With “Saints Row”, the whimsical and crazy clone of “GTA” returns

On the creation screen, your character takes shape. It took you several minutes to choose from dozens of haircuts, skin textures and templates, which you then reworked. You polished the bridge of the nose, raised the angle of the eyebrows, determined the diameter of the nipples and the thickness of the crotch. Then you spent another twenty minutes dressing her. This manic modeling session, between plastic surgery and tuning automotive, is your gateway to Saints Row. In this paradise of customization, your avatar is born, undeniably unique. He is called “the boss” and there is only one: it is you.

Play with dolls by shaping your character's clothes or changing their underwear.

A few minutes later, we find Boss at the controls of a convertible, accompanied by three acolytes, their hair in the wind. Along the highway lanes of Santo Ileso, the car radio spits out the mantra of a personal development coach: “Be your own boss, be responsible!” » This is exactly the life the boss chose after launching his gang when starting a business. Seize the city to make it the gang empire of the saints: here is the project.

The unbridled double of “GTA”

Since its debut in 2006, the reverent series Saints Row developed in the shadow of Grand Theft Auto (GTA), goes from the rank of outsider to the rank of a slightly crazy cousin. Appreciated by a significant fringe of gamers, especially in the US, Saints Row However, it has a much more limited impact than Rockstar Games and its 375 million sales (all episodes combined).

Cleverly, Volition’s series pursues less the painstaking simulation of its model than its pure sandbox pleasures. Less chatty and hysterical than GTAless tempted by a political discourse that often stumbles over a kind of cynical ambiguity, the American satire of Saints Row exploits an unbridled crudeness, combined with the lightness of a cartoonish and explosive humor. When a car is stolen GTA, we force the door. IN Saints Rowwe pass through the windshield feet first.

If it has always featured various gangs fighting to take control of big American cities, the series has allowed itself to slide down an increasingly sinister slope. In 2011, it reinvented itself with Saints Row: The Third, a cocktail of assumed cretinism, with the Saints gang now making a fortune selling and beating its enemies with dildos. As video games come of age, Volition revels in the guilty pleasures that have long earned it its reputation as an unpopular subculture.

Read our review from the time: Saints Row: the third, worthy heir to GTA

In the fall of 2013, as if to respond to GTA V who prides himself on his flowing script, draws Volition Saints Row IV, where the Saints find themselves trapped in a virtual alien simulation after the boss is elected President of the United States. After even the developers of Volition, it was high time to return to earth.

It is therefore in the form of a reboot what comes back to us today Saints Row. This time, Volition revisits the origins of the purple band in a more subdued version than usual. The game centers on a group of friends with humanized profiles but atypical enough to embark on a grand picaresque adventure, flying in wingsuits against a backdrop of explosions, middle fingers and gratuitous deaths by the hundreds.

The band of Saints is less crazy than in the previous parts, and they have characters in step with the times, but not very endearing.

Wild West in cardboard

Neither really stupid nor serious for all that, the new Saints Row not always convincing. From the sandbox, the game keeps the essentials when it asks us to search a construction site or drag an enemy into chemical toilets for several kilometers. However, it seems to gloss over the fact that we’ve already done this, or even that every open world game has already done this before. After an incoherent progression, the player goes from pursuit to gunfight, crossed by the unpleasant impression that the genre does not know how to get rid of endless missions that consist of shooting without joy at waves of enemies.

After a laborious start, and without ever sacrificing anything to any soothing mechanics, Saints Row still ends up implementing what it has to offer best. The game takes advantage of Santo Ileso, a fictional town in the southwestern United States whose arid setting captures the artificiality of cities like Las Vegas in a remarkable way. Here, the industrial suburbs are gradually changing into commercial areas that gravitate around a city center whose towers highlight the emptiness of the desert. It’s no coincidence that the game’s first mission takes place in a cardboard Wild West setting: the boom town of Santo Ileso is just the modern evolution of Western towns, the kind where the best sequences of Saints Row (a prison break, a train attack…) borrow so many clichés.

In Santo Ileso, three rival gangs are engaged in battle: the mechanics of Los Panteros, the anti-capitalist clubbers of the Idols and the paramilitary company Marshall.

Moreover, by replaying the basic myth of the United States, the open world of Saints Row don’t forget that this was above all a struggle for hegemony. This justifies the game’s obsession with making everything customizable: the boss avatar, weapons, vehicles, monuments… “It’s all yours, put your stamp on it”shouts to us this game where the egocentric protagonists praise participatory production and the myth of self-made entrepreneur. In this post-Uber dystopia, the four friends embark on a massive re-appropriation of neighborhoods, set up their shady businesses there (with so many mini-games of varying interest), and paint the town purple. The saints have indeed become their own bosses, but if they have freed themselves, it is for the better to lock us into their own openness.

also read “GTA III,” the video game bad boy, is 20 years old

Pixel’s statement in a nutshell

We liked:

  • the town of Santo Ileso, an excellent place for exploration;
  • The character of the boss, with his panache and his sense of flawless repartee;
  • some original and funny sequences that stand out.

We didn’t like:

  • a slightly too clever processing of Saints Row which never seeks to reinvent the game’s archaisms in the open world;
  • shootings and more shootings…;
  • some blocking errors in certain missions or game stages.

It is more for you if:

  • you wait desperately GTA 6 and if you need a snack;
  • you love customization, you make your mark everywhere: on walls, sidewalks, cars and passers-by (bonus if purple is your favorite color);
  • you spend your weekends on the side of the highway, throwing yourself under cars to collect millions in insurance (or you’ve always dreamed of doing it in a video game).

It’s not for you if:

  • the open-world format of missions and sub-missions festooned with mountains of rather off-putting side activities strikes you as antiquated;
  • you cannot tolerate gratuitous immorality, violence and rudeness.

Pixel’s Note:

3 rings out of 5

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