Review by horror_spooky
"Grove Street, H-Oh, Crap..."
A large groan emitted from my body as I read the back cover of Saints Row. I had a strange feeling that I played the game before (Grand Theft Auto, anyone?). However, since the Grand Theft Auto series is my favorite game series, I have to play all the clones just to see if any are up to par (and some of them actually are). I have to say that Saints Row is probably one of the better clones out there, but it still isn't able to define itself on its own.
At first glance, Saints Row looks and feels very similar to Grand Theft Auto (more specifically, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), but there are some little original tidbits that saves this title from going under the deep end. The greatest of these original features are the activities you can partake in for respect and extra cash. These little side-missions often offer hilarious situations and gut-busting circumstances. You can do things like race (of course), become a hitman, steal cars, aid a drug dealer in drug deals, partake in a crashing derby, cause complete and total mayhem, take prostitutes to their jobs, steal prostitutes from abusive pimps to take them to better pimps, or even commit insurance fraud (yes, insurance fraud). If you have played any kind of free-roam game, you can probably pick out the clichéd activities from my little list and, just you would expect, they are vastly unentertaining. Seriously, compare racing to insurance fraud. There IS no comparison. Racing is dull and, in my opinion, should've just been left out of the title while insurance fraud is original, unexpected and hilarious (you commit the insurance fraud by throwing yourself in front of a speeding car it's seriously the funniest thing I have ever seen in a video game).
One major downside to these activities is the fact that they are forced on you in order to complete the main story missions. You can get really into one of the gang stories (there are three from the get-go), but you are constantly forced to take a break from the story to partake in the activities. This really sucks from the fun from the activities and you'll get tired of them really fast (especially when you've unlocked all the respect available for the mission). It's a shame, too. This game would've gotten a much higher score if the side-missions weren't required and you could get into the stories a little bit better. On a side-note, I loved the way that there were separate whole stories for each rival gang, this really kept the game's story from getting boring.
Of course, what would a Grand Theft Auto knock-off be without sweet cars? Needless to say, the vehicle variety in Saints Row isn't all that glamorous. If you pay attention, you'll realize that most of the cars are relatively the same thing. This is a shame since this genre is based around cars.
The one thing that could make up for the lack of vehicle variety would've been an awesome weapon system. I have to say that I'm not too disappointed, but there wasn't much weapon variety either. The aiming system was somewhat irritating, but there is a lot of awesome action. When you're involved in a mission involving taking over a certain area or trying to assassinate someone, large fire-fights will often transpire. These battles are amazing and one of the best features in Saints Row.
A casual gamer usually buys free-roam games simply for the amazing (and often times hilarious) insanity that can be caused. I'm glad to say that this is one of the departments where Saints Row surpasses Grand Theft Auto. You can live much longer which gives you a better chance to actually enjoy the mayhem then having to constantly run for cover. Also, you can choose which weapon you switch to instead of frantically cycling through weapons. Another plus is that you can carry around health with you so if you do get hurt pretty bad, you can heal. Car-wrecks are freaking sick and the explosions are even sicker. Oh, and by the way, you can FLY THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD! If any gamer says that isn't awesome, then they shouldn't be called a gamer. Another destructive plus is that the character can actually catch fire inside the vehicle as it is on fire (awesome, I know).
What about the infamous character customization that was supposed to be the main highlight in the game? I have to say that I was slightly disappointed with the lack of features, but you can buy new clothes for your character once in-game, change the hairstyle if you don't like it and even change your characters entire appearance via a plastic surgeon.
When Grand Theft Auto III came out, nobody thought the map system could be improved. However, Saints Row manages to improve everything about the map system. You can set blips to certain locations that wouldn't usually show up on the map and the game even gives you a path to follow! This is very handy. Getting the weapon shop? No problem! Want to get some food before a tough mission? No problem!
Like I mentioned earlier, to play the main missions you have to partake in side-missions. The reason? You need to get a full bar of respect. I greatly dislike this system. It waters down the gameplay horribly and ruins the game. Seriously, this could've been close to perfection if it wasn't for the gameplay having its foot tied to an anchor and thrown into a river.
Is there swimming you ask? Yes, there's swimming, but the bad situations that occurred in San Andreas (like being stranded in the middle of a large lake and having to swim for twenty minutes to get anywhere) has a solution to it. If you don't feel like swimming, you can simply warp back to shore. Trust me, this saves a lot of frustration.
I found all the main characters to be enjoyable and they actually had some major character development throughout the stories. However, I do have some complaints about this game's blatant use of ripping-off Grand Theft Auto. For example, one mission requires you to go to a rooftop in the docks and snipe people. Sound familiar? It should if you've played Grand Theft Auto III. They're basically the same missions. Also, there is even an area known as the Red Light District. The utter lack of originality was appalling.
I was very surprised with how great the graphics were in Saints Row, especially since it's packed with a lot of extra stuff. Some of the character modules were annoying and the lip-syncing didn't match-up as perfectly as I wanted it to, but overall the graphics for Saints Row were pretty decent.
When the debugging of Saints Row took place, was the goal to leave as many bugs and glitches in the game as possible? Yes, Saints Row is full of glitches (like falling through the street, sitting in the middle of an air like you're actually in a car and other little things like that). Sometimes the glitches can be a real pain in the ass, but other times they can actually had substance to the game's funny power.
The layout of the town of Stilwater (the town which the game takes place in) has a few pluses and minuses to it. I was happy that I could travel freely about the entire town without having to do missions to get to other parts of the town. The town is also relatively small (even smaller than Liberty City) so the people who complained about the long travel in San Andreas have nothing to worry about here. However, most of the town looks a lot a like which makes it nearly impossible to get the feeling that you know where you're going in the town.
The voice-acting in Saints Row was both good and bad. There are many recognizable actors in the game which is a major plus for movie and TV-goers. However, some of the voice-actors are pretty bad at their job and it ruins the character. Also the insults slurred at characters by pedestrians on the streets aren't very plentiful and they often repeat.
One of the major pluses in the Grand Theft Auto series is the hilarious radio stations and the often good radio stations with good music on them. The segments on Saints Row's radio stations are usually not very funny and there aren't a whole lot of them to begin with. Also, most of the songs on the radio stations are pretty lame, but there are some good songs that are actually recognizable. However, if you dislike the songs on the radio stations you can always create a custom track.
Saints Row is relatively shorter than most free-roam games (even though they are pretty short themselves) and the game tries to make up for it by adding the activities (which you are forced to partake in).
For once, I am actually questioning the replayability of a free-roam game. Saints Row does have replayability, but by the time you get to the end of the game, you'll be tired of the side-missions. You can collect the sixty CDs hidden throughout the map, but that's hardly entertaining. There is always random mayhem to cause, but this does get old eventually. You could rob a bunch of places but Saints Row just doesn't have as much replayability like the other free-roam games.
If you are a fan of Grand Theft Auto, you should probably buy Saints Row, but if you are new to the genre, like always, you should rent it. Honestly, I'm getting tired of these GTA clones as I feel like I'm playing the same game over and over and I'm worried that all these clones are going to ruin the experience of Grand Theft Auto IV for me. Hopefully, free-roaming games become more original and more entertaining as the seventh generation of gaming progresses.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/16/07
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