BRR: Saints Row Review

Despite growing up with an irrational hatred for all games that were, “immature”, I can safely say that’s it’s a shock that I love the Saints Row series.  I used to groan when I overheard people talk about Grand Theft Auto, but now I possess love for a series that originally began as a shameless rip-off.  As someone who recently experienced this franchise, I feel like I should review and compare this trilogy, in half for the LOLs, and because I like the idea of reviewing entire series.  So without further ado, let’s talk about Saints Row 1.

Saints Row Review
release date: 29/7/2006
Platform:  Xbox 360(Reviewed), Playstation 3, PC
Price I Paid: $9.99

Shortly after completing the first two games in the now shelved Red Faction series, Volition was tasked by THQ to create an open world game for the upcoming Xbox 360 platform.  This would become Saints Row 1.  The game begins with your custom made, mute character walking around the streets of Stillwater, a fictional city that is similar to Chicago and Detroit, only to be assaulted by one of the city’s many gangs, with a gun staring him in the face, your character is saved by the Third Street Saints, the purple clad underdogs, who were originally dressed in green, in this four way gang war.

Throughout the game you’ll do numerous missions leading to the destruction of the 3 rival gangs, along with numerous activities that are needed to access said missions.  These activities include, but are not limited to:  Protecting drug dealers from SWAT officers, snatching prostitutes from rival gangs, competing in Demolition Derbies, Causing mayhem throughout the city with a rocket launcher that never runs out of ammo, competing in drag races,  and having your character run in front of traffic in hopes of committing insurance fraud by being air juggled.  All of these activities are given a humorous explanation by a character you work for or with for the eight levels of every activity.  The main problem is that they feel very repetitive, with some activities having three instances of eight levels.  Granted that they are scattered across Stillwater, but environments seem incidental when you’re looking for glowing circles and shooting vans with a pistol.

As for the main campaign, you will work with a trio of well done and memorable Saint characters who are each trying to take down one of the rival gangs and gaining a bit of territory as you go along.  The missions remain fun for the most part, but are hindered by a lack of checkpoints and an awful difficulty curve, with some of the hardest missions in the game occurring halfway through a gang’s storyline.  The hardest of which involves driving a truck full of all the drugs in the city while being assaulted by no less than 200 FBI officers.  It would have been nice to not need to go through two sequences in order to get back to this section, but you have five minutes to spend doing the same boring sequence, don’t you?  I also felt very little investment in the narrative due to the just how straight it is played.  The characters are interesting and well voiced, your antagonists are developed and show reactions to your action against them.  But since I switched around with 3 narratives and general messing around it was hard to get invested.

The driving has a very arcade like feel to it with smooth controls and a lot to explore.  The combat is a simple third person shooter that is only lacking in unlockable weapon variety.  You have some fun weapons available for purchase, but the oddest weapon I found in the game was a rocket launcher.  But the game tends to fall apart when those two aspects collide, when driving and shooting you have two basic options, have RT fire your weapon/accelerate, and have the A button accelerate/weapon.  It is very hard to aim this way and requires you to change the control scheme whenever you are manning shotgun and having the AI partner character drive you.  

Still, that hardly prevents the game from being a lot of fun, it is a blast to just explore this well designed city and try to find the secrets hidden within it.  This is helped by a great soundtrack that I was humming a good month after playing it.  The game also dons a cartoony visual style that, and I’m certain it wasn’t the intention, the game invokes a very Dreamcast-like feel.  From the countless bugs and glitches, the dozens of cheats, and the simplistic graphical design, it felt like a game that came out a few years before 2006.  

Despite the game’s charm, well crafted world, and overall silliness to it despite how straight it tries to play its subject matter, Saints Row has a lot of little problems.  An unbalanced difficulty curve, buggy design, and repetitive side missions all prevent it from achieving greatness, and in the end come up with a quality product that is coated in rough edges.  

There are evident flaws, but the game still manages to remain fun and the game is competent in its execution.

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