Following a succession over-the-top adventures that folded in alien invasions and superpowers with Saints Row 4 and its subsequent follow-ups, Volition is bringing its open world crime series back to its roots with the next year's Saints Row - a reboot that reintroduces a more grounded contemporary fictional setting while still looking to hold onto the humour and possibilities that Saints Row has become beloved for.
Titled simply Saints Row, the new game will be a cross-generational affair that's coming as soon as next February, and sees a player-created character heading up a gang of four as they go on to establish a criminal empire. Among that group is Eli, a nerdy planner with an MBA, Neenah, who provides the driving talent and Kevin, who, er, has some lovely abs? Then there's the player character themselves, defined by the player using some of the same deep customisation options seen previously in the series - and the group's make-up promises to play into the co-op that is also at the heart of this Saints Row reboot.
Providing the playground this time out is Santo Ileso, which draws heavily upon the American south west. It's broken down into nine distinct districts, including the downbeat Rancho Providencio, Las Vegas analogue El Dorado and the secluded suburban Monte Vista. In the heart of the city there's an extended emphasis on verticality (and the promise of some tools to make the most of all that, with wingsuits and ziplines that catapult players into the air).
The emphasis in the Saints Row reboot is on contemporary crime, though it's still delivered in developer Volition's overstated way. There are three factions you're competing against across Santo Ileso, and as you conquer the map you'll have access to vacant lots you can fit out with the fronts for criminal businesses of your own, unlocking activities such as illegal car smuggling rings and - of course - insurance fraud.
Saints Row is set to be a cross-gen game, coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as well as PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S and X, though it is taking advantage of a new engine that Volition won't currently disclose, but will say it's their first time working with.
There's also some welcome contemporary influences with Saints Row, with Baby Driver informing the driving, John Wick the shooting while Hobbes and Shaw - these are people of exquisite taste - informs the over-the-top nature of the action.
While we've only seen small snippets of the Saints Row reboot in action, it's looking mighty promising, with its new direction making all sorts of sense after the wild excesses of Saints Row 4.
"By the time you were done in Saints Row 4 - and spoilers here - you were the ruler of the galaxy," said Volition's Jim Boone. "Where would we take it from there? In Gat Out of Hell, well we went to hell - but there truly isn't anywhere to go past there! Even though we loved the mechanics we came up with, the superpowers and everything, it didn't leave us a lot of runway to fiugure out where we would go past that - so it was a pretty easy decision to go back to our roots with something contemporary.
"For me the comparison is Moonraker," added Volition's Jeremy Bernstein. "It's so far beyond the realms of reality. Where do you possibly go from there? So you've got to go back to your roots. The only place to go when you've gone that far is to pull it back in."
Saints Row is currently down for release on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X on February 22nd 2022.