Saint's Row (360)
When it was
first announced, Saint's Row was seen as yet another in a
long chain of cheaply done and poorly executed Grand Theft
Auto clones. Between the screen shots that first graced 360
preview galleries and the limited initial coverage, it could
not be overlooked that SR looked like it would be another
Driv3r, The Getaway, Mafia, or The Godfather.
look back at the legacy of all that Grand Theft Auto 3 and
later had done correctly, and all that was horribly
mutilated and mangled by the clones, it seemed like only
Rockstar could sit on the throne of being the king of 3D
sandbox/crime games. However, while Driv3r, The Getaway, and
The Godfather all tried to reinvent the wheel, Volition
tried something very different with SR; they would not
reinvent anything. They would simply aim to improve upon
what Rockstar had done so well.
screams of GTA fanboys on one side of the fence yelling how
SR is a cheap clone, and with Volition and 360 fanboys
screaming how GTA is a beta test of Saint's Row, one can nly
look at Saint's Row as an individual game...and not at what
inspired it or was imitated by it. So, how is Saint's Row as
a game? As an individual entity in the world of the geek?
Quite similar to the plot of GTA:SA...wait...let's
start over. This is not a comparison of Saint's Row to any
other franchise. This is a real honest review of a real
honest attempt at gaming greatness. So, like how any of us
would rather be judged on who we are and not how we compare
to greatness, SR deserves the same honest judgment.
Row focuses on the 3rd Street Saint's out of the Saint's Row
neighborhood of the fictional town of Stillwater. This is a
completely fictional town in a unknown state in the US that
has some hills, some water in the form of both a harbor and
a river, and a semi-major national airport. This is also a
town under siege by three other rival gangs which are all
attempting to take control of the city.
hand, you have the stereotypical Latino gang; Los Carnales.
This is a gang of low-rider loving, drug dealing, family
orientated men. They control the southern end of town, which
consists mainly of the factories, the harbor, the
warehouses, and the airport. The one characteristic that
most marks this gang is that they have brought the
Columbians in to help with taking full control of the drug
north of Saint's Row, you have the Vice Kings. This is a
gang obviously influenced by Death Row Records. You have Mr.
King, a wealthy record mogul who was once a lowly gang
banger in his day, as the head of this group. The primarily
control aspects of the entertainment industry (leaving them
in charge of downtown Stillwater), while having a few too
many cops in their pockets...and a nasty power struggle in
west side of town you have the Westside Rollerz (notice the
cool "z"). This is not as much a gang as a bunch of rich
street racing punks being joined together through some, at
first, mysterious power/person. These kids mainly control
the suburbs, the area around the local stadium, and
Chinatown. In a nutshell, this is just a group of spoiled
rich kids with fast cars and big guns.
things out, we have the protagonist gang; the Saints. The
Saints are the equal-opportunity gang of Stillwater,
bringing together men and women of various races and
backgrounds under a single abandoned roof; the Saint's Row
game opens, we are introduced to our nearly voiceless
protagonist (you). While it may not seem like it for some
time, you do have a small bit of personality...but you just
don't speak until the situation definitely calls for it
(after finishing any major story arc). You are just another
random civilian in the city when a mini gang war erupts in
front of you. Next thing you know, cars are on fire, bullets
are flying, and you're about to be executed. That's when
Julius and Troy, the first and second in command of the
Saints, arrive to save your life. Julius asks you to join up
with the Saints, and that's where the game finally begins.
plot progresses, you will get a great chance to go through
four very unique story arcs, with many diverse characters
calling the shots. You will spend time doing jobs to help
the Saints regain some notoriety under the eyes of Julius.
You will take down the Rollerz with the subtle help of an
undercover Saint. You will take down Los Carnales through
the strategy of one of the smarter Saints. Best of all (at
least in terms of humor), you will utterly destroy the Vice
Kings under the wing of a psychotic, trigger-happy maniac.
Then you will wrap up some loose ends and see a fully
evolving plot, from start, to middle, to conclusion.
comes to action games and plots, not many can offer quite
the emotional range of what SR has in store. Each character
has a unique personality and motive. There are very few
events in the game that will happen with no real reasoning
behind them. While some events may seem cliché, it is only
because of the long standing truth; everything has been done
before. What matters is the mix of these clichés...and
that's something SR has down.
builds upon the now classic open ended sandbox world genre
in many great ways. The majority of the game is based upon
you enjoying an open world which is completely and freely
explorble from the moment the first cinematic is concluded.
This world offers dozens of things to enjoy, from
"activities", to main story missions, to the ability to
steal any vehicle and go crazy with any weapon you find (be
it by spending cash at a weapon store, finding them on the
bodies of fallen civilians and law enforcement officers, to
finding some lying on the ground). This is a freely
enjoyable mini-world with miles of streets and dozens of
before you can start to enjoy all of that, you first need to
create a protagonist. The only real limits you face in this
is on your height, you gender (male), and by what is
allowable in a real human. You can design the general build
from muscular and fat to skinny on all accounts. You can
design where you facial features are located, what structure
your face has, you hair style, and what general skin and
hair color(s) you have. If you want to make a famous face,
you are more than free to do so. Plus, this is all easy
enough to manage that I was able to make a close
representation of myself with only about 15 minutes of fine
even if you like you character at the start of the game, you
may change your mind as you play. Well, if such a feeling of
regret befalls you, then you can easily visit either a
barber or a plastic surgeon during the game to update or
radically alter your past commitments. Best of all, no
matter what you want your character to look like, you will
not suffer any adverse conditions. If you want to make a
regular doughboy, you will still be able to run like the
best of them.
you've really began, the main missions will help to guide
you into understanding both the story and your abilities.
You will quickly be introduced to melee fighting with your
gang initiation baptismal ceremony. From there, you get a
crash course in ranged fighting, and then you get to see the
finer points of driving and also the joy of "activities".
may be wondering what I mean by activities. Well, as mainly
optional side events/mini-games, you can initiate an
activity. These will range from finding prostitutes for
local pimps, to escorting famous "couples" in the back seat
of your car as you try to evade the paparazzi and angry
spouses, to causing complete carnage in specific areas of
the city, to street races, to demolition derbies, finding
vehicles for chop shops, fulfilling hitman based contracts,
gunning down foes as a driver makes his daily drug running
rounds, to even defrauding insurance companies by tossing
yourself in from of speeding vehicles. Each activity will
require you to use some balance of skills, intelligence and
strategy, and a bit of luck. However, most of all, each
activity will give a nice break from the normal game play
and give one hell of a chance to kill some time without
activities do serve a slightly grander purpose. By finishing
an activity (which usually will have eight levels of
challenge), you will gain further respect which will allow
you to access new main story missions, and you'll score a
bit of cash in the process. If you manage to clear all eight
levels of an activity, you'll also get an nice bonus for
your efforts. This bonus could be anything from new homies
to call up when you need some assistance to new weapons and
vehicles that are found at your crib. Some will even boost
your abilities by making you more resistant to damage from
various sources or granting infinite running ability. Even
when you finish an activity, you can go back to retry it all
over again. To round out this wonderful experience, if you
fail after so many levels of an activity, you can start
again from the level you failed at. No need to start all
over again. Ever.
of earning new weapons and vehicles, you can store over 50
vehicles in the garage at your crib. If you decide to take a
vehicle to an auto shop to change the looks or abilities,
you can save it, forever (or until you delete it), in your
garage. If a garage saved vehicle gets destroyed, you don't
need to worry; go back home and pay a small price ($500) and
the car will be fixed up and returned home. Leave a car on
the road and you can find it back in your garage when you
get back home. This also lets you enjoy the prospect of
buying new cars from the dealerships and tuning them into a
When I say
you can customize your cars, I don't just mean choosing from
a few paints. You can paint your body, trim, and rims all
different colors from a palette of several hundred colors
possibilities, covering the range of matte, glossy,
iridescent, pearl, candy, and metallic colors. You can
change you car's body kit, spoiler, roof, hood, grill, add
nitro, add hydraulics...you won't find this level of
customization outside of Need For Speed.
all, each vehicle in this game controls quite different than
any other. Small cars will not all run with quick
acceleration and low top speeds. Some will handle like crap,
some will be fast but slow to start, some will be true
racers. Steering is never the same in any two different car
models. Also, each vehicle closely resembles an actual car,
but obviously be named differently to avoid licensing
issues. You have VW Beetles, Honda Elements, Corvettes
(classic Stingray style and modern), Impalas, semis, buses,
Ferraris, Lexuses (Lexi?), Imprezas. You even have the joys
of stealing and/or destroying fuel tanker trucks.
driving, this game offers even more finer details. You have
eight weapon slots (melee, fist, pistol, SMG, rifle, thrown,
shotgun, and RPG) that are easy to access by simply clicking
the X button and selecting a direction. You also have easy
access to summoning fellow Saint's to be under your command
who each come with unique weapons and a great deal of
intelligence. If these homies die, you can revive them
get down to your actual controls, you will find none of the
antiquated auto-lock combat systems. You will freely control
your aim with the right stick and your movement with the
left. This means you will always be responsible for your own
actions in combat. You won't have issues of not locking onto
a certain target, unless you are just incompetent with the
you're finally ready to take part in some of the actual main
missions, you will be able to bring all of these factors
together into one solid package. You will usually need a
nice blend of shooting, driving, running, and planning for
each mission. However, if anything goes wrong, you don't
need to worry about reloading an old save or losing precious
money to a hospital or jail stay (no losing weapons on
death!). You can simply click the A button and retry from
where the mission began.
simply too much to go into any more detail about in Saint's
Row. This is not even touching the lack of loading screens
when you move about the city or enter a building, the
ability to call up random phone numbers for help, cheats, or
entertaining voice mail messages, or the true fun of random
mission that will place you in shotgun as you gun while a
homie drives. You can even plot a location you wish to visit
on your map and the ever present mini-map will show you how
to get there from your current location.
end, there are only two weak spots to all of this. First of
all, there are no sea bound or air bound vehicles. No boats.
No aircraft. No motorcycles, even. This is honestly a
non-issue in this expansive game. The other issue, however,
matters. There are glitches in this world that are pretty
weak. Your vehicle may vanish for no reason, as will some
other vehicles on the road. This is workable, but it may
bring about some anger from time to time.
the world of HD visuals. If you have HD, this game will look
absolutely beautiful. The cars are nice and shiny, which
various points of damage possible, guns all look different,
people are nicely detailed, and there are no club hands.
possible complaints that one can find in this games visuals
would be the occasional screen tearing (very rare...for me,
at least) and that some character models (for pedestrians)
get used a bit more than one may like.
problems being put aside, the game is outstanding to behold.
The city looks amazing, homes have some rather nice small
details, and cars are amazing to see and a lot of fun to
visually customize. In the end, this is the perfect example
game of what the HD era can mean to us geeks.
the visuals, there is just so much beauty in the aural
qualities of Saint's Row. To start things off, the sound
effects are absolutely amazing in surround sound. Gun shots
sound real and the sounds will always come from the correct
speakers to let you know where trouble is coming from.
Engines roar or whimper, depending on the vehicle, cars
sputter when they have been banged up, and the sound of a
bare rim (flat tire) running on asphalt is painfully
realistic. You will not find better sound effects on a game
this expansive for quite some time.
also the amazing features of this game's sound track. While
most of the music will feel unknown and foreign (except for
one important track...The Aquabats are in the house!), it
all feels quite appropriate in this setting. Music is
delivered via car and personal stereos with realistic
sounding commercials and DJs. While some of the humor found
in other games (you know who I'm talking about) with their
radio DJs and ads may not be present, this quality only
serves to give a more authentic experience. To round all of
this out, car stereos don't stop working just because you
are not in a car. You can and will hear a muffled radio
sound as cars drive past you.
downside of the radio in Saint's Row is that it is not
scheduled. In other words, if you leave a car as a certain
song starts on a station, don't count that same song to
still be playing when you jack a different car a few seconds
later and change to that same station. In other words, think
of it like this; each car has it's own set of radio stations
that all play from the same library...but not at the same
time. It's not realistic, but it's not a game breaker
things out with the audio, there's a wonderfully et of
skilled voice actors in this game. You have a variety of
actors, including Michael Clarke Duncan, David Carradine,
Tia Carrere, Keith David, and Daniel Dae Kim (of Lost fame)
to name just a few, with great talents and established
careers in the acting business. As many other games have
shown us in the past (ok...I'll name GTA:VC and GTA:SA since
they are examples), when voice actors are skipped in favor
of full fledged actors, it usually will bring a slightly
more impressive level of talent to the playfield. In Saint's
Row, this is definitely no exception...well, there is one
exception; Mila Kunis is greatly out of place playing Tanya.
while some of the dialogue may be cheesy from time to time,
the brilliant acting in Saint's Row just helps to make it
transition from lame to entertaining. This is not to say
that the majority of the plot related dialogue is as forced
as some would like us to believe. There are only a few lines
that feel out of place, but great acting does help
considerably when these rare lame ducks pop up.
As a game,
on it's own, Saint's Row is a wonderful example of what we
need more of on the 360, or any console for that matter. The
controls are solid and the game play mechanics are varied
enough to offer something for almost any fan of the classic
crime genre. When you throw in some brilliant visuals and
some of the best voice acting to grace a game, you get a
really solid and enjoyable experience for your senses.
However, it's only when this plot, which has plenty of
unique twists to help make the cliché novel, is in place
that one can full appreciate this game for what it is.
there is a failing to this game. It is quite obvious that
the modern style of "release a game now and patch it later"
was in full effect. There are some serious graphical
glitches that can frustrate from time to time. While these
glitches are by no means game breakers, they will be
noticeable after a few hours of playing.
out the entire experience, there is an online multiplayer
experience. While I've mainly focused on the single player
game, this mode will offer a nice reason to keep the game in
your 360 long after the plot has concluded.
taking all of these into consideration, it's not hard to see
this game for the gem it is. I obviously avoided it for the
majority of this review, but this game, even compared with
GTA:SA, is NOT just a simple clone. It takes some of the
fundamentals derived in GTA3 and refined in GTA:SA, but it
goes so much further with them. We may lose some boats,
aircraft, and two wheeled vehicles, but we have a control
scheme that makes GTA's look awkward and foreign. So, one
it's own merits, and furthermore by surpassing so many
conventions derived by Rockstar,
it's easy to say that
Saint's Row earns a 9.75/10.
If it was not for the glitches, this game could be as near
to perfect as the 3D sandbox crime genre has ever seen.