Any opinions on the latest offering from our friends at Volition? A demo of the game is now available on the Xbox Live Marketplace, for those who have yet to try it.
The city of Stillwater is being ravaged by gang warfare. Rival groups openly battle in the streets, and innocent people are being caught in the crossfire. One small gang, the 3rd Street Saints, has decided to bring peace back to Stillwater and make the city a safe place to live again. The only way to do this is to wipe out all the other competing gangs... one neighborhood at a time.
First Impressions -The Good:
Excellent, if somewhat over-the-top voice acting by a professional cast (including the likes of Keith David, Michael Clarke Duncan, and David Carradine!) that is entertaining (and often hilarious) to listen to. The game puts an unusual spin on the Grand Theft Auto archetype, allowing you to recruit "homies" to help you carry out your mission objectives, so you don't have to act alone. The setting is the city of Stillwater, your typical urban slum (based on Chicago and Detroit), but with a campy, Jay and Silent Bob-style atmosphere; there's a fast-food joint called "Freckle *****es", a clothing outlet called "Sloppy Seconds", and so on. The city is open-ended (or part of the "open-world genre", as Volition has elected to call it), allowing you to follow the main storyline or complete any number of side quests for money and other benefits. You can fully customize your character, from skin and eye color to tattoos and the shape of your physical characteristics, although some features are unavailable in the demo. The game is easy on the eyes, making good use of the 360's processing power, and is strangely addictive to play.The Bad:
Comparisons to Grand Theft Auto are inevitable--and valid--and Saints Row has a hard time denying charges of being a GTA clone. Carjackings, explosions, and excessive gunplay are all hallmarks of the series, and even simple activities like eating food items to regain health just don't seem that innovative when standing in GTA's shadow. The "mission"-based gameplay, progressing from one task to the next in order to earn your keep, also seems very familiar. The demo is very short, containing only three story missions and one side quest to complete.The Ugly:
Controls are awkward, and take some time getting used to. All of the cars on the street (with the exception of the police cruiser) seem rather generic, with little to differentiate one vehicle from the next; none of them handle very well or go very fast. Aiming weapons from even a moderate distance can be frustrating, and you're likely to waste several shots before actually gunning someone down; get too close, and you're likely to end up on the pavement yourself. The physics engine sometimes exhibits some odd behavior: ramming into another vehicle may cause it to simply run off the road or hurtle through the air, and while hit-and-runs will always send pedestrians flying, these collisions are strangely bloodless, and don't attract the attention of the police. The low-brow humor and plentiful vulgarity may be a turn-off for some gamers; the "M" rating is well-deserved.
Speaking as someone who never really enjoyed Grand Theft Auto, I can safely say that Saints Row is a blast. I've played the demo from start-to-finish three times, despite its brevity. Fans of the genre will definitely enjoy causing carnage in the streets, and even those who don't have a taste for blood will find themselves laughing out loud at the game's rude, crude treatment of inner city life. I wasn't expecting to enjoy this game, but I stand corrected. Give the demo a spin; you may find yourself equally surprised.
Freespace easter eggs, anyone?