| Saints Row (Xbox 360) |
When Saints Row first came out it was mostly viewed as just another GTA clone attempting to make money off of Rockstar's hit crime sim series, but at its core it offers a much different experience. The city of Stilwater is much smaller than most other video games manage, but each district is different and offers its own unique activities and diversions. The graphics are fairly subpar compared to most other Xbox titles, but for its age the game doesn't look half bad and many character models show a good level of detail.
The story isn't all that great, but it gets the job done. It begins with the player creating their character (more on that below) and being caught in a large firefight between Stilwater's 3 main gangs, the Vice Kings, Los Carnales, and Westside Rollerz. Just when he is about to be executed by the lone surviving VK member a single shot rings out and the player (dubbed Playa by the game itself) looks up to see his saviors. Two members of a new gang called the 3rd Street Saints tell him how they plan to clean up the streets and restore order by taking out the other gangs. They soon take their leave, but not before offering Playa a membership in the gang.
One of the chief mechanics of this game is the respect bar, which must be filled to play missions. Several things earn respect from tagging rival gangs graffiti all the way up to causing chaos and mayhem with high grade military weapons such as RPGs. Completing activities earn a lot of respect along with the added bonus of unlocking content for beating all the levels. Completing all levels of Hitman for example, will unlock gold and platinum weapons at the players safehouse. The amount of respect earned can also be boosted by buying and wearing purple clothes at the various stores scattered about the city, which brings me to what is probably the games best feature.
The game boasts a high level of freedom when it comes to creating a character, allowing players to select their protagonist's race, hairstyle, hair color, body build and much more. The only disadvantage is that the game doesn't allow the player to be female, although with some work players could create a model that looks female. Clothes can also be customized before being bought, allowing players to change the color and style of the shirts, pants, and shoes they add to their wardrobe. Jewelry can also be bought in standard metal form or upgraded to silver, gold or even platinum, though the more valuable metals are much more expensive.
The gameplay is pretty standard and doesn't really offer anything new when it comes to combat, but most missions are enjoyable and challenging. While men make up the majority of the gangs and law enforcement the player must fight it should be noted that several members are female and just as much of a threat as the male members. The game also doesn't discriminate when its comes to the portrayal of violence and death and female characters often die just as often as the male characters do. One female boss in the game is even gunned down and knocked off a building by the player and 2 other male gang members with the death being treated as if she had been just another male boss. The game doesn't go out of its way to kill off any one gender as the story moves along and at the end all sides get hit pretty hard.
In the end the game does have its fair share of flaws, though its refreshing gameplay and minimal amount of sexist content make it at least worth a rental from the local video store. Saints Row knows what it is and what it does best and never attempts to hide or downplay its more extreme elements. It puts fun first and offers an enjoyable (if a bit unpolished) experience and has a large amount of replay value. It is highly recommended that you check it out at least once and try it for yourself.
- Reviewed by MidnightUndead
Rating: M (Blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs and alcohol)