The Saints Row 2022 release represents a reboot of the series, with developer Volition aiming to get back to its roots, or something like that. It feels like a modern blend between Grand Theft Auto and Mafia, without some of the silliness that some may feel ran amuck in the last couple of installments. We're not here to talk about the game and story so much; rather, we're focusing on performance for the PC release. We've tested many of the best graphics cards at a variety of settings and resolutions to find out what you can expect.
Saints Row System Requirements
The official Saints Row PC system requirements from Volition aren't too bad. The minimum recommendation consists of a Core i3-3240 or Ryzen 3 1200 CPU, 8GB of memory, and a GeForce GTX 970 or Radeon RX 480. While it appears you need at least 4GB of VRAM to run the game acceptably, we tested lower spec cards and found that's not necessarily the case, though higher settings will certainly benefit from having at least 4GB.
Moving up to higher settings and frame rates, as usual, necessitates better hardware, with the GTX 1070 or RX 5700 recommended for 1080p medium at 60 fps, RTX 2080 or RX 6700 XT for 1440p high at 60 fps, and the RTX 3080 Ti or RX 6800 XT for 4K ultra at 60 fps. We suspect that the last one of those will need a new AMD driver, however, as even the RX 6950 XT barely managed 60 fps at 4K ultra.
AMD has a promotion where buyers of certain Ryzen CPUs and Radeon graphics cards can get Saints Row for free, the Raise the Game (opens in new tab) and Raise the Game Fully Loaded (opens in new tab) bundles. That might entail a certain amount of developer optimizations targeting AMD hardware, though we didn't see anything particularly noteworthy in our testing.
We received early access to Saints Row and tested with AMD's 22.8.1 drivers alongside Nvidia's 516.94 drivers, neither of which are explicitly Game Ready for Saints Row. Surprisingly, the only drivers that specifically mention Saints Row come from Intel, but they're only for the Arc A380 GPU — integrated graphics users are still stuck with an older release.
Update: AMD has released updated 22.8.2 drivers that are Game Ready for Saints Row. You can see the updated results below.
Saints Row Settings Analysis
Saints Row includes a lot of settings you can tweak, nearly 20 graphics options, plus a few others. There are four presets as well, Low, Medium, High, and Ultra, offering quick adjustments that will suffice for most people. If you want more information, though, we've run through all the individual settings and compared performance against the Ultra preset, turning each down to the minimum value — or enabling ray tracing in one instance.
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We've used the Radeon RX 6750 XT and GeForce RTX 3070 for our settings comparison, two GPUs that perform similarly in our GPU benchmarks hierarchy where the 6750 XT is 1.4% faster at 1080p Ultra. We're testing at 1440p Ultra as the baseline, in order to minimize any potential CPU bottlenecks.
Interestingly, at least with the preview code and current drivers, the RTX 3070 outperforms the RX 6750 XT by 13%, despite this being an AMD-promoted game. Final code and updated drivers could of course change the standings, and as Saints Row lacks a built-in benchmark, we manually ran through a sequence in the game for our testing. That can result in slightly more variability, perhaps as much as 3%, though we did test each setting multiple times to eliminate any outliers.
Starting with the presets, dropping to High improved performance by around 10% on Nvidia and by 18% on AMD, and as far as visuals go there's very little difference between the two. The Medium preset does start to have a visible impact, at the same time delivering a 42% improvement in Nvidia fps and a 54% boost to AMD's GPU. Finally, the Low preset (which drops nearly every setting to the minimum value, except for antialiasing) gives a 62% boost to Nvidia and an 81% increase to AMD — with the two cards now effectively tied.
The sum of the whole is greater than the individual settings in this case, as most of the options have a relatively minor impact on performance. Only Shadow Quality, Undergrowth, Screen Space Reflections, HBAO, and Motion Blur provide more than a 4% boost to our measured FPS, and even that wasn't consistent across GPU vendors. Nvidia's RTX 3070 only benefits from the first two. Antialiasing, Scene Detail, and Texture Filtering Quality also registered a 3% improvement on AMD's RX 6750 XT, but again there's potentially a 3% margin of error.
The only setting that doesn't get enabled by default is Raytraced Ambient Occlusion, which improves the quality of local shadowing at the cost of 15–25% performance, depending on your GPU. You can set RTAO to low, medium, high, or ultra, and in our experience the last two options are basically placebo — you'll get nearly the same result with medium RTAO with less of an impact on framerates.
You can view full-size images for each of the settings in the above gallery, though with preview code it's possible that some of the settings aren't functioning as expected. Global Illumination for example tends to be a relatively demanding setting, but with the game version we tested, it didn't seem to do anything, while Screen Space Reflections appeared to impact some of the same things you'd see with Global Illumination. We'll update our findings once we have the initial public release later this week.
We've provided two sets of screenshots, one from outside your home apartment that better illustrates some of the shadow and lighting effects, and another near the water. Due to the dynamic time of day, crowds, and vehicles, there will be slight differences between the images, so focus on the areas of the scene that don't change much. The images are labeled, but you'll notice many appear nearly identical to the default Ultra preset.
Saints Row GPU Performance
Moving on to the benchmarks, we've tested twelve different graphics cards, plus Intel's integrated Iris Xe (on a Core i7-1165G7 laptop). These span the spectrum from ultra-budget GPUs from six years ago like the GTX 1050, up through the latest and greatest GPUs like the RTX 3090 Ti and RX 6950 XT. We've also tested Intel's new Arc A380 graphics card, a modern budget solution.
Starting with integrated solutions and older low-end hardware, Intel's Iris Xe fails to reach playable levels of performance, while AMD's RX 550 4GB — a GPU that's similar in performance to the integrated Vega 8 Graphics solutions — plugs along at a reasonable 45 fps at 720p, but falls to 28 fps at 1080p. The Arc A380 and GTX 1050 had no serious troubles with 720p or 1080p at the game's lowest settings.
Bumping to 1080p medium, only the RX 550 fails to break 30 fps — and of course it would be joined by Intel's integrated graphics, which we didn't test at medium since they already got 15 fps at low. The RX 6500 XT and GTX 1650 Super both easily clear 60 fps, with the RTX 3070 and above breaking the 144 fps mark. AMD GPUs have a slight lead in a few cases, but generally speaking the cards land about where we'd expect.
Saints Row at 1080p Ultra starts to tax budget GPUs, likely because they don't have enough VRAM. The GTX 1650 Super just barely clears 30 fps, while the 6500 XT and Arc A380 come up short, and the GTX 1050 performance drops significantly from 1080p medium due to its only having 2GB VRAM. RTX 2060 and above still break 60 fps, though, which means most midrange and above GPUs of the past four years will be just fine.
At 1440p, only the RX 6750 XT and above break 60 fps, and you can see that the Nvidia cards generally outpace their AMD counterparts now, with the RTX 3070 leading the 6750 XT by 7%. Game Ready drivers from both companies might be enough to change the standings slightly, but we'd expect similar performance improvements from both sides. The RX 6950 XT and RTX 3090 Ti both average more than 120 fps as well, for those with higher refresh rate 1440p gaming monitors.
4K Ultra remains playable on the RX 6750 XT and above, but only the RX 6950 XT and RTX 3090 Ti — and likely the RTX 3080 Ti and above — break 60 fps. That's not too surprising, but the lack of any form of upscaling on a modern game release is a bit unusual these days. As an AMD-promoted game, we'd like to see FSR 2.0 added, which would make 4K gaming possible for a lot more GPUs.
Saints Row Ray Tracing Performance
Saints Row only includes one ray tracing effect, Raytraced Ambient Occlusion. It creates more accurate localized shadows, for a modest hit to performance. The best example of what RTAO does compared to the default HBAO can be seen in the following gallery, in areas that would be in the shadow of objects above them.
Without RTAO, there are many areas that should be somewhat shadowed, like under the awning on the building and the AC unit on the truck. Even the lowest level of RTAO makes things look more realistic, for a relatively small hit to performance. Each additional level of RTAO darkens the shadowed areas slightly, but the visual gains are pretty minor and you can certainly get by with the low or medium RTAO settings.
The performance impact of RTAO ends up being around 10–25% for most GPUs, though the RX 6500 XT takes a much larger 47% hit to performance, even at medium quality (for both the preset and RTAO). The RTX 3090 Ti still squeaks past the 60 fps mark at 4K and maxed out settings, but since it's typically around 10% faster than the next closest GPU (RTX 3090), it's probably the only card that can consistently do so right now.
You'll note that the Arc A380 is missing from the charts. That's because, despite being "Game Ready" for Saints Row, enabling RTAO on the A380 causes the game to immediately crash to desktop with a GPU error message. We've notified Intel of the problem.
While the RTAO effect is fine, it's not world changing, and we'd leave it off unless you're already using at least the High global preset. If you're doing that and have enough headroom, bumping RTAO to low or medium will give a reasonable blend of performance and image quality without quite as much of a performance hit.
Updated AMD Adrenalin 22.8.2 Drivers
After our preview testing was finished, AMD dropped its new Radeon Adrenalin 22.8.2 drivers, which are Game Ready for Saints Row. We retested the RX 6950 XT and RX 6750 XT, and you can see the results in the above charts. The long and short of it is that very little changed, as basically everything is within the 3% margin of error for manual benchmark runs.
On the RX 6750 XT, 1080p Medium DXR and 4K Ultra DXR show a 2–3% increase in performance while everything else is within 1% of our original 22.8.1 driver results. The RX 6950 XT shows slightly more variability, but mostly in the wrong direction. Non-DXR testing is 1% faster at 1080p and 1440p, but 4K Ultra is 2% slower — close enough overall. Enabling RTAO on the other hand shows a universal drop in performance, with the RX 6950 XT fps falling 2–4%.
Given the lack of significant changes, we stopped testing the updated drivers at this point. It's possible some GPUs might show more of a delta, and we see no reason to avoid the updated 22.8.2 drivers, particularly if you're playing Saints Row. However, we only tested a handful of AMD GPUs and likely wouldn't spot any unusual trends given our limited sampling.
Saints Row 2022: Closing Thoughts
Performance using the preview build of Saints Row was generally good, provided you don't just max out all the settings on a midrange card and hope for 60 fps or more. Of course, if you have a high-end card like the RTX 3060 Ti or RX 6700 XT or better, you can get away with that approach at 1080p, but most gamers will want to tune a few settings and stick to the High preset.
Anyone familiar with the series should find plenty to like. It might not be quite as ridiculous as the previous release, Saints Row IV, but graphics have come a long way in the past nine years. Personally, I found plenty to enjoy while running around Santo Ileso, the fictional city of the game world, and there are lots of shenanigans and hijinks to keep you entertained.
Is it better or worse than the previous iterations? Critics appear to be leaning toward the "worse" end of the spectrum, and Metacritic has Saints Row 2022 PC at an overall score of 70. That feels about right to me: It can be fun, but it doesn't set any new standards and definitely reels in the wackiness from SR4's showdown with Satan. However, performance and stability in my experience were much improved over some of the previous titles, particularly SR3.
CPU and GPU requirements should be well within reach of any gaming PC built within the past five or more years. Based on what we saw with our limited testing, even an old GTX 970, which came out in 2014, should manage just fine at 1080p medium. It might not get a steady 60 fps, but it's typically 50–80% faster than a GTX 1050, which managed 1080p Low without any serious difficulty.
Saints Row launched on August 23, 2022, exclusively on the Epic Games Store for PC users. It's also available on Xbox and PlayStation. Volition provided us with a pre-release copy for purposes of this technical overview.