do kinda miss the more methodical structure of the early games, where you took out enemy enterprises, all the gangs had their own arcs where the cutscenes after missions occasionally cut to their leadership reacting to what you just did, you know, it all conveyed a sense of progression where the pacing of the new games just feels like it's stuttering along to a pretty abrupt conclusion.
The more methodical approach definitely help in my opinion. All the little missions and side-activities made you feel like you were chipping away at each gang's foothold. Even the one where you poached rival gang's hos made sense. You were hurting the gang's bottom line (however meagerly) by taking away some of their earnings. You felt like you were actually taking over the city. So far (I haven't finished the game, I've stalled out on the prison break mission) the business ventures and "strongholds/gang activities" don't feel like they have any weight to them. I haven't really noticed much of a change in the game world as I progress. At least in SR1 and 2 you would see a noticeable drop in enemy gang members the further your progressed in each arc.

Even the lack of a Respect meter, and customizable cribs has damaged the feeling of progression. I don't feel as compelled to change clothes, get tattoos or upgrade my jewelry because there's no gain to it. Earning more respect as you got better clothes gave you a solid reason to want to go from wearing Sloppy Seconds rags and dirty sneakers to wearing a customized black and purple Branded suit, with high-end leather boots and platinum jewelry and gave you a sense of moving up in the world.






But what the earlier games managed to succesfully convey was that it was about ruthless, cuttthroat criminals and the protagonist came out on top of it, mostly on the virtue of being the most ruthless and cutthroat among them. The new SR, while in many ways feeling like an attempt to return to the style of the first two games, really sands off the edges in its own way, though. The Saints, in this game, are represented by a trio of nerdy kids that are fairly bland, mainly on the virtue of having to serve as straight men to the protagonist, who's written as a goofy meathead.
That's one of the main issues I have with this game. SR 1Playa and SR2 Boss may not have been a genius, but they were far from stupid or goofy. Playa was a loyal and obedient soldier turned lieutenant and Boss was an absolute monster.
This version of Boss feels like they took SR3 Boss, removed the sex jokes and made them less of a doormat.

On the other side of the ring, your enemy gangs consists of a bog standard latino gang, a group of what I imagine liberals think anarchists are like and a private militia, none of which get a while lot of characterization. Gone are the charismatic leaders and lieutenants of SR1 and 2, what remain are generic mooks.
What's crazy is I killed off about half of the Idols leadership without even realizing that I was taking out their leaders until I saw that I was halfway through completing the challenge to defeat the collective
 

BrawlMan

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Im gonna go play SR3 again.

ARGH no! Damnit, I have to finish FF13!
No pressure. If you skip FFXIII, and its expansions, I will never hold anything against you on not playing/finishing the game. My brother and I couldn't even get pass the first disc!
 

twistedmic

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Am I crazy for SR3 being my favorite game in the series?
Not being judgmental here, just curious, what makes it your favorite?
Was it the first one you played?

Do you feel bad/guilty if you’re mean/evil in a video game?

Or is it more you just prefer the less “vicious, cold-blooded monster crime boss” vibes?
 

CriticalGaming

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No pressure. If you skip FFXIII, and its expansions, I will never hold anything against you on not playing/finishing the game. My brother and I couldn't even get pass the first disc!
At this point i wouldnt forgive myself tbh.

Not being judgmental here, just curious, what makes it your favorite?
Was it the first one you played?

Do you feel bad/guilty if you’re mean/evil in a video game?

Or is it more you just prefer the less “vicious, cold-blooded monster crime boss” vibes?
I loved the over the top take on a GTA game. The humor and the crudeness of the game is something i personally really enjoy and i thought the meta jokes were also good. Not to mention it was just fun to play through. Side hussles were fun and the mini games were great.

I like it because it was something different than another GTA-like game.
 

hanselthecaretaker

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The actual mission design has its moments of actually trying. It's still the old driving and shooting, but they try to keep the whole context around it fresh occasionally. There's a train robbery, an assault on a caravan, shooting your way through an office building, a prison break... by no means do all the missions feel unique but at least they vary up the locations some. Most of them would have fit just fine in an older Saints Row game. It just doesn't help much that those older Saints Row games were a good bit longer and better paced. What stands out are a series of missions based around a city wide competetive LARP which... well, you know, I didn't find it especially funny when Sunset Overdrive did it either, but at least it's something different. Plus, it has the only exchange in the game that got a smile out of me. "I'm looking for someone to grind with" the protagonists nerdy friend says. "Don't we all?" the protagonist replies. Eh, it worked for me.

I’ve only played bits and pieces of the past games (4 mostly) but I must be missing some context behind the grinding (like, 4th wall gameplay type grinding or something more provocative) because it isn’t clicking, even grammatically. Is there a reason they said “don’t” instead of “aren’t”?
 
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Dalisclock

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Am I crazy for SR3 being my favorite game in the series?
No you aren't. I have a fondness for it too, despite the fact the game is a bit uneven. But there's the fact you essentially turn Steelport into a city state run by your gang in the "bad" ending after you blow up the SHIELD STAG Helicarrier, and you just get a lot of fun, ridiculous missions like having an entire entire taken over by zombies that everyone is generally okay with or steeling a military VTOL to fight the same military and it's just kind of awesome.


To be fair, I think SR2 and SR4 are better due to SR3 being uneven but it's still a lot of fun and I still replay it as much as the other two. Normally I start at SR2 and play through SR4 just because.
 
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Gyrobot

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Good, they should not give up on the game just because reactionary Chuds bashed it for not being the classic Saints Row rightfully buried with Takaki's presence in the west.

Blessed be KonradLeijon
 

Dwarvenhobble

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Good, they should not give up on the game just because reactionary Chuds bashed it for not being the classic Saints Row rightfully buried with Takaki's presence in the west.

Blessed be KonradLeijon
I thought you'd hate the idea of them going back to it to try and improve it because it will be working to appease the underground cannibals?

How much it can be fixed though when the story and characters are what turned people off so much I don't know.

I will say based on what I saw of the characters, I've played porn games with better writing, no really.
 

XsjadoBlayde

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Good, they should not give up on the game just because reactionary Chuds bashed it for not being the classic Saints Row rightfully buried with Takaki's presence in the west.

Blessed be KonradLeijon
While those people do undoubtedly exist, (am daily exposing myself to the worst of such humans): it should be considered there's a significant chunk of people who have gotten invested in characters who've had 4 (plus) games to endear themselves to players over many years...the human brain naturally has troubles extracting and compartmentalising the memory of how the first game felt in a vacuum, so the new game with strangers is going to feel alien to many people who won't be part of the worst examples of its' critics, that alongside various other technical issues and other more acclaimed game releases in shared time window just kinda invited more people into the critical fold.
 
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Dwarvenhobble

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While those people do undoubtedly exist, (am daily exposing myself to the worst of such humans): it should be considered there's a significant chunk of people who have gotten invested in characters who've had 4 (plus) games to endear themselves to players over many years...the human brain naturally has troubles extracting and compartmentalising the memory of how the first game felt in a vacuum, so the new game with strangers is going to feel alien to many people who won't be part of the worst examples of its' critics, that alongside various other technical issues and other more acclaimed game releases in shared time window just kinda invited more people into the critical fold.
As a reminder the cast of the 2nd game mostly didn't include the cast of the first game........