Saints Row

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Saints Row
Saints Row Current Logo.png
Logo used since 2011
Developer(s)Volition
Publisher(s)
Platform(s)Xbox 360
Xbox One
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
Microsoft Windows
Linux
Mobile phone
Nintendo Switch
First releaseSaints Row
August 29, 2006
Latest releaseSaints Row: The Third Remastered
May 22, 2020

Saints Row is an action-adventure video game series created by Volition and published by THQ and Deep Silver. Games in the Saints Row series are set in fictional locales during the current time period, primarily the U.S. cities of Stilwater and Steelport. Gameplay focuses on an open world environment where the player can complete missions to progress an overall story, as well as engage in various side activities. Like other crime-related open world titles, most of the gameplay revolves around shooting and driving, but the series became known for its comedic elements, including popular culture homages, parodies, and self-referential humor, as well as its over-the-top nature, most obvious from the third game onwards. All games revolve around the 3rd Street Saints gang, who are initially based in the eponymous Saint's Row district and attempt to rise to the top of the criminal underworld; later games changed the premise, making the Saints a media and consumer empire with a large influence. The player character is fully customizable and starts out as a low-ranking member of the Saints, but eventually becomes the gang's leader; a position which they maintain for most games.

After completing Red Faction II in late 2002, developer Volition began work on the original Saints Row game in mid-2004. The game was released in 2006 to critical acclaim and commercial success. The sequel, Saints Row 2, was released in 2008 to similar acclaim and greater commercial success. The series' third entry, Saints Row: The Third, was released on 15 November 2011 and was the final Saints Row video game to be published by THQ before Deep Silver took the rights in 2013. The series' fourth entry, Saints Row IV was released on 20 August 2013, with a standalone expansion called Gat out of Hell released on 20 January 2015 in North America and 23 January 2015 in Europe. As of September 2013, the series has had sales in excess of 13 million, making it one of the best-selling video game franchises of all-time.

Games[edit]

Year of Original Release Title PC 7th gen 8th gen Developer(s) Publisher(s) Notes
2006 Saints Row N/A X360 Xbox One Volition THQ
N/A
2008 Saints Row 2 Windows, Linux X360, PS3 Windows port developed by CD Projekt.
2011 Saints Row: The Third Xbox One, PS4, Switch Nintendo Switch port developed by Fishlabs. PS4 and Xbox One remastered version developed by Sperasoft.
2013 Saints Row IV Deep Silver Re-Elected port and Enter the Dominatrix DLC developed with High Voltage Software.
2015 Saints Row: Gat out of Hell Xbox One, PS4 High Voltage
Volition
Standalone expansion for Saints Row IV.

Saints Row (2006)[edit]

Saints Row is the first installment in the series, having begun development in mid-2003 as a PlayStation 2 title under the name Bling Bling.[1] The game was announced at E3 2005 for the Xbox 360. As the first non-linear gameplay-style video game to be released for the Xbox 360, Saints Row was widely anticipated; its pre-beta demo build set records after being downloaded nearly 400,000 times within a week.[2] It had sales in excess of 500,000 during its September 2006 release month, and was critically acclaimed. As of 2019, the game has had sales in excess of two million units.[3] The game was renowned for being the first seventh-generation sandbox game, and introduced features which have since become staples to the genre. It features online multiplayer, an in-game mobile phone, GPS navigation, and elaborate character and vehicle customization.[4][5]

The game is set in the fictional city of Stilwater, located in the state of Michigan. The player creates their own character, who is inducted into the 3rd Street Saints gang after they save their life, and assists the Saints in rising to prominence by eliminating three rival gangs that control the city. After the Saints take over Stilwater, police chief Monroe kidnaps the Saints founder and leader Julius Little and orders the player, who takes over the Saints in Julius' absence, to kill the city's mayor in exchange for his freedom. While the player carries out this task, Monroe refuses to release Julius, leading to the player killing him and rescuing Julius. Shortly after, the new mayor Richard Hughes invites the player aboard his private yacht and reveals his intention to have the Saints arrested and Saint's Row sold to private developers after being razed. However, Julius betrays the player and places a bomb on the yacht that detonates, seemingly killing everyone aboard and ending the story on a cliffhanger.

Saints Row 2 (2008)[edit]

Saints Row 2 began development in mid-2006, a few months before the Xbox 360 release of Saints Row.[6] While a PlayStation 3 port of Saints Row was in development, it was cancelled when Saints Row 2 was confirmed in May 2007.[7] A Microsoft Windows port, announced in June 2008, was released in early 2009. The game builds upon the fundamentals of Saints Row by improving the respect system, adding more varied activities, increasing the extent to which the player can customize their character, gang, and vehicles, and adding a number of new vehicle models. It expands the Stilwater setting and adds new gameplay features and content.[8]

The story takes place five years after the events of Saints Row, and is also set in Stilwater, albeit significantly expanded. The player character, the only survivor of the yacht explosion, has been in a coma ever since and undergone extensive plastic surgery. Upon awakening, they escape from the prison hospital with the help of a former Saints member's brother, who explains that the Saints have fallen from grace after their supposed death: three new gangs have taken over their old turf, and the Ultor Corporation has begun redeveloping Stilwater, turning Saint's Row into a pristine commercial and residential area. Together with former Saints lieutenant Johnny Gat, whom he rescues from his trial, and newcomers Carlos Mendoza, Pierce Washington, and Shaundi, the player works to rebuild the Saints and reclaim their old territory, becoming known as "the Boss." After all enemy gangs have been eliminated, Ultor recognizes the Saints as a threat and attempts to extinguish them, but the Boss assassinates Ultor's CEO Dane Vogel, severely weakening the company. The ending of the game sees the Saints running Stilwater once more.

Downloadable content[edit]

Saints Row 2 received several downloadable content (DLC) releases, including two story DLCs. The first, Ultor Exposed, adds Red Faction: Guerrilla-themed content,[9] and stars American pornographic actress Tera Patrick,[9] who plays herself as a whistleblower and former microbiologist for the Ultor Corporation. It was released on 23 April 2009.[10][11] The second, Corporate Warfare, focuses on the struggle between the 3rd Street Saints and the Ultor Corporation, and was released on 28 May 2009.

Saints Row: The Third (2011)[edit]

Saints Row: The Third was announced in March 2011, and released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Windows in November 2011.[12] It began early development at Volition in September 2008, a month before Saints Row 2 was due to release.[13] The game marks major turning point for the series, putting more emphasis on comedy and featuring numerous popular culture homages, parodies, and self-referential humor, as well as an over-the-top nature. Reception towards these changes was mixed, though the game nonetheless performed well both critically and financially.

Five years after the events of Saints Row 2, the 3rd Street Saints have grown from their humble roots as a street gang into a worldwide crime group with their own brand of products. The story centers around the conflict between the Saints and the Syndicate, an international crime syndicate who seek to take advantage of the Saints' influence. The game changes the setting to Stilwater's sister city, Steelport, which is firmly ruled by the three gangs that make up the Syndicate. As in the first two Saints Row games, the player's goal is to undermine the rival gangs and take over their turf, but this time the narrative is more linear and missions can only be played in a certain order, rather than each gang having their own independent storyline.[14] Later on in the game, a military group known as S.T.A.G. is called to Steelport in an attempt to eradicate all gangs in the city. After the Syndicate has been brought down, the Boss is given the choice of either pursuing the leader of the last gang, or saving their own gang members, who have been kidnapped by S.T.A.G. As such, the game features two possible endings; the canonical one is the latter, which sees the Saints returning to their consumer lifestyles and S.T.A.G. leaving Steelport after their actions are severely questioned by the federal government.

Downloadable content[edit]

Downloadable content for Saints Row: The Third was announced before the game's release along with a commitment from publisher THQ to support 40 weeks of content. Among smaller upgrades, three main content packs were released: Genkibowl VII (released on 17 January 2012), Gangstas in Space (released on 21 February 2012), and The Trouble with Clones (released on 20 March 2012).

Remaster[edit]

A remastered version of Saints Row: The Third, including all the DLC for the original game, was released for Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on May 22, 2020. It was developed by Sperasoft and features remastered assets and textures, along with improved graphics and lighting.[15]

Saints Row IV (2013)[edit]

Saints Row IV was unveiled in March 2013 and released August 2013, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. It was later ported to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Linux in 2015. A Nintendo Switch port was also released on March 27, 2020. The game expands on Saint Row: The Third's humor and over-the-top nature, introducing superpowers. Saints Row IV received several limited and summative edition releases, and was briefly banned in Australia. It generated mostly positive reviews and sold over one million copies in its first week.

The story, set roughly five years after the events of Saints Row: The Third, sees the Boss being elected President of the United States, with other 3rd Street Saints members as their cabinet, after foiling a terrorist attack by the former S.T.A.G. commander Cyrus Temple. However, the Saints' peace is disturbed by an alien invasion, led by the Zin warlord Zinyak.[16] The Zin destroy the Earth and capture most of the Saints, placing them in a simulation of Steelport meant to break their wills. The Boss is able to manipulate the simulation to their own benefit, gaining new abilities and rescuing their gang members while facing enemies from their past and their own worst fears. Ultimately, the Boss escapes the simulation and kills Zinyak, taking over his empire. This game also features two endings, depending on how many optional loyalty mission had been completed; the Saints either learn that the Zin have created time travel technology, which could be used to restore the Earth, or travel through the universe in search for planets to conquer.

Downloadable content[edit]

Saints Row IV's first story-driven downloadable content pack, Enter the Dominatrix, is a "director's cut" version of the cancelled Saints Row: The Third expansion of the same name, and was released on 22 October 2013.[17] The story continues from the non-canonical ending of Saints Row: The Third, and depicts an alternate version of the Zin invasion; while the Saints manage to foil it, they have to face the Dominatrix, an advanced AI created by the Zin, who places them in a simulation of Steelport to torment them for all eternity. The second story DLC, How the Saints Save Christmas, was released on 10 December 2013. Its story revolves around the Saints' attempts to rescue Santa Claus from the Steelport simulation, with the Boss, who dislikes the holiday season, learning the true meaning of Christmas along the way.

A standalone expansion to Saints Row IV, titled Gat out of Hell, was released on 20 January 2015 in North America and 23 January 2015 in Europe.[18] Starring Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington as the playable characters, the story follows their attempts to rescue the Boss from Hell after they are kidnapped by Satan.[19] After Gat defeats Satan with the help of his daughter and Kinzie, the three of them and the Boss are sent back to the mortal realm. However, Gat is retained by God, who offers to fulfill him one of five wishes in return for preventing Satan's invasion of Heaven: be reunited with his lost love in Heaven, become the king of Hell, be told the secrets of the universe, find a new planet for the Saints to rebuild humanity, or recreate Earth; the ending is chosen by the player.

Saints Row 5 (TBA)[edit]

THQ Nordic's financial report released in August 2019 stated that a new Saints Row title has been in development at Volition.[20]

Gameplay[edit]

The Saints Row series is part of a genre known as sandbox games. The series combines elements of action, adventure and vehicular gameplay. The player can freely roam the virtual world on foot or by use of vehicles and make use of an array of weapon and mêlée based combat. Illegal activity such as assaulting non-player character civilians and police officers will instigate a proactive and potentially lethal response from authoritative figures. In the instance of death or arrest, the player will respawn at a nearby hospital or police station.[21]

An emphasis is put on urban warfare; the player character is affiliated with a hip-hop cultured street gang known as the 3rd Street Saints. Game missions are structurally divided into separate mission arcs. These mission arcs do not intertwine but can be played through altogether at once or separately by the player. Missions are unlocked by accruing respect points; respect is game currency earned by playing non-story mini-games known as activities and diversions.[22] Customization constitutes a large portion of gameplay. The player has the ability to customize their character's appearance and clothing, can take certain vehicles to chop shops for modification and in Saints Row 2 is able to decorate the interior of in-game safehouses and refine the behaviour of the Third Street Saints gang.[23]

Setting[edit]

Stilwater[edit]

The setting of both Saints Row and Saints Row 2 is the fictional city of Stilwater, located in the midwestern state of Michigan, United States. Stilwater is primarily based on the real-world American city Detroit. During the early development process of Saints Row, the city was designed before the script was assembled and was more than four times the size of its final version. It was cropped to a smaller size because development resources could not support a city that large. Stilwater's red light district is largely based on Harlem, including the Raykins Hotel as The Cotton Club.[24] During its development phase, the city went through constant expansion and cropping. For example, the shopping mall and trailer park districts in Saints Row 2 were originally included in early designs of Saints Row.[24] One design challenge was creating the city without load-screen interference, so the engine was designed to stream around the player's location in individual chunks of the city.[1] The city was designed to feel diverse and have a variance of districts; Saints Row product art director Matt Flegel commented that "We wanted the city to cover all styles, from the towering sky scrapers of downtown to the gritty industrial feel of the factory district. We want the player to feel the changes between the districts, rather than just noticing the visual difference."[25] The districts were designed to feel relevant to the gangs that controlled them.[25]

The Stilwater of Saints Row 2 is significantly different from its original rendition; the city is 45% bigger than its older counterpart.[26] Much of the city from Saints Row is redeveloped in Saints Row 2, albeit becoming more "alive" and full of depth.[27] Saints Row 2 lead producer Greg Donovan said that "Stilwater in Saints Row 2 is very different from Saints Row. In fact, every detail has been touched to some degree or another. [...] I think that what will end up happening is that people who played Saints Row or are fans of the franchise are going to have a great time exploring the city and looking for new things. [Also], people that are new to Saints Row 2 are just going to be presented with a huge, very dispersive and very different looking environment, it's very well polished and detailed."[28] There are no in-game load screens in Saints Row 2,[29] a notable feat as the game allows for seamless co-operative play. There are over 130 interiors within the city, including over ninety different shops.[30] The city is more dynamic and lifelike in Saints Row 2, as the artificial intelligence is smarter, i.e., civilians will interact with each other.[31] Additionally, certain elements of Saints Row 2's environment are destructible as the game shares some technology with the Volition-developed Red Faction: Guerilla game.[32] Its environment also features numerous landmarks and Easter eggs; one such feature won "Top Easter Egg of 2008".[33]

Steelport[edit]

After being driven out of Stilwater at the start of Saints Row: The Third by The Syndicate, the Saints aim to get revenge by taking over their home city, Steelport, based on New York. Steelport was arguably less impressive than Stilwater, with districts being almost identical (all areas have a run-down look) and there being few distinct areas. The most memorable feature of the city is a large statue of folk hero Joe Magarac, inspired by the real-life Statue Of Liberty. However, a new feature is that different choices during the game will cause minor changes in the game's world. For example, in one mission you are given the option to destroy the Syndicate Tower or have The Syndicate pay you to keep it. If you pick the former, the tower is permanently smoking as if it was on fire. Choosing the latter will change the colour of the lights on the building to purple, signifying the Saints' ownership of the building. A larger change occurs at the end of the game, when the Saints' allies Shaundi, Viola and Burt Reynolds have been kidnapped and are trapped on the statue of Joe Magarac that has had a bomb attached to it, which would frame the Saints as terrorists. At the same time, the game's main villain, Killbane, is about to take off from the airport, escaping the city. Should you pick to save Shaundi, the city remains unchanged. However, if you choose to kill Killbane, the statue will be destroyed and can be seen in the water surrounding the island.

In Saints Row IV, the game is again set in Steelport, however as a Matrix-like simulation created by the game's alien villain, Zinyak. To fit his likeness, Zinyak has removed almost all signs of the Saints from the city (for example, the Saints' own chain of clothing stores, Planet Saints, have been replaced with Planet Zin) and added images of himself and alien technology. Throughout the game, the player disrupts and eventually destroys the simulation in order to find and kill Zinyak. The fact this version of Steelport is set in a simulation allows for new gameplay mechanics like superpowers. It also allows for references to past games: in some missions, characters from past games and gangs can appear in the city. An entertaining example is when the player has to kill the default character from the original Saints Row. The player is also able to explore different simulations, such as when the player has to rescue the other main characters from their individual 'nightmare' simulations, based on the worst times in their lives to break them and make them surrender to the Zin. The only time the game takes place in the real world is at the start and end of the game and when the player is in the Zin facility or in The Ship, a stolen Zin spaceship which acts as the base for the Saints other than the player's simulation.

New Hades[edit]

Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell takes place in New Hades, the capital city of Hell. It is much smaller than any of the cities in past games and, as a result of its harsh location, is very basic in its design. The city is optimised for the game's new flying mechanic and its activity-based story. Instead of water, the city's islands are surrounded by lava, and in the centre, there is a massive tower that has a large hole above it, presumably the entry point to Hell.

Other media[edit]

Film[edit]

A Saints Row film was announced to be in pre-production in April 2019, with production by Fenix Studios, Koch Media and Occupant Entertainment. F. Gary Gray is set to direct the film with a screenplay written by Greg Russo.[34][35]

Cancelled games[edit]

A spin-off titled Saints Row: Undercover was being developed by Savage Entertainment for the PSP in 2009 but was cancelled. On 22 January 2016, Volition found a prototype of the game in a PSP development kit and released it as a free download on Unseen64.net.[36][37][38]

Saints Row: Money Shot was to be a spin-off of the main series, originally developed for Xbox Live Arcade.[2] The game would be available for the Xbox 360 as an Xbox Live Arcade game and for the PlayStation 3 as a PlayStation Network game featuring 3D graphics.[39][40] The game would have been tied to Saints Row: The Third, as part of the marketing campaign for the game. Playing Saints Row: Money Shot would have unlocked exclusive content for use in Saints Row: The Third, and vice versa.

Other cancelled games include a Nintendo 3DS title announced at E3 2010 called Saints Row: Drive By, and a Kinect/PlayStation Move fighting game for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 called Saints Row: The Cooler.[41][42]

Saints Row shared universe[edit]

The events of Saints Row take place in a shared universe alongside Volition's Red Faction series and Agents of Mayhem.[43]

Red Faction[edit]

The connections between Saints Row and the Red Faction series are most evident Saints Row 2, which heavily features the Ultor Corporation. Ultor was introduced in 2001's Red Faction, which takes place in the year 2075, as a corporation who have begun mining operations on Mars due to Earth's rapidly depleting resources. These events are foreshadowed in Saints Row 2 and its downloadable content. Despite potential licensing conflicts after Deep Silver purchased the rights to the Red Faction and Saints Row series in 2013, more references to the events of Red Faction were present in subsequent Saints Row games. On February 14, 2018, Nordic Games (now known as THQ Nordic) acquired Koch Media, effectively reuniting the Red Faction and Saints Row intellectual properties under the same publishing umbrella for the first time since THQ's bankruptcy and acquisition by Nordic.[44]

Agents of Mayhem[edit]

On 6 June 2016, Volition released a trailer for a new intellectual property set in the Saints Row universe, Agents of Mayhem.[45][46] The game is set in a futuristic Seoul, South Korea, and takes place after the events of Gat Out of Hell's "Recreate Earth" ending, wherein the Saints Row continuity was retconned. The cinematic announcement trailer showed Persephone Brimstone (a character featured in the closing epilogue of Gat Out of Hell) leading an organization known as "M.A.Y.H.E.M." under the Ultor Corporation's payroll and to stop the terrorist organisation "L.E.G.I.O.N." from destroying the world's nations.[47] Agents of Mayhem was released on 15 August 2017. Pierce Washington and Oleg Kirlov are two of the game's twelve playable characters, while Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington were added via downloadable content.[48][49][50][51]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Aggregate review scores
As of 20 January 2015.
Game Metacritic
Saints Row (X360) 81[52]
Saints Row 2 (PC) 72[53]
(X360) 81[54]
(PS3) 82[55]
Saints Row: The Third (PC) 84[56]
(X360) 84[57]
(PS3) 82[58]
Saints Row IV (PC) 86[59]
(X360) 81[60]
(PS3) 76[61]

Both Saints Row and Saints Row 2 received positive reviews for their Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 ports. However, the mobile phone ports of both games as well as the Windows port of Saints Row 2 received a more mixed response. Additionally, the downloadable content packs for Saints Row 2 received mostly average reviews.

The Xbox 360 port of Saints Row received generally positive reviews and scores. It received an 82.20% and 81/100 from review aggregators GameRankings and Metacritic respectively. IGN reviewer Douglass Perry awarded the game an 8.5/10, praising the presentation and gameplay while pointing out technical shortcomings as well as the often forced humour.[62] GameSpot reviewer Greg Kasavin awarded the game an 8.3/10, giving credit to the driving, the action, the presentation and the story. However, he criticized the lack of polish and lack of variety in mission design.[63] It was hailed as "the best reason to own a 360 this side of [The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion]" and a "must buy" by GamePro reviewer Vicious Sid, who awarded it five stars out of five.[64]

Both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 ports of Saints Row 2 received positive reviews. It received an 83.37% and 82.99% from GameRankings respectively, and 82/100 and 81/100 from Metacritic respectively. GameSpy reviewer Gerald Villoria awarded the game four and a half stars out of five and said that "Saints Row 2 offers up a shooting and driving experience that is plenty of fun [...] It's self-consciously funny in its irreverence, and its low-brow humor will definitely appeal to much of its audience".[65] IGN reviewer Nate Ahearn awarded Saints Row 2 an 8.2/10, praising the gameplay but criticizing the lack of polish and the weak artificial intelligence.[66] However, the PC port of Saints Row 2 received a much less positive response. It received an aggregated score of 70.68% and 72/100 from GameRankings and Metacritic.

Dan Whitehead of Eurogamer wrote that Grand Theft Auto IV was a boon for the Saints Row series since it allowed the latter to be "gleeful silly sandbox games" as the former series took a more serious turn.[67]

Sales[edit]

Saints Row 2 shipped over two million units for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 during October 2008, the month of its release.[68]

On 2 November 2011, THQ CEO Brian Farrell announced that Saints Row: The Third was already the most pre-ordered title in series history. The game had four times the number of pre-orders; Saints Row 2 had two weeks before its launch. THQ estimated the game would ship over 3 million units before the publisher's fiscal year ends in March 2012. By comparison, Saints Row 2 launched in October 2008 and sold 2.6 million by the end of the fiscal year. On 25 January 2012, THQ announced that The Third had shipped 3.8 million units globally and are expecting to ship between five and six million units lifetime on the title.[citation needed]

To date, the series has roughly sold over 13 million units, including over three million for Saints Row 2.[69]

Other appearances[edit]

Johnny Gat appears as a guest character in the parody fighting game Divekick.[70] Pierce Washington is a featured character in the PlayStation VR game 100ft Robot Golf.[71]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Surette, Tim (21 August 2006). "Saints Row demo sets record". GameSpot. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  3. ^ Sources that discuss Saints Row's financial success include:
    i. Thorsen, Tom (13 September 2006). "US console charts: September 5–11". GameSpot. Retrieved 19 July 2009.;
    ii. Cocker, Guy (26 September 2006). "UK game charts: September 17–23". GameSpot. Retrieved 19 July 2009.;
    iii. Ramsay, Randolph (15 September 2006). "Saints Row still tops in Oz". GameSpot. Retrieved 19 July 2009.;
    iv. Graft, Kris (18 June 2008). "THQ: Saints Row 2 "Very Different" from GTA IV". Next-Gen.biz. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
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  44. ^ Arif, Shabana (14 February 2018). "THQ Nordic Buys Saints Row, Metro, Dead Island Owner, Koch Media".
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