When the SaintsÖ
When you think of a developer like Volition
you donít think GTA-inspired gang games at all, you think of Freespace
, Freespace 2
and itís sequel along with the game Red Faction
, at least I do. Volition has however pulled a nice bag of tricks out of their hat with Saints Row Ė the gang game that succeeds in many places but doesnít quite have the edge that the GTA series has.Story
Your character (after you build them in the custom character creator) is out on the mean streets of Stillwater. Itís a place ripe for the pickings of the many gangs that vie for control. You are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time; youíre almost history until youíre saved by the 3rd Street Saints, another gang, one thatís committed to cleaning up the Row. After this brutal cut-scene youíre taken to the game proper and right from the get go the story grabs you and drags you in.Gameplay
Saints Row is instantly familiar to anyone thatís played a GTA style game. It isnít fair to say the game is a rip-off of Rockstarís
baby, but it is fair to say that certain things have been inspired by the much maligned gang game. Your character can be controlled on foot or he can borrow any vehicle thatís driving around or just lying there for the taking.
The controls have several schemes for on foot and in car. There are no motor bikes or planes in this game, Volition wanted to keep things on the ground for their first game (I expect theyíll be a sequel) this time around. The control system is intuitive and easy to learn, you can perform a crouch with a quick click of the left stick and gun combat (a problem with a lot of these games) is not complicated, everything works smoothly in that department.
The only minor niggle I have is the radial button menu that pops up when you hold down the default B button, this allows you to change your weapon, but itís fairly clunky for first time players Ė once you get used to it youíll be laughing, but until then you could find yourself switching to the wrong weapon in a tense fire-fight.
What is refreshing is that the city is completely open right from the start, you can interact with the main storyline at any time by doing any of the main missions or you can just go off and explore the map looking for various activities and hidden CDís.
There are numerous activities to do in Stillwater. The first time you engage in one youíre treated to a cut-scene that outlines what the person or group wants you to do, these are often humorous but lack the sparkle of GTAís dialogue. They seem to rely on bawdy humour to get them through; this is alright if you like that kind of approach.
Activities range from simple Snatch missions for a local pimp or two, where you have to drive against a time limit to get a number of hookers back to a drop off point. The hookers are often protected by gang members and pimps, these are obstacles to be wiped out or avoided as they will shoot to kill the moment you try and steal their hookers.
There are Drug Trafficking missions where you ride shotgun for a driver and protect them as they make a number of rounds, against a variety of AI gangs, police, FBI and so on.
Chop Shop missions, Hitman missions and even a Destruction Derby to participate in. One of the more inventive types of missions requires you to commit acts of Insurance Fraud, either by diving in front of cars or ramming them with your own. You have a set score zone and have to get the right amount of money to win the mission.
Thereís no shortage of activities to have fun with in Stillwater, and during the story of the game these build Respect and give you extra funds.
Talking of Respect, thatís a commodity you need a lot of in Saints Row. Each time you do a mission or a storyline mission, you earn cash and respect, Respect allows you to unlock more story missions and other side missions. Respect drops each time you participate in a key event or mission, so youíre paying for the mission with Respect basically.