Saints Row has you embodying the Boss with a reinvigorated customization suite – Hands-off Preview

Volition’s impressive showcase had many features fans clamored for, and some they didn’t even know they wanted.

Saints Row reboot

Image via Volition

The Third Street Saints — a crew of some of the most memorable and hyper-violent anti-heroes to ever grace the virtual streets. This collage of different personalities and attitudes swirl around one key pillar: The Boss. They were not just the leader of this motley crew, they were the player. The Boss could be a giant purple Hulk clone with a proper British accent or a Babymetal nudist packed with zombie grunts. Volition is looking to reinvigorate the already colorful toolbox and allow unprecedented levels of creative freedom with the upcoming reboot.

In our hands-off preview session, we were privy to the new customization suite that powers the core of Saints Row. When Saints Row was at its best, player freedom and choice were center stage. With Gat out of Hell and Agents of Mayhem, the loss of that personal touch was keenly felt. Those titles proved that customization is more than just a feature — it was vital to helping us connect with our Boss and those stories. After my preview session, it is apparent Volition is looking to right the ship in that regard. Saints Row’s four key pillars can be customized extensively using some fun new tools on hand.

The Boss

image via Koch Media

The upcoming reboot by Volition will add a slew of new features for an unprecedented level of character customization. Highly requested features such as layered clothing and asymmetrical pieces will push our creativity. Saints Row was always a leader in the customization space, but new options will help players create a Boss they can make their own.

Some new options include removing gender-locked options for voice and body parts. Prosthetic parts for arms and legs are new additions to the creation suite. Users can further customize these prosthetics with several unique looks. One key focus of the preview event is granularity. Players can drill down every customization option into further layers and creative possibilities.

Gender fluidity and the ability to change your character at any time are returning and have been improved. Characters can be completely customized with an app on the Boss’s cellphone. Full sliders for chest and groin combined with eight unique voices will allow everybody a chance to express themselves. Ultimately though, it will be up to players on whether options like hairstyles and body types are fully inclusive when the final game releases.

Another significant facet of player customization features material and texture options. This option isn’t limited to your body but to each layer of clothing. Saints Row had a massive character customization community, and this reboot attempts to include just about every fan request from the older titles in the new toolset.

The rides

image via Koch Media

Once you have created the Boss of your dreams, players have to get around a brand new open world. Santa Illeso is home to a burgeoning garage business named Jim Robs. Unlike Stilwater or Steelport in the previous games, Jim Robs will allow any vehicle to be customized. You can take a classic muscle car and give it some neon lights, giant rims, and a huge spoiler, but why stop there? Hoverboards, helicopters, and V.T.O.L jets are just some of the more bizarre modes of transportation that can be customized in Saints Row.

A significant new feature for your custom ride is specializations. These are unlocked when a vehicle is fully upgraded. Each of the 80-plus forms of transport littering the streets, skies, and water in Santa Illeso has one of these new abilities. Some abilities are as simple as jumping and/or flipping a car on command. Ejector seats let you leap out of trouble and seamlessly transition into the new wingsuit for quick escapes. These abilities are designed to further enhance each vehicle’s customization. Whether or not these additions can make vehicles essential to moving around the open world remains to be seen. Each Saints Row title moved further away from traditional modes of transportation, so it’s good to see a renewed focus on regular cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

The weapons

image via Koch Media

While our preview didn’t provide any hint or a glimpse of the infamous dildo bat, we saw several weapons and customization options for them. Many of the weapons shown are returning from previous entries in the series. What is new is the extensive range of upgrades and modifications to each firearm.

In a strong theme throughout the presentation, visual identity and personal freedom extend to the hardware you wield to lay waste to rival gangs. Simple features like paint jobs are now augmented by a fully customizable decal and material system. Welcome additions include the ability to move, duplicate, and resize decals anywhere on weapons.

Weapon skins are returning, albeit with far more options per weapon archetype. Some fan-favorite skins from Saints Row IV are back, such as El Fugitvo. The specialization system vehicles use also works similarly with weapons. To unlock a specialization, you must complete a unique weapon challenge first. Rocket launchers, for example, have a unique ability called Big Bang. This ability triples the size of the warhead, and it’s unlocked by shooting down five aerial vehicles. The addition of new features such as specializations alongside the decal system will ensure a unique visual flair in combat.

The Saints

image via Koch Media

Now that you look at the ride and the guns, only one thing is left to make your own. The Saints themselves are in dire need of a makeover. Customizing the Saints and the home base isn’t new to the series. What has changed are several additions to flesh out this system. Leaders of the Saints can customize gang members with several unique themes and aesthetics.

One feature is the ability to change the type of vehicles your gang will arrive in. For example, if you want a team full of ninjas to pull up in a convoy of monster trucks, not a problem for the Boss. Key pedestals will occupy various areas of the Saints’ hideout. Different statues can be placed on these to alter the decor to your heart’s content.

One thing that developer Volition made clear: customization is everything. The studio recognizes how important it is to have complete creative control over the entire Saints Row experience. The addition of extended requested fan features and intelligent changes to returning options will empower the creative community like never before. Franchise creative director Brian Traficante also confirmed some aspects of character creation would be in players’ hands before release.

Plans to place some form of character creation in our hands early harkens back to the best days of this franchise. Saints Row the Third also had an early character creator program. More than just a feature, this was when Saints Row was at its best. It had fully developed its own identity, and it had firmly moved out of the shadow of Grand Theft Auto. Moving away from our custom Boss wasn’t the only problem later games had, but it was the catalyst for problems that plagued Gat out of Hell and Agents of Mayhem. 

From what I watched and heard, bringing back and emphasizing personal freedom of choice demonstrates a clear knowledge of what went wrong in the past. Everything I got to see shows a clear sign of intent to make good not just for the sake of the game, but for the community that helped make Saints Row what it is. Customization was a big reason Saints Row was such a special game, but it’s still one piece of a larger puzzle. The sheer effort Volition is pouring into this vital feature has me excited about seeing the whole package come together.