Okay, enough of the gangsta’ talk, it just doesn’t come naturally to me. But it does play an important role in Saint’s Row because it's all about turf wars and protecting your hood. The game starts with some gangsters pulling a drive by and you get caught up in the middle. Luckily, the Saint’s gang from, appropriately, Saint’s Row, come by to back you up and recruit you into their posse. (Okay, NOW I’m done with the gangsta’ talk!) Of course, it’s up to you to become a one man army and take over the entire city of Stillwater, putting the other gangs in their place, and becoming one cool pimp in the process.
In addition to the missions, there are also numerous side activities for you to do which earn you money and, of course, respect. You see, respect is how your influence is measured. Kill a few rival gang members, and you’ll earn respect. Get busted by the cops, you’ll lose a little respect. You need this respect in order to convince others that you’re worthy and able to meet the challenge of missions and other tasks. These tasks include driving around drug dealers, picking up prostitutes for the local pimp, or faking enough injuries to pull a successful insurance scam. Each of these tasks feature multiple levels which get progressively harder to accomplish, but the rewards of course also increase.
What would a gangster game be without the so-called “sandbox” to roam around in. While, in reality, it’s a very limited sandbox (as is the case with all similar games), the feeling of freedom is quite apparent. You can wander around the entire map from the start of the game, killing people at will or stealing cars and just causing general mischief. Of course, enough mayhem and the cops will try to stop you, forcing you to either lose them or go to jail (which drop a quick bribe and you’re back on the streets. Gotta love the legal system!)
There’s a great deal of cars to choose from, which you can buy or steal, and store what seems to be an almost unlimited number of in your tiny garages. A simple menu option that you can trigger outside causes the car to spawn in your garage and you’re off. While something normally only reserved for Dr. Who’s TARDIS (a seemingly small space on the outside, but is in fact rather large inside), it definitely adds a little bit of fun to the game allowing you take whatever car you want without having to wander the city looking for it. You can also style yourself how you want, decking yourself out in tattoos and chains and quite the wardrobe selection, in addition to styling your hair and a very customizable character generator. I’ve seen people looking like everything from Wayne Brady to Chuck Norris!
A terribly useful feature in this game is map directions! By setting a simple waypoint on the in-game map, a GPS like system will direct you on how to get to your destination. While this may seem like a simple concept, it’s the first time that I’ve personally seen a game of this nature use this and it better become standard or I’m going to beat some heads!
From the graphics department, this game looks phenomenal! The textures are rich and the detail in the models is wonderful. When you add in the Havok physics engine, you get some simply gorgeous explosions and flying bodies!
Now, this game is lots of fun, but there are some downsides to it. First off, the story mode is not terribly lengthy. The difficulty is also not very high. I was able to play through all the missions while only having to repeat two (both being the final missions of a rival gang). There are also many graphical glitches, where the road will simply vanish out from under you while you drive over it and even times when my car has vanished, leaving me sitting two feet above the road surface, hovering in mid-air! The game also suffers from “pop-in”, and I don’t mean a boy made of dough! Certain objects will just spontaneously appear as you get closer to them, rather then approach from a distance. While not a huge gripe, it can be distracting at times. I’m no angel, but the excessive use of profanity in the game would almost make a sailor blush and the “witty” names for some of the locations (the mechanic is called “Rim Jobs”, one of the clothes stores is “On the Rag”) are more juvenile then humorous and also were really not needed.
Saint’s Row is a lot of fun. While it’s not perfect and has its fair share of blemishes, it’s still a great game and probably the best of this style not made by a company called Rockstar. One of the first truly standout games of the new generation of consoles, Saint’s Row is a title that should be on every action gamer’s shelf…up out of reach of the kids, of course.