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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox 360
PUBLISHER:
THQ
DEVELOPER:
Volition, Inc.
GENRE: Action
RELEASE DATE:
August 29, 2006
ESRB RATING:
Mature


IN THE SERIES
Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell

Saint’s Row 4

Saints Row 4

Saints Row 3

Saints Row: Drive By

More in this Series
 Written by Glenn Wigmore  on May 25, 2006

Hands-On Preview: Grab your FO FO Desert Eagle, because it's time to floss n' fly all over this place?


At E3 2006, Saints Row was playable at the THQ booth, and what was there certainly made a strong impact on the world of free-roaming action titles. Not only did the game look and sound better than GTA games, but it also had a level of customization and depth that, if indicative of the whole experience, should provide an open-ended action title with a seriously mature ? if not darkly humorous ? edge.

Saints Row allows you to partake in its story mode by first creating a character with a fairly extensive creation system. Your character can have all of his features altered, whether it be skin tone, facial features, hairstyles, clothing, accessories, and just about everything else. The creation system was fairly easy to use, and there are even many subsets that allowed for modifying sizes, alignments, colors and more for all of the aforementioned features. Once a street thug has been created, the game places said character right in the mix of some gang warfare (via cinematic). This sequence was pretty jarring with its hardcore violence, but it certainly launches you into the game because of its uncompromising brutality and its colorful ? literally and figuratively ? characters.

Once in the actual game, Saints Row gives you a bit of a tutorial on movement and combat from your current boss, Julius (voiced by the unmistakable Keith David). The game walks you through some basic punching and kicking, but this sequence is cleverly dressed up as an initiation into the Saints' gang. Once you actually get going, you'll be completing various missions that range from escorts to all-out hits on rival gangs. Most of the missions playable at the show were pretty fun, and it was always fairly easy to understand where you were going thanks to the game's minimap and waypoint system (which seemed a little more precise and user friendly than the methods used in other sandbox games).

Driving was quite easy to get used to, and it was certainly enjoyable chucking people out of their vans, trucks, and convertibles. The game actually handled driving about as well as the GTA games, and the smoothness in which turns could be executed was actually a little better. Also present is the ability to shoot a gun while in the car; this certainly was a bit floaty, but it was cool to have the feature in there, nonetheless.

Shooting on foot was a little more precise, and the demo at the show allowed for use of all the main weapons ? shotguns, rocket launchers, automatics, and even blunt weapons like baseball bats. All of the aiming was done manually (as opposed to some of the lock-on found in GTA) and was actually quite satisfying. Many of the rival gang members fought back with a reasonable level of intelligence, and the gunfights and street battles seemed more finely tuned than the, admittedly, crude combat found in the GTA series.

Of particular note was the excellent explosion effect when cars were decimated or when rockets were launched; these instances were actually amplified by the game's great lighting system. The lighting does really make a difference when compared to many of the GTA games, since it's quite important to see proper shadows cast from all the buildings when cruising along. Added effects like that really allow for a sense of weight and reality often missing from open-ended action games.

In general, the visual quality looked head and shoulders above something like GTA: San Andreas. The scope of the city (which has been said by THQ to be about the size of GTA: Vice City) was vast in some instances, but more intimate in others, and there was no pop-up of oncoming buildings like in the PS2-powered GTA games. The character models have come a long way from early builds of this game, and they animate relatively well, and this is important since open-ended experiences often have to sacrifice some of those details to get the scope and size right.

The multiplayer wasn't playable at the show, but THQ divulged details about many of the modes soon after. The great thing about the multiplayer offerings for Saints Row is that you will be able to take your tricked-out gangster online and use him with some buddies in your created clan. Once online, you can partake in basic deathmatches, but also six-on-six team deathmatches for maximum carnage. Of course, Saints Row is looking to distinguish itself even more so it will feature Protect The Pimp and Bling My Ride game modes. PTP charges your clan with protecting a flamboyantly dressed pimp (who has a one-hit-kill cane) until he struts his way to his desired location, whereas BMR forces your clan to protect a newly boosted car while attempting to destroy a rival gang's ride. The support for 12 players certainly sounds promising, and the ability to download additional content off the Marketplace could, potentially, be quite cool.

The game won't be out till later this year, but Saints Row is definitely on the right track. When compared head-to-head with many elements of the GTA franchise, Saints Row easily matches, and in some cases surpasses, what Rockstar has offered. Whether the entire experience is cohesive enough to make it all worthwhile is hard to know at this point, but the added multiplayer functionality also throws in some creative (and possibly addicting) inner-city mayhem. Look for the Marketplace demo in July.

Final Thoughts
Saints Row is shaping up to provide a GTA-esque experience that actually performs better in almost all respects to the Rockstar franchise. The multiplayer modes sound promising, and the game seems to provide a level of depth and polish (even at this stage) that indicates a high level of quality.


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