Review by d0x
"The 1st GTA clone that is worth your time"
Lets get this aside from the start. Saints Row is a GTA clone like no other. They took what worked and tweaked it and sent it out the door. The real question is, is it any fun? How does it play? Should I buy it? Well I'm going to try to help you out in that regard.
Well the graphics in Saints Row truly are a mixed bag. Lets start off with the character models. They aren't overly detailed in this game the faces can at times look odd almost like Toys and the lip sync is never really there. The mouths just flap when dialog is being spoken, it can be overlooked but I expect better in this generation even more so after seeing Half Life 2 running on Xbox with near perfect sync. There are some good things about the models. The hair can at times look pretty decent, nothing mind blowing mind you but good enough and the ability to customize the characters look is done allot better then it was in San Andreas. You can modify everything from face size and shape to body type and skin color. From there you can edit every piece of clothing and how its worn. Also if you don't like your look or race you can always have it altered by a Plastic Surgeon in the game.
The animation in this game is a strong point, people walk in a realistic manner and they also do random things while running away from your or an event, it adds to the immersion when you see someone running away from your attack and then they spin around arms flailing to see if your still giving chase only to stumble and miss a few steps giving you the chance to catch up quickly. There is also quite a bit of diversity in the people you will see walking around the streets which is a welcome addition since by now we are growing tired of seeing the same 10 people nonstop.
The environments are fairly well detailed, there are tons of things to smash and break and each area of the city has its own style so traveling around by landmarks is possible. One huge problem here is draw distance. Its almost as bad as Driv3r. Things will suddenly fade into view or fade out. For instance lets say you see a wooden barrier blocking a road and you smash it. You would expect it to stay broken for at least a little while, but if you walk backwards you will start to see it fade out. Before its fully gone you will see the barrier you just smashed reappear in perfect form and placement. This really kills the immersion because it means you really have no effect on the world around you. Another problem is cars, you could turn around and run 10 feet away and the car you blew up or got out of moments ago is gone. It doesn't seem to matter how far away you are either, sometimes its just a matter of if you cant see it then it should go away. This again leads to more problems with car spawns. They really only seem to spawn in the direction your looking so if say you're on the highway running in a direction not many cars will come up behind you unless you turn around and wait for a couple seconds at which point one will suddenly fade in...but if you turn around and go in your original direction it will fade out and never pass you. The game also has major screen tearing issues, the development team stated in an interview that the reason v sync was turned off was because it would lead to major hits in FPS and it wasn't worth the cost. Out of the current lineup of games on the 360 this is just about the worst offender for tearing. It doesn't get in the way of game play but you will really wish it wasn't there. On the other hand the frame rate is pretty solid. I have only noticed one instance of it drop and it wasn't drastic and it lasted for half a second.
What can I say? They attempted to emulate the GTA series here as well but with not much success. The talk radio stations aren't as fun to listen to and the music just doesn't seem to match my tastes. Just be glad you can use custom soundtracks in the game. The voice acting is pretty much top notch, quite a few film actors lend their vocal talents to the game and it really helps move the story along. The games sound effects are standard fare but they make great use of Dolby 5.1. The conversations and one liners you hear while running through the streets can be funny at times as well, and they seem to be pretty varied and change by location in the city.
Game play is just about spot on GTA so going in depth here is semi pointless. If your thinking about getting this game chances are you already have played GTA and know what to expect but I will touch on some of the changes. In order to unlock missions you need to earn respect which can be done by doing side missions. These are pretty varied and most of them are entertaining. So far I think Insurance Fraud (Hurt yourself) is the best followed closely by Hijacking (steal a certain car and return it to a chopshop). When you complete these side missions you earn money and respect which allows you to move the main story along and also buy things like clothing, weapons or upgrades to your car.
The control in the game is really nice. The targeting system is free form which means you're not stuck with auto targeting anymore. If you score a kill, or you die its your fault, everything is going to be based on your skills. When you don't have a weapon the triggers are used to punch and the left bumper is a kick button, you can make some pretty mean combos and depending on how you mix them up and at what time will be the deciding factor in life or death.
Another great aspect in this game is your "Homie's". Like in GTA you can bring some people along with you, but unlike GTA they will actually be of some help and will attack anything that you attack or anything that is a threat to your life. Anyone in your gang will also join in the fight, so if your in a tough spot try to lead your attacker to a group of Saints and 9 times out of 10 they will take care of anyone trying to kill you.
Online multi player is an excellent addition, its something San Andreas should have had but didn't. I'm not going to say much about it yet as I haven't had much time to play it, I've been so hooked on single player. I will update this review in short time to include my impressions of the online portion. There are 4 modes of versus online play; Death match which is called Gangsta Brawl, Blinged out Ride which basically a racing mode, Big Ass Chains which is allot like CTF but instead of getting the flag from a base you get chains from follow opponents, and Protect The Pimp which is a team based attack and defend game type. You also have co-op but there are only two missions and no word on whether more will be added in the future.
I'm going to have to say this game is something you will want to own if your a fan of the genre. It really doesn't do anything new but it does fix a couple problems the GTA series had. The controls are superior and the mapping/way point system just blows away anything found in any other Sandbox type game. Sure there are no bikes or airplanes but you can look past that because the game is just plain fun. It has its issues but at the end of the day if your a fan of the genre you will enjoy Volitions first attempt at the Sandbox genre. Who knows, Saints Row 2 could knock the next GTA off its thrown. Either way we gamers win in the end because serious competition is a good thing.
Game play- 8/10
Overall- 8/10 (not an average)
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/30/06
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