No matter what form of entertainment you’re into we are constantly inundated with reboots of films, TV shows, and video games of originals that did well at the time they were released. There’s this sense of going back to what’s familiar, to invoke a sense of nostalgia for something that brought us a lot of joy and comfort. While it’s nice to revisit something from the past, relying too heavily on it hinders the chance for something new. But not all reboots are necessarily a bad thing when there’s a chance to approach something from a different angle. In the case of the recently announced Saints Row reboot, there’s an opportunity to present something new while keeping some things the same.
When news came out that Saints Row was not only getting a brand new game from developers Deep Silver Volition, but it was also going to be a total reboot of the series, at first I wondered if it was necessary. Why go back and redo a series that has been done and finished? After seeing the new trailer that debuted at Gamescom, and was released online, it piqued my interest.
The new characters—the Boss, Eli, Nina, and Kevin—were definitely a departure from the edgier and unapologetically gangster characters of the original Saints. The Saints in the reboot look more polished and hipster. There also seemed to be a depth of personality each new character has that the original Saints lacked. Admittedly, the Saints of the original series had very basic needs and motivations that didn’t require a lot of investment on the part of the player to care about the characters all that much, other than to have fun and blow shit up. The added dimensions and distinctive backgrounds of the new Saints is a welcome shift in my opinion.
Then there’s the new location and gangs. Instead of Stilwater being the setting for the new Saints Row, like it has been for most of the prior games, we have a new playground that takes us out west in a new city called Santo Ileso. The gangs, or criminal organizations, in the reboot—the Los Panteros, the Idols, and Marshall Defense Industries—also reflect the new environment and foes the Saints have to go toe to toe with to build a criminal empire and take control over Santo Ileso. Based off of the further deep dive and gameplay trailer that was shown, the enemies are just as dangerous and unique as the original series.
While it’s too early to say if the developer’s desire to change up the entire Saints Row franchise will succeed, I’m willing to give this new game a chance. There has been a lot of negative feedback from fans of the original Saints Row series who aren’t keen on the change in direction for the games, but honestly, where would a new Saints Row game go if Deep Silver Volition had continued from Saints Row IV? They already succeeded in going bigger and crazier than their last game. The Saints went all the way to the White House and even a galaxy far far away. The developers have really stretched the limits of the franchise and it’s no wonder their last game ended with the fourth one. Starting fresh was really the only direction left for them to go. The fact that the developers wanted to reinvent the series by also moving away from aspects of the original series that they now find problematic in an ever changing world is also understandable. Times change and we must change with it.
I loved the Saints Row series, though I have yet to finish playing the fourth game, and it wasn’t entirely a series I would think to pick up personally. But the outlandishness and immersing myself in an experience where being bad will help you get far was appealing to me because it was far removed from who I am in real life. I wouldn’t steal and shoot people in reality, but having a game that encouraged and even applauded it was strangely attractive. I guess it’s one way of indulging my dark side.
I do agree with the fans, who are resistant to the reboot, when they say it isn’t a Saints Row game. It’s true, it’s not the same Saints Row we remember, but trying something different isn’t bad either. A more “grounded” Saints Row may be what the series needs now. I did find some of the over-the-top missions from the previous games way too much. Some of the wackiness could be dialed back, and playing the later games started feeling like it was more of a bid for the developers to outdo themselves and be as ridiculous as possible for its own sake.
People are often quick to judge something before it actually comes out. It has happened to Cyberpunk 2077 when expectations were much higher than it actually deserved. It didn’t end up being the best game in the world, but it was decent enough to play. We don’t know how different or similar the Saints Row reboot will be. We’re only going off of a few trailers that show surface changes at most. Instead of being the naysayers who think this will be the worst Saints Row game to ever come out, I rather take a wait and see approach.
The new Saints Row looks promising and I’ll gladly play this new era of the franchise, if it offers something fresh I hadn’t played before, while keeping some essence of the original games.