Platform: PS3*/Xbox 360/PC
Genre: Open World Action/Adventure
Players: 1 (Online: 2)
ESRB: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language)
I’ve never played any of the previous Saints Row games. Having never seen a trailer, they appeared to be very gang violence focused, and I’ve never been one for the Grand Theft Auto style game. However, the Saints Row hype caught my interest and the great reviews made it hard to ignore.
The game separates itself from Grand Theft Auto quite well from the start. The game is way over the top from character customization to costumes to weapons. The game is designed not to be challenging or even that engrossing, but merely a ton of fun. Starting off, I knew I had to take advantage of this, so for character customization I chose to be as old as possible. The beginning clothing options had me discouraged, as my old man was not looking particularly old, but rather someone suffering an odd midlife crisis. However, once I hit the shop, I quickly came upon an argyle shirt and a newspaper boy hat. It’s as if they were reading my mind!
After flying through the windshield of a plane and through to the back, shooting up the passengers on my way, it was onto the bulk of the story. It’s the story of the Third Street Saints redeeming themselves as legitimate thugs after selling out to energy drinks and lunchboxes. The player and his or her gang must rise against the Syndicate – a group of three factions in control of the city of Steelport. The player collects several “homies” including a pimp, a former FBI computer junkie and a former KGB operative. Into the second act, government military operatives under the STAG initiative join the brawl to take down the Saints.
But that’s not all that important. The important part is playing this game, and it’s a blast. The missions are all incredibly varied, and accompanied by a variety of side-missions that branch off of the main ones. These aren’t overly numerous and so avoid the tedious nature that side-missions can often adopt. The main missions, often outrageous, take you through virtual reality, several vehicle sequences including a tip-of-the-hat to the film the Hangover, the skies above Steelport and through a BDSM-whore-led chariot race. Front to back this game is both varied and hilarious. Not only that, but it gives the player some options at several points in the game that affect how the whole thing plays out. No matter your ending, you’ll witness great setpieces and a great culminating mission.
There are often a slew of enemies and many ways to dispatch of them. Whether it’s a close-up wrestling move or shot to the groin, a fart-in-a-jar, a laser rifle or a full-blown air-strike, there are plenty of options. The player also has a lot of health to play with, making these encounters easy to orchestrate. Next to that, there are lots of upgrades to said weapons in addition to the many vehicles, all of which can be delivered to you via your homies after purchasing gang upgrades. Long story short – you can do pretty much whatever you want.
And this is the core of Saints Row. No memorable characters, no big boss fights, just the player, the world, and his or her homies. The game doesn’t look fantastic all the time, and it’s not without a glitch or two that will force you to reload an old save, but these don’t get in the way of a bunch of fantastic fun.
Bottom Line: 9/10