Saints Row Review Roundup: A Middling GTA Clone

Chaos ensures as gang members drive a car away from an explosion in Saints Row.

Image: Volition

If you were hoping Saints Row would sate your hunger between GTA re-re-re-releases, you might be better off waiting a bit longer. Reviews for the open-world crime game, developed by Volition and out tomorrow for consoles and PC, are in, and so far, they’re…not kind.

First announced last summer, Saints Row is a full-on reboot of Volition’s long-running series of GTA clones, which hasn’t seen a new entry since 2013’s Saints Row IV (unless you count its standalone 2015 expansion, Gat Out of Hell). Saints Row was initially part of the February 2022 release onslaught—which included the likes of Horizon Forbidden West, Dying Light 2, Sifuand Elden Ring—before Volition delayed it to Augustciting the need for polish.

But all the polish in the world can’t save a game that appears, by many accounts, fundamentally broken. Right now, Saints Row is sitting at a 63 on review aggregation site Metacritic—a rare low point for a critical beat that tends to collectively treat 7/10s as an absolute baseline.

Sure, some reviewers praised parts of Saints Rowincluding its character creator—which was released earlier this summer and is robust enough to instantly become a mini-monster factory for players—and its new setting, the fictional Santo Ileso. NPR described the writing as “witty” and “compelling.” But many reviewers were largely negative. Our colleagues at A.V. Club said Saints Row is “dull,” “buggy,” and has “flashy concepts [but] very few ideas on how to execute [them].” VGC called it “painfully generic.” Reverse deemed it a “middling experience.” Ars-Technica said it’s “beyond redemption.”

Kotaku did not receive a review code for Saints Row ahead of its release. But based on what our colleagues in the gaming press corps have to say about it, this may be a blessing: I wouldn’t wish a 40-hour sprint through this open-world game on any of my colleagues (unless they’re named Zack Zwiezen, sorry bud!). Here’s what critics have to say about Saints Row.

Saints Row is a confusing game, on multiple levels. I can’t say I didn’t have fun with it—there’s a compulsive pleasure in open-world gaming that’s hard to tamp down, no matter how intent the game seems to be on keeping its players from enjoying themselves too much. … Its tonal issues are, weirdly, a function of making its characters too likable, instead of not enough. And it desperately wants you to think you’re having fun, without ever providing concrete steps towards giving players more to do than function in a very rote loop.” —William Hughes

A helicopter flies over a bridge in Saints Row.

screenshot: Volition

“My Saints Row experience was enjoyable and more than occasionally frustrating: At times it feels like Volition is on the cusp of a breakthrough in both social commentary and open-world game mechanics, while at other times it feels like it’s upholding the status quo. I love the new cast of characters and what they represent to marginalized community members who will play this game, and the story is compelling enough that I persevered in the face of some irritating bugs. There’s a solid game here, and plenty of fun to be had with the new Saints Row, but I find myself wishing the team had taken the concept and ran with it to the bank—before robbing said bank, of course.” —Alyssa Mercante

“This year’s reboot of Saints Row presents a sunny sandbox bursting with heists, hijinks, and witty banter. While the series has always stood in the shadow of Grand Theft Autoit shines when it does what it’s always done best: trading GTA‘s cynicism for gonzo humor and earnest character portraits. While never as rich or mechanically satisfying as GTA Vthe new Saints Row more than makes up for it with a pitch-perfect balance of comedy and compelling storytelling. That is, if you can actually play it without game-breaking bugs.” —Danny Lore

“If you enjoyed previous Saints Row games, you will probably like this one, and if you’ve never played one, this is a decent onboarding point. If you were a fan of saints row 2 but found the later entries in the series to be a little too aggressively bonkers, you should give the new Saints Row a try. It’s still got that comedic series edge, but it doesn’t break the knob off. It’s worth noting, however, that even though the game sometimes frustrated me, and the core gameplay loop wasn’t especially new or innovative, Saints Row is the first game I’ve reviewed in years where I finished it, wrote the review, then went back in and started playing just for myself.” —Todd Harper

A buggy car takes a jump in a canyon in Saints Row.

screenshot: Volition

“There’s actually a lot to do in the game, but it’s just such open-world number checking. Even the stuff that sounds great on paper, like the permanent wing suit that allows you to bounce off pedestrians’ heads to gain altitude, doesn’t work quite right. … There are large sections of Saints Row that could be written off as generic, harmless open-world fluff, if not for the parade of bugs that greeted us throughout our time with the game. From the world not loading in correctly, leaving us dangling in the shadow realm, to characters T-posing, to the sniper rifle scope being permanently plastered to the screen, it’s an incredibly unstable game. The framerate on PS5 is also completely erratic.” —Jordan Middler

“Previews suggested that this week’s new series reboot, simply titled Saints Row, might wipe the slate clean to provide a fresh perspective on the crime-spree genre. Instead, this game simply wipes the slate clean—and leaves it that way. Saints Row (2022) is the rare open-world game that makes an average Ubisoft open-world game of the past five years seem refreshing by comparison. Describing this game as a regression to the Xbox 360 era would be an insult to the late 2000s’ best open-world adventures.” —Sam Machkovech

“This new entry feels like a back-to-basics reboot. But technical issues, bugs, and many more little frustrations conspire to make this a middling experience at launch. It’s unfortunate because when Saints Row fires on all cylinders, it’s an absolute blast with some truly lofty high points. … While there is a day-one patch coming, my experience was plagued by performance issues. Over my roughly 30-hour review period, the game hard-crashed seven times. On occasion, skills made my character freeze, forcing me to exit and reload my save. Another time, an explosion caused my camera to get stuck pointed at the sky.” —Hayes Madsen

IGN (6/10)

“The new Saints Row has shed its shark-jumping silliness and smutty tendencies in favor of a return to its open-world gangland roots. ….While there’s a decent amount of fun to be had chasing collectibles and causing chaos, outdated mechanics and repetitive mission design meant that by the end of my time with the new Saints Row I was desperate for something that could genuinely surprise me like a slap to the face from a 40-inch dildo.” —Tristan Ogilvie


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