Last week, I got to have a closer look at the Saints Row reboot from Volition. As you would expect, it looked bombastic and eclectic, with a myriad of unusual ideas that can only really be married together in a Saints Row game.
However, at this point, it also felt like Volition has focused a bit too much on adding in all this "stuff" to the game, and seemingly at the cost of some polish and finesse. Saints Row was confirmed to be a cross-gen release on its initial announcement last year, and that seems to be a fair market for it. Right now, it just looks and feels like more of a last-gen game than a current one.
Throughout the showcase, Saints Row's fighting appeared to be a touch clunky, while its cutscenes and dialogue felt more forced than we may expect from a game today. Meanwhile, during a close up of the Boss' face, you could clearly see that the character's eyelashes and eyelids did not match up in the way you would expect them to. This could be a bug that will be fixed by launch, but it was nonetheless jarring on the eye (mine, not the Boss', although their eye did look jarred as well).
With all that said, Saints Row still looks as if it holds the potential for fun. Be that because of the amusing way you can bop off pedestrians' heads to gain a boost when using your flight suit (an item even fellow Saint Kevin seems to have access to, despite being shirtless in all the footage I have seen so far) or because you can change up your character's appearance on the fly as and when the mood takes you.
And by changing appearance, I don't just mean simply adding a new hat or item of jewellery to your Boss character. I mean a complete head to toe switch up. In fact, in the preview I saw of the game, the player's Boss went from being a young, casually dressed female to a stocky male with a full-blown cowboy aesthetic. This all happened in a mere matter of moments before the player went back to continuing with their business.
And, goodness what a business that was (and is). During the roughly 30-minute preview, there were explosions left, right and centre. There were helicopters, cars, hoverboards and yet more cars. There were firearms and bare-knuckle punch ups. There was a rather unceremonious negotiation with a poor chap in a porta-loo that was being dragged behind a car (how he heard what was going on from in there is anyone's guess).
But even with all of this going on, the team at Volition revealed in a Q&A after the show that it has worked hard to ensure that, no matter how far-fetched things become, there would always be an emotional gravitas running through Saints Row's story. This will prevent players from becoming totally disillusioned by the fantastical, and ground the game to a certain degree.
I got to watch this in action thanks to a mission that showed the Boss saving Kevin (of no shirt fame) from a rival faction known as The Idols. This was evidently a personal undertaking for the Boss, and they (quite literally) took no prisoners in their bid to get Kevin back (for those keeping track, this was the same mission we saw in a pre-alpha gameplay video released last October, but with an updated look).
Additionally, I got to see the Boss help Neenah, the Saints' car expert, exact her revenge on those who messed up her own set of wheels. This was done in the most extra way possible (I mean, this is Saints Row), with the Boss and Neenah stealing a helicopter and blowing up a giant furnace. I guess it's nice to know that, no matter what obstacles may lie in their way, the Boss always has their friends' interests at heart... and a piñata gun on standby.
For more on Saints Row, you can check out my interview with Volition developers Kenzie Lindgren (associate UX designer) and Damien Allen (principal designer) here.
Saints Row is due to launch on 23rd August across Xbox, PlayStation and PC.