Saints Row has always been a bizarre franchise, both in terms of what it offers and also in terms of its origin. Springing from a GTA clone, it ended up muscling even Rockstar out of the way when it comes to the zaniness.
We've had superheroes, trips to hell, and the ability to crack skulls with marital aids – but now, staring down the chamber of a franchise reboot, I'm more excited about the franchise than ever.
Saints Row Preview: Back To Basics For The Boss and Co
Saints Row's new entry is somewhat of an origin story for the Saints themselves. Whereas prior games have seen us take control of Johnny Gat and co, or step into the shoes of the President of the United States, things take a simpler turn, here.
Players can customise their own character, "The Boss", that developer Deep Silver Volition dubs our very own "charismatic murder machine".
From here, they'll meet their new crewmates; Kevin, originally linked with another merry band of ne'er-do-wells, is a thrillseeker and aspiring DJ. Eli, on the other hand, is more meticulous - the smart, planning ahead type of criminal. Finally, Neenah is the driver, a mechanic with a love of cars and a passion for art.
Together, the group decides that it's time to become self-made criminals, and so their meteoric rise begins, set amid a backdrop of Santo Ileso – a fictional region in the heart of the American Southwest.
The largest Saints Row playground ever created, Santo Ileso is made up of nine different districts, each with its own theme, inhabitants, and overall feel. From the Casino district with its faded glitz, to the gang-filled industrial region, Deep Silver has stuffed secrets and activities in every possible cranny.
That's not to say you'll have the run of the town, though – Santo Ileso is a dangerous place, with three rival gangs that each engage in combat in different ways.
Los Panteros are heavy-hitters, getting in close when fighting the Saints. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Marshall Defence Industries is a PMC with an insane amount of firepower. Then there are the Idols, motivated by fame and notoriety, and with a penchant for swarming players in numbers.
What's immediately clear, though, is that while Saints Row is coming back down to Earth in so many ways, there are still plenty of holdovers from its wilder past. For one, hoverbikes and aerial vehicles exist alongside your more grounded sports cars, and while you'll be starting things off by building your criminal empire from the ground floor, you'll still be firing rocket launchers alongside your standard revolvers.
By taking out the superheroes, aliens, and Johnny Gat masks, though, Saints Row feels a much more welcoming entry in the franchise – doubly so if you have a friend, with full co-op returning in drop-in/drop-out fashion.
Despite its ambitious nature, though, this reboot will still come to PS4 and Xbox One. While we weren't briefed on the differences between these and the native PS5 and Xbox Series S/X versions, if you haven't managed to snag new hardware then you'll still be able to get up to no good.
That's key to this reboot, though – whether you came to Saints Row in the past for its more stripped-back, comedic charms, or if you want to shoot someone with a new crazy weapon, there's a little something for everyone. Just not Johnny Gat.