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View Full Version : Informal review: Saints' Row (X360)



ThaiBoxerShorts
2nd September 06, 09:46 PM
First, let's get this out of the way: Saints' Row is a lot like Grand Theft Auto. And by that, I mean it's a lot like Grand Theft Auto. So much so that one of the first words that comes to mind is "lawsuit." It is therefore pretty much impossible to discuss SR without comparing it to GTA on just about every level. So I'm not even going to try. Hence, the "informal" part of "informal review."

The first thing you do upon starting a game is customize your character's appearance. The system is quite detailed and intuitive, and I had no trouble at all creating a reasonable likeness of myself. You start off with a black t-shirt, blue jeans and white sneakers, but you can buy alternate outfits once you start the game, and other outfits are awarded for completing certain missions.

Once I got past that and started shooting people and stealing cars, I felt a little... underwhelmed. My first impression what that it was nothing more than a technically-competent GTA rip-off. However, while it is a GTA rip-off, it does have some worthwhile innovations that make it a good game in its own right. I just had to wade through a few hours of feeling ripped off before I discovered them.

The biggest and most obvious innovation is the gang warfare system. The player character (referred to by NPCs, humorously enough, as "Player," which does kind of make sense as a gang nickname) is a member of the Saints, one of four gangs in the fictional metropolis of Stillwater. While the very first mission sends you into a small battle against rival gang members, it's not until you've been playing for a while that you realize how frickin' awesome the gang warfare system is. The city is divided up into several neighborhoods, each of which is controlled by one of the four gangs. The Saints' territory starts out small, but nearly every main plot mission involves capturing territory from other gangs. Once you control a neighborhood, though, the other gangs can still come back and try to reclaim it; it's not uncommon to get a cellphone call -- even in the middle of an unrelated mission -- informing you that a Saints-controlled neighborhood is under attack. These "pushback" battles are truly epic: There are literally dozens of Saints and dozens of rival gang members exchanging fire simultaniously. Nearby cars will suddenly get hit with heavy weapons fire and explode unexpectedly. And sometimes the cops join into the fray. Luckily, you don't have to face this chaos alone: You can recruit up to three fellow gang members to follow you around and ride with you. They can fire from a moving vehicle and do so automatically, so if they're sufficiently armed, a large convertible can become a fearsome drive-by gunship. The player can also fire while driving, but it's almost impossible to effectively aim (right thumbshick) while steering (left thumbstick). Firing from a stationary car works pretty well, though, and gives you some built-in cover to shoot from. Some side missions involve riding shotgun, fending off attackers while an NPC drives a prespecified route, and one recruitable Saints member can drive for you -- in theory freeing you up for gunner duty -- though in practice you still have to provide directions using the left thumbskick. A cool idea, but implemented poorly enough to be useless.

There's not quite as much emphasis on car-related activities as in GTA, which is a good thing. Many missions don't involve any driving at all, except perhaps driving to the necessary location. There are some fairly large indoor areas to explore, and are played more or less like a run-and-gun shooter in the vein of Max Payne. It is sometimes possible to crash through the front door of an indoor environment in a car full of heavily-armed homies, making very short work of any enemies in the first room, but after that you're going to have to hoof it.

In addition to customizing your character's appearance, you can also customize most of the cars and then permanently store them in you garage. There are a few uncustomizable cars in the game, but they are few and far between, the exception rather than the rule. The rest can be repainted, the grills, bumpers, hoods, and roofs can be replaced (or removed altogether), body kits can be added, and in some cases you can even hang fuzzy dice from the mirror. And if there's a limit to how many cars you can have in your garage, I haven't reached it yet. Wandering around looking for cool-looking cars to steal, taking them back to the garage, and modding them to look even cooler is a pretty addictive activity by itself. Unfortunately, most car mods are entirely cosmetic, and the few available performance-related mods aren't very useful.

This is definitely a game that earns its M rating. Playing a bad guy, lots of violence, lots of vulgar language, sexual references, and I'm pretty sure I saw a topless hooker during a gunbattle in a brothel at one point, though it was kinda hard to tell with all the shooting and killing and trying not to die and stuff. Bottom line: If you're an adult, know what you're getting into. If you're a kid, go play a different game -- this one is for grown-ups. And if you're a parent of a child under 17, don't buy them this game.

Assuming you're an adult who doesn't have a problem with the subject matter, should you buy it? Yes. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good driving-running-gunning action game. If the X360 is your only console and you're jonsing for GTA, this is the closest thing we're likely to see any time in the foreseeable ever. And as blatant rip-offs go, it's a very good blatant rip-off.

Phrost
3rd September 06, 10:34 AM
Pretty good review. Strongly thinking about getting a 360.

Neildo
3rd September 06, 12:04 PM
Nice write-up TBS. When I first saw a commercial for this I immediately thought "GTA rip-off" as well.

If I had a 360 right now, I'd probably get this. Since I likely won't have a 360 for a while, I'll probably just be getting GTA4 (which I heard is a 360 exclusive anyways. another selling point for me.)

Shawarma
3rd September 06, 01:18 PM
I just bought Bad Day LA, a political parody on the GTA/Max Payne genre. I might do a writeup if it's outrageous enough.

Stick
4th September 06, 12:22 AM
This game takes place in STILLWATER?!?!

<<<<<<<<

Dude, I best watch my 6' fo' drive bys!

Airman Kai
4th September 06, 02:43 AM
I was going to write a review, but you pretty much said everything that needs to be said (I just beat it about 3 hours ago, something like 65% complete at about... 15-20 hours?).

The game rocks HARD, I love it for not being afraid to be what it really is: an attempt at outdoing GTA. It's a damn close call, if you want my final answer. San Andreas (what I consider to be the definitve current vision of GTA awesomeness) had more STUFF, but in some ways, the STUFF in Saints Row just seemed more... STUFFy, or something.

Check this out.

GTA

White smoke = 75% damage to vehicle
Black smoke = 90% damage to vehicle
Flames = Vehicle about to explode

Saint's Row

White smoke = 75% damage to vehicle
Black smoke = 90% damage to vehicle
Flames = Vehicle about to explode


And the thing is... SR does it better. Blowing up cars that send for flaming bodies in all direction (with awesome physics) NEVER gets old.

The best (or worst) thing about Saint's Row is that GTA 4 is going to totally rip the good things from SR and it'll make GTA 4 a better game.

AWESOME, and WILL be ripped off by GTA 4:

Free Aim (the old lock on system has GOT to go)
teh awesome HAVOK (tm) physics
Gang Warfare System ("AI" that actually uses the "I")

ThaiBoxerShorts
4th September 06, 12:13 PM
San Andreas (what I consider to be the definitve current vision of GTA awesomeness) had more STUFF, but in some ways, the STUFF in Saints Row just seemed more... STUFFy, or something.
That makes perfect sense to me, but unfortunately, people who haven't played SR will have no idea what you're talking about.

How about putting it this way: There are some things that GTA had that SR doesn't even try to do. For example, the lack of motorcycles, boats, and helicoptors in SR is quite glaring if you've played the more recent GTAs (Well, okay, there are helicoptors, but you don't actually get to fly them). But everything that SR does do, it does at least as well -- and in many cases better -- than GTA. And, there are some awesome features in SR that GTA lacked, such as player/vehicle customization and the gang warfare system.

Airman Kai
4th September 06, 12:45 PM
Another interesting "X Factor" type of thing that I noticed is this:

In GTA, no matter what car I was in, I hardly cared. I could always get another one that was the same thing.

In Saint's Row, I actually CARED about my best cars. I' tune 'em up, put some on low-rims while others got all muscle-car'd up. I would TAKE CARE of my best cars.

Saint's Row 2 needs open suburban areas, or wilderness like in San Andreas. Well, SR2 can always tear good ideas right from GTA4 if it has to :)

Neildo
4th September 06, 12:45 PM
GTA:SA has both player/vehicle customization (to a point) and gang warfare (also limited).

Airman Kai
4th September 06, 12:47 PM
GTA:SA has both player/vehicle customization (to a point) and gang warfare (also limited).
They seem VERY elementary when compared to SR.

The car custimization in GTA:SA was limited to SOME cars, and in the end, didn't have much of a visual effect. You can throw huge blowers on about any mucle car in SR, and IMO, all the body mods make a marked visual impact.

And about the gang war comparison: GTA:SA was simply 30 NPC's running towards your blazing assault rifle, unable to do anything. SR is 100 crazed gang members, police, S.W.A.T., and random insane civilians. And they all act SMART. They hide behind cars and take part in minutes long shootouts, or sometimes work together to rush the cops, or get the drop on the other gang and take 'em out in just a few seconds, and all while exlposions occur at seemingly random intervals due to that crazy guy with the RPG Launcher... the thing is, it LOOKS how gang warfare should look in a game.

ICY
4th September 06, 01:20 PM
For the record, GTA:2 had more advanced gang warfare than GTA:SA did.


If you're an adult, know what you're getting into. If you're a kid, go play a different game -- this one is for grown-ups. And if you're a parent of a child under 17, don't buy them this game.

...and if you're a prude, why are you playing this game anyway? When I have kids, they will be listening to gangsta rap and playing shoot'em ups 24/7.

Airman Kai
5th September 06, 07:04 AM
For the record, GTA:2 had more advanced gang warfare than GTA:SA did.

You are correct, but as that was a sprite based game, I didn't feel the comparison would help.

ICY
5th September 06, 07:17 AM
I figured SA's gang system just sucked.

Sun Wukong
5th September 06, 02:35 PM
SA seems kinda watered down and stopped being fun early on.

Shawarma
5th September 06, 02:39 PM
SA had dumb story. It started out being all Boys in Da Hood, whippin out yo gat on whack niggaz frontin on you, then it turned into Mission Impossible when you had to hijack commercial airliners, have dogfights in F-1 fighters and blow up secret agens. Why couldn't they have made it a game about just being a ghetto-ass gangsta?

Airman Kai
6th September 06, 06:08 PM
Why couldn't they have made it a game about just being a ghetto-ass gangsta?

Because evidentally, blastin' on foolz just ain't gangsta enough these days...

Stick
7th September 06, 06:29 PM
Because I have no impulse control whatsoever, I bought this game.

So far it's fun.

The amount of stuff vs. stuffyness of stuff makes perfect sense; customization is more innvolvevd, but I really miss motorcycles.

ThaiBoxerShorts
9th September 06, 01:54 AM
Today I got an X360 VGA cable, dusted off the old 20-inch computer monitor I've had no use for since switching to Macs, and gave Saints' Row a try with that. Holy shit it looks fucking awesome! It's not quite HDTV quality, but it's light-years better than TV. You can read the fucking licence plates on the cars.

If you're like me and can't afford an HDTV display, pick up the VGA cable and play on your computer monitor. Seriously. You'll be very, very glad you did.