Saints Row (2022) – Game Review

Saints Row (2022) is a reboot of a popular and long running gang based FPS series spanning multiple titles over 16 years. As this is a reboot, not a remake or a remaster, I think it’s best we disregard all previous Saints Row titles prior to this one – though, I admit, it may be difficult to do so. It’s best we treat this as an original, standalone title .

Welcome To Santo Illeso

The backdrop to Saints Row, the city of Santo Illeso, surprised me. Seeing a dusky desert in the trailers for the game filled with me concern. An open world game where you build your own criminal empire staving off rivals…. set in a desert?? Surely this was going to lead to disappointment… Wouldn’t a city be a better location? Maybe. But we have seen that done before. High rise buildings and multiple lane roads is over done in open worlds at this point. Santo Illeso is actually a breath of fresh air. Boring? It is definitely not. There is a lot of detail and varied areas to explore in this Nevada-esque playground. And yet, despite the variety, moving from one location to the next feels natural. You transition smoothly from baron waste land to a bustling town. Santo Illeso is a place I have come to really enjoy spending time in.

Fair warning for those who can’t stand cut scenes – there are a lot of them here. Thankfully they can be skipped and you won’t feel too out of the loop if you do so. And although some of them can be entertaining, there are others that frankly aren’t. Some feel needless and flat – like a filler scene from a 90’s sitcom. There are parts of cut scenes that inject game play to keep you engaged such as pressing a button to start a toaster or bash someone’s head on a jukebox. They really aren’t needed and I would rather just have the cut scene in all honesty – if it has to be there at all (which many don’t). They are there simply to add the slightest depth to characters most people probably couldn’t care less about. Anyway, let me get back to the game!

The Story Begins

If you’re looking for a rich and detailed story that will draw you in and string you along, toying with every emotion… well, you’re in the wrong place. That isn’t what Saints Row is about. But, that isn’t to say there is no story here at all. Although it would be a long shot for the story writers to pick up a Pulitzer Prize, the story makes sense and progresses the game well. Unlike a lot of games in this space, the linear progression is sequential and complete. Though not the most riveting, it gets the job done.

You begin the game on your first day of a new job. After you complete the task, you get stiffed on your pay. Struggling to make ends meet as a result, you look for other ways to earn money. You progress through the game not just by completing missions but by building your criminal empire. Where as in other games of this style, your criminal career may expand just by reaching an arbitrary goal such as a set number of kills or collecting a certain amount of the game’s currency, in Saints Row, it’s deeper than that. You don’t merely come across your home base. You don’t just accumulate business. The devil is in the detail.

Fists, Guns, and More

Warning: this game includes extreme violence… and it’s brilliantly over the top. The action in Saints Row is high octane and over the top bringing a lot of fun to the game. There’s just something to having a shoot out with a police officer in the middle of the road whilst a car crashes over head and bursts in to flames . Forget realism. This is the action I crave. There are a lot of weapons in the game which can be upgraded, unlocked, and customized in fun and creative ways. It isn’t necessary but it’s a lovely touch.

Melee attacks are a little lackluster. When equipped with a gun, your melee is a simple kick. Useful for pushing an enemy back to improve aim but very boring considering the excitement and originality of the rest of the game. Compare those to take downs, and you’ll see why.

Takedowns can only be performed when the meter reaches 100%. Performing this over the top finisher restores some of your health; so make sure to time them just right. Because of the health boost and cool animation, I’m guilty of over using takedowns, but they remain entertaining to watch thanks to the variety in styles and the change of camera angles. Yes it’s strange to see other attackers freeze and idly watch as you take out their comrades. But again, if you’re after realism, you’re in the wrong place.

Example of a Takedown in Saints Row

The overall mechanics of the game are solid. No they aren’t perfect. The gun play does not compare to true shooters like Call Of Duty or Rainbow Six Siege. But that’s to be expected. Shooting is more about fun, not tactical warfare. It still feels nice. Driving is done exceptionally well and is a fantastic way to explore the open world. It isn’t necessary, but, wow, how I enjoyed drifting around corners in town and getting airtime out in the desert. Unlike a lot of games, you wont be totaled by a cactus or a lamppost. Enjoy burning rubber and tearing down almost anything and everyone in your path!

What to do? Where to go?

Your in game mobile phone is the hub for all activity – of which there is a lot. There may not seem like much when you first start, but, as you progress during the early stages, new apps are added allowing for new ways to find adventure. Use your map to scout the surrounding area for points of interest. There’s also the wanted app for accepting bounty like jobs and missions to progress the main campaign.

Once unlocked, there’s no order in which to do things. You have complete freedom about whether to progress the story or just hang around killing rival gang members for a bit of relaxation. As always in open world games like this, there are a few filler missions like taking pictures of landmarks. Yawn. They add to your cash balance and give you some XP, but they do nothing for the amusement itch.

With the various perks and abilities you unlock throughout your adventure, your style of gameplay will evolve over time. You may prefer to weaponize a foe by shoving a grenade down their pants and throwing them towards their fellow gang members or to use a more evasive maneuver with a smoke grenade. Your choices here effect the game play. You can toy about with these options and swap one out for the other. Don’t worry about making the wrong choice, they’ll all get a turn.

The Gun-Wielding Elephant In The Room

Gang war fare. In game mobile phone. Completing missions. Avoiding police. It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Grand Theft Auto. In many ways, yes, this is an over the top version of the much loved and more popular franchise. However, Saints Row is on to something with its story line, progressions and environment. Whilst being very similar, it does manage to craft its own identity and avoid feeling like it’s trying to clone GTA. It is its own game and not a clone. Which I am grateful for.

That said, for those cloud gamers itching to play GTA free of a console, this is as close as it comes right now. With one great big caveat: It’s not the campaign, the story line, the mechanics that has made GTA so popular over the years. It’s the online mode. And sadly, that is missing from Saints Row. Maybe we will see it down the line. Who knows? But for now, it’s not there. You can play an online co op campaign. So, you can play with one friend at least, but it doesn’t compare to that GTA online experience

When it Comes to Stadia

There’s something very familiar here with the release of Saints Row. It feels almost like we have been here before. Many people have said the game is unplayable on previous generations of consoles or anything but high end PC’s. But, it’s been running like a dream for me on Stadia! Whilst I’ve heard many experience game breaking bugs outside of the cloud, I’ve experienced none.

Some have compared Santo Illeso to a ghost town due to low population. I’ve found the opposite – with many characters on the sidewalk including rival gang members dotted around, and enough cars on the roads to feel life like (and to never be without a ride). My overall experience has been very positive. Yes there have been a few hiccups, but nothing game breaking. For example as a rival gang approached my HQ, one person rode up on a motorbike, and, before dismounting, they froze. I was able to take a couple of shots at them before they sprung back to life and returned the favor.

In a day and age where bugs are pretty much expected in AAA games, I have nothing to complain about here. I usually try to avoid reading or watching any reviews or gameplay for games I’m reviewing, but it was almost impossible with Saints Row. When I saw this video from Modest Pelican (fantastic creator. Make sure you check out his Hitman videos), I couldn’t believe my eyes. This is a stark contrast to my own experience. I don’t know what he’s playing on, but, just like with Cyberpunk, it would appear that Stadia is one of the best places to play Saints Row.

Saints Row (2022)

Craig Pedder

Saints Row Game Banner
Saints Row (2022)
Fun Factor


Saints Row begins with all out over the top action. And that continues throughout the game. Albeit spread out among cut scenes and some less entertaining missions. No it isn’t perfect. Yes there are a few bugs. But is it fun? Absolutely. And for a AAA game to be released in 2022 with a launch price of £49.99/$59.9, it’s a lot of fun for a small price in comparison. It may be controversial, but I personally rank Saints Row higher than Cyberpunk2077.




Pedder is a Dad of 3, a Tech Geek, a Video Maker, and a Casual streamer. Follow on Twitter: @Just_Pedder, YouTube: Pedder Games and Buy Pedder a Coffee

One thought on “Saints Row (2022) – Game Review”

  1. good review. I liked the bit about the 90’s sitcom. ouch LOL. Glad this came to Stadia, I’m glad the devs were willing to go back to square one and pursue a new vision. It doesn’t sound like it worked out perfectly, but there’s something here. Unfortunately a “pretty good” game gets spit on a little too easily these days.

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