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Exclusive impressions of Saints Row you can touch

Last month, developer Volition gave us a playable build of the new Saints Row. I had access to a handful of story missions, some side activities, and the entire Santo Ileso map to explore. The will encouraged me to drive, slide, and wreak havoc to my heart’s content. So that’s exactly what I did. While the content is still in development I was able to understand how the game was developing in its early stages and it looks good so far.

During the super power trip that was Saints Row IV, cars became almost useless when given the chance to do super sprints and jumps at Steelport. With this restart of Saints Row, those powers are nowhere in sight so you’ll either cough or steal a random car off the road to get around. Fortunately, Saints Row has a completely redesigned driving system that adds new weight to driving, shifting the focus of car combat from guns and drive-bys to using the car itself as a weapon.

In an early story mission (which you can read about in our Saints Row cover story), I learned all about two main features of this new driving model. One is the ability to jolt your car left or right with the push of a button, essentially slapping your vehicle to cause damage or chase rival racers off the road. The other is a new drift that cranks your car into a sideways slide while the camera tilts coolly and zooms in a little for an added effect.

Drifting in Saints Row feels a lot like a Mario Kart drift and that’s kudos. Regardless of the vehicle, when drifting on the slide, your car will always be set at a largely predetermined angle, so you have control of the analog stick to adjust your car for the ideal position when you come out of the curve. You don’t have to worry about applying the electric brakes too hard, swinging the rear of your car too far, or losing too much speed while performing the maneuver. I appreciate that it is clearly designed to keep you moving and not get in the way of the fun. At some point I drifted around every corner, no matter how fast or slow I went, just because it was fun.

As a very capable protagonist named The Boss, you can even get on your vehicles while driving. The rooftop gives you a full 360 degree view to take out any pesky local Los Pantheros or Idols faction gang members you may be fighting with. You also have the opportunity to take to the skies in the new wingsuit. If your car is moving fast enough, you can jump off the roof and fly through the air to get far away, or land on another set of wheels to take it as your own.

Wing suites in Santo Ileso being like a deadly and insane flying squirrel is exhilarating and one of the most fun I’ve had with Saints Row. You take off a glide from tall structures like an office building or the mountains and hills that surround the city, in addition to the roof of a moving car. There are also spots scattered across the map that house mechanisms that will throw you into the air. no skyscrapers required. Finding an airfield isn’t always easy, but I like the importance of traversing the ground and being dependent on the car in most of your trips around the Santo Ileso districts.

Using the wingsuit is a great way to quickly traverse short stretches of town. While always at the mercy of gravity, diving to gain speed and pulling up to gain altitude can add significantly longer to your flight sessions. I love the feeling of speed and the amount of control you have while flying around. I would compare it to something between the cloak from Super Mario World and Batman’s glide abilities from Arkham City.

The shoot felt the most mundane since my time at Saints Row. We had access to a range of pistols, assault weapons, and rocket launchers, all of which work as you’d expect from a Saints Row game. Some of the wilder guns the developer had promised weren’t available when I was trying to attempt crime in Santo Ileso. Still, rocket-powered explosives and less ballistics were more than enough to keep who or what was in my way.

Outside of gameplay, the question in the gaming community is whether it feels like it has been in past Saints Rows. Volition was open to deliver a tone somewhere between Saint Row 2 and Saints Row The Third, and after the little segment I’ve played I’d say it hits the bull’s eye. I find that writing and humor are in the same stadium. There is a lot of swearing, fucking talk, and other vulgarities that weren’t there in a lot of things that were on public display at the time. You are, after all, a group that wants to build a crime syndicate.

This core group of saints is new and you can get to know and make friends with them. It’s one of the best parts of past posts and I look forward to taking on the world with Eli, Neenah and Kevin. They complement each other well, and even from the little I’ve seen I can tell where conflict can arise, but I also have a feeling that they ride or die for their fellow saints. I am ready to take over Santo Ileso with them and be part of the misfortune and destruction that will be wrought along the way.

Check out all of our Saints Row coverage later this month, like our Rapid Fire interview with Jeremy Bernstein, Senior Missionary Narrative Designer. You can find everything on our Cover Stories Hub by clicking the banner below.

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