Saints Row: Boss Factory – impressions

We’re about a month away from the release of Saints Row – the long-awaited reboot of the open-world crime franchise. In the run-up to the game’s launch, developer Volition released Saints Row: Boss Factory, which is the game’s character creator. I took a look at this free download (because you know I love freebies!) and I wanted to briefly share my thoughts today.

First of all, it’s nice to get a demo for once! Demos used to be commonplace in the games industry, particularly in the 1990s and early 2000s, but have more or less disappeared since then. Downloading and booting up Saints Row: Boss Factory felt like somewhat of a throwback to the days when game demos came on CDs attached to magazine covers!

Choosing teeth in Saints Row: Boss Factory.

I put Saints Row on my list of games to check out in the second half of 2022, and it’s been a project I’ve watched from afar since it was first announced. I don’t think it’s fair to say that the Saints Row series is just a “Grand Theft Auto clone,” because over the course of fifteen years it’s carved out its own niche in the open-world space. But there’s no denying that, with Grand Theft Auto V wearing out its welcome and Grand Theft Auto 6 nowhere to be seen, Saints Row has the potential to fill that void for many players.

This reboot aims to tone down some of the silliness that has typified the franchise’s most recent instalments – and if you ask me, that’s probably for the best! Rebooting the series and taking it back to its roots feels like a good move, especially in an environment where many players are looking around for a new open-world crime experience.

There are a huge range of colour options in Saints Row: Boss Factory (and note the prosthetic arm!)

So for all of those reasons and more, Saints Row has been on my radar! But that isn’t really what prompted me to talk about Saints Row: Boss Factory. Sure, it’s nice to get a demo. And it’s a great way for Volition and Deep Silver to remind players that the game is coming up! But from my point of view, Saints Row: Boss Factory actually serves as a great example of what in-game character creators can look like in 2022.

Games like Cyberpunk 2077, Elden Ring, Fallout 76, and many more have put together great character creators in recent years. And that’s important because having a customised, personal character is a big part of what makes (some) video games the immersive experiences that players can get lost in. Speaking for myself, I love tinkering with a character creator, choosing every aspect of my character’s appearance, and really tailoring them to the gameplay experience I want to have.

For all the game’s issues, Cyberpunk 2077 has a stellar character creator.

One of the disappointing things for me about Cyberpunk 2077 (aside from the shocking state that the game was in at launch) was that, despite having an absolutely excellent character creator and seeming to bristle with hundreds of clothing and outfit options, the mandatory first-person perspective meant that you almost never got to see the face and body you spent so much time making! That was combined with the fact that, in order to get the best gameplay experience, every few minutes you needed to pick up some new article of clothing because it offered better armour stats.

But we’ve drifted off-topic! A good character creator can absolutely make a difference, and a bad or mediocre one can drag down a game. Just look at last year’s Mass Effect: Legendary Edition as an example. The game used Mass Effect 3′s character creator – a character creator that was already limited even by the standards of the game’s original launch in 2012, so by 2021 it felt very basic with only a handful of different hair and other options. Remaking or expanding the character creator would’ve made Mass Effect: Legendary Edition so much better.

The character creator in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition was a bit of a let-down.

So that brings us to Saints Row: Boss Factory. The character creator is incredibly impressive, with customisation options for basically every aspect of the character’s face and body. Every race is represented – including hair styles – and players can make their character a male, female, cis, trans, or non-binary thanks to a huge variety of options.

Whether you’re trying to make a photo-realistic copy of yourself (something I always struggle with, for some reason!) or create the weirdest-looking creature ever glimpsed by mankind, I daresay you can do it with Saints Row: Boss Factory. I’ve had a blast messing around with all of the different options already, and if Volition has put as much care and effort into the rest of Saints Row as they have to its character creator, I think we’re in for a fun time when the game arrives next month!

Some of the skin tone options in Saints Row: Boss Factory.

One thing I loved about earlier Saints Row games that returns this time are the different voice options. There are eight different voices in Saints Row: Boss Factory – four masculine and four feminine – and they offer a variety of different accents and personalities to really bring a custom character to life. It must be one heck of a task to record all of the dialogue for the game eight times over, but this level of dedication is something special! I’d love to see other games, particularly role-playing experiences, offer something similar.

Most of the sliders in Saints Row: Boss Factory move a long way in both directions – meaning you get a lot of customisability for each individual feature. Not only that, but each one can be moved in tiny increments, allowing for anyone with the time and attention to detail to really nail each and every aspect of their character. It’s a lot of fun for someone like me – but in the right hands this powerful tool with so many different options should allow players to create basically any character that they can imagine!

Look at all of these different options just for one single facial feature!

So I think that’s it for now. Saints Row: Boss Factory has surely succeeded at getting me even more interested in Saints Row – which is due out in just over a month’s time. But beyond that, it’s another great example of what a character creator can (and should) be in 2022. Creating your own character and being in control of every aspect of their appearance is part of what makes video games the immersive and engaging experiences that they are, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with playing a set character, if the choice is there I’ll always opt to change up my character’s look.

Saints Row: Boss Factory was a fun little experience in and of itself, and I’m genuinely looking forward to the full game’s release.

Saints Row: Boss Factory is available to download now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. Saints Row and Saints Row: Boss Factory are the copyright of Volition and Deep Silver. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.