Saints Row

Preview from AJ – Thursday, 27 July 2006 @ 12:00am

Reviewed on:Xbox 360

Players:1 – 12 Players
Release:31 August 2006
Developer:Volition
Distributor:THQ
So the big question is, is Saints Row a GTA Clone or GTA Killer? Well, we don’t know if it is the GTA Killer yet, but I can definitely tell you that it is NOT just a GTA Clone.

How many people reading this right now think that Saints Row is “just a GTA3 clone”? How many? ALL OF YOU!? Well, it is to be expected I guess. When a groundbreaking, genre-defining title is released, every review of a game that follows it will have the phrase “clone” or “killer” after it, depending on the individual reviewers tilt on the game. Quake was called the Doom Killer, Gears of War is being called the Halo Killer and every city building game ever released is termed a Sim City Clone. The big difference on whether a game gets one tag or the other comes down to if it is better or worse than its inspiration. If a game is a Halo killer, then it suggests that it takes the Halo formula and improves on it times 10. On the other hand, a Sim City clone is a game that is trying to cash in on the success of a new genre.

So the big question is, is Saints Row a GTA Clone or GTA Killer? Well, we don?t know if it is the GTA Killer yet, but I can definitely tell you that it is NOT just a GTA Clone. Fortunately for yours truly, I was privileged enough to received an invite from Drew Taylor (the PR dude at THQ) to take Saints Row through its paces on Monday night?. And I was pretty damned impressed! Now plenty of GTA fanbois reading this will have already decided that Saints Row is just another GTA, and that?s fine for you I guess. If you love GTA, you will absolutely love Saints Row. The fact is that Saints Row takes the sandbox genre that inspired by GTA3 and really kicks it up a gear. Saints Row really brings back that feeling of “I wonder what happens if I do this?” The developers at Volition have really nailed the real guts of the Sandbox genre, more about that shortly.

Before you can run off and join the local gang, you need to make your character. Of course just about every game from Tiger Woods to Oblivion lets you customize your character, but Saints Row have gone nuts with the customizations. You could easily spend an hour or more making your character, choosing your clothes, hair, skin tones and even the weight of your character. If you want a fat white guy with an afro, then go for it! Coincidently, that was my choice, and armed with a tub of lard that looked like Eddie Murphy dressed like a fat white guy with an afro I set off to join the local gang. At this stage of the game, the dress options are pretty limited, but save up your cash and you can have more piercings than a hedgehog on Valentines Day and more bling than Mr. T after a day at the jeweler. All the cut scenes in Saints Row are using the in game engine meaning you see your character in all the situations, and given the potentially interesting looks you can come up with, the results can be pretty damned funny. Probably one of the great things about Saints Row is that it really doesn?t take itself too seriously. Whilst there is plenty of violence, vulgar language and partial nudity (wink wink), it is all done very much tongue in cheek. When you see Burger joints called Freckle Bitches and a mechanic called Rim Jobs, you will see what I mean. Inappropriately named franchises are just the start of the long list of things that will have you laughing in Saints Row.

The first few missions of Saints Row are more or less a tutorial, whilst reading the instructions would give you?re the same information, it is really a necessity to get used to the controls before your first gun fight. Unfortunately, at this stage the controls are little imprecise. If you?re used to the precision aiming of GRAW, then prepare to die a lot in this one. The key is to use strafing to aim, because it is near impossible to aim accurately with the right thumb stick. It gets better with practice, but to be honest, it needs tweaking before release.

The main objective of Saints Row is to gain respect. Respect can be gained from missions and various other illegal ?activities?. Respect pretty much works the same as XP in a game like Oblivion or any other RPG. The more respect you earn, the more missions you unlock which earn more respect etc etc. Activities on the other hand are available from the word go, and each activity has its own levels of difficulty. The first time you do an Escort activity it is pretty easy to succeed. Each subsequent level gets progressively harder, requiring more skill and more tenacity. The Escort activity, for example, is a very twisted version of cat and mouse. Escort missions have you picking up a ?lady of the night? from the local strip club, and driving her to various ?clients?. Once you pick up the client, TV crews spring from nowhere and begin chasing you down for incriminating evidence. Needless to say, the objective is to avoid the TV crew and provide your passengers sufficient time to?err? well? you get the idea. The activities get gradually more difficult with clients requesting you perform strange sub-tasks like stopping off at the burger joint, running over witnesses, the usual sort of thing.

It would be easy to play Saints Row for days, solely playing the various activities available. But obviously, that isn?t the point. The main missions in Saints Row are where you?ll want to spend a lot of time and effort. Each mission is accompanied by a plot line and a cut scene. You are then required to carry out a series of tasks in order to complete the mission. Initially these are pretty basic, but the as the plot thickens, the missions become far more challenging. One of the best things in Saints Row is the GPS and map system. Each objective or activity is highlighted on a map, which you can use a cursor to select. Once selected, the fastest route is shown on your GPS. Even though Saints Row is a huge game, you will never feel lost thanks to this little addition! The city is broken up into nearly 40 neighbourhoods which vary from slums, docks and the Burbs to Chinatown, sporting stadiums and even an airport. By killing the leader of a gang controlling a certain neighbourhood or completing some other mission your gang can take control of the area and claim it as theirs. Of course, rival gangs don?t like you taking their turf, and will try and reclaim it. The best part of owning territory is that your homies will come to your rescue should you find yourself in trouble on your own turf. Cops or not, if someone takes you on on home soil, they?ll be in serious trouble. It?s nice to note at this point that the AI doesn?t totally suck like in GTA3. If one of your pals kicks the bucket, you can always revive them, but at least they are less likely to get themselves killed in the first place.

In the 5 hours at THQ I still get the feeling that I have barely scratched the surface of this game. Cracking safes, taking hostages, pimping cars, getting drunk or stoned, customizing clothes, hair and piercings, the dozens of different activities and missions and that doesn?t even take into account the online modes (which we didn?t get a chance to play).

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Kakansho @ 5:32am 30 Sep
I’ve played it.You should enjoy it, although its not amazing. Its much better than some recent games, but still a few problems need fixing before release.I’ve got a thread with a mini-preview somewhere in the general section..
Claude the Duck King @ 10:28pm 29 Sep
Ah yes, Sonic the HedgeWolf. Because Sonic being an anthropomorphic hedgehog didn’t condemn the world to quite enough furry fanfiction.
M03B1 @ 10:00pm 29 Sep
Boo-urns Leave Sonic on handhelds or as Downloadable games
RagnarokPwnage @ 3:53pm 29 Sep
QUOTE (Protogenxl @ Sep 29 2008, 02:04 PM) Do I have to remind everyone about the Sonic Piss Analogy?Only if you’re Yahtzee
Protogenxl @ 2:04pm 29 Sep
Do I have to remind everyone about the Sonic Piss Analogy?