Since the debut of Grand Theft Auto 3 onto the Playstation 2 a few years back now, the gaming industry has changed quite a bit, having a new trend of open-ended gameplay come to the forefront of the industry. GTA III was the first game to really successfully bring big environments into a game, and make it all into one great experience. Since then there have been many games that have tried to imitate, but none have really improved upon the formula. Today we are looking at a game from THQ and Volition, which tries to take the GTA theme to the next level. The game is Saints Row, and could this game be the first great open-ended action experience on the Xbox 360? Read our full review to find out!
I should get out that first and foremost this is a mature game, and thus the mature rating from the ESRB. Saints Row is really very similar in the style and has a lot of the same vulgar and explicit content. The game starts off with you in the wrong place at the wrong time, who gets in the middle of a gang war shootout saved by Julius a member of the Third Street Saints. The Third Street Saints are really an up and coming gang in the city of Stilwater, and they are trying to clean up the streets, which are ruled by three rival gangs. Thus after being saved you join the Third Street Saints and want to take over the city of Stilwater.
So the story isn’t anything to write home about, and although it is set in a different era it does have a lot of interesting ideas that make the game a bit different from just a GTA clone. First off the game is completely open, so if you don’t feel like doing the story-based missions, you doesn’t have to. The game even requires you to do a lot of things outside of just the missions. Before each mission you have to gain respect, and this can be done in an extremely large number of ways. There are some different activities that you can jump into or you can roam the streets and help take out enemy gangs. The idea has been done before (EA’s The Godfather did something similar) but Saints Row does it in by far the most enjoyable and deeper fashion.
The story missions themselves are also full of variety, and in my experiences have really brought some great experience to the game. The game does have some minor repetitive nature to its story missions, but for the most part you will find them to be extremely enjoyable and ones that progress the game along great.
With a game like Saints Row, there is a lot of pressure on the controls, because of how much you’re going to be doing in the game. Happily I can say that Saints Row exceeds expectations by really masterful keeping the controls smooth and intuitive, close to what we have seen in other games of this type. Driving is done in a smooth fashion, and the lock on system for the action seems to work great as well.
One thing that Saints Row offers that can not be found in the console GTA games is multiplayer. And although the multiplayer doesn’t revolutionize anything it is a welcome addition, and one that I personally found quite enjoyable. Saints Row offers up a good deal of action online and it seems as though everyone online was very happy to have it. It definitely adds some icing on the cake in terms of replay value.
In the end, Saints Row’s gameplay is solid from start to finish. Although it does share some similarities with the GTA franchise, it adds enough new and fresh ideas that it is really great on its own merits.
Although this game will not win any awards for its visual content, you have to give the developers an A for effort. Once again this game being the first of its kind on the 360, it was quite an impressive first run. First off, the environments are extremely well detailed, and for as big as this games map is look extremely good throughout. I was pretty impressed with the character models, but the one thing that dragged the game down was the frame rate, which seemed to become quite erratic when things got hectic. Other than that, Saints Row is just a good solid looking game.
I know that some will be turned away from this game in the fact that you are required to side mission activity but what is so great about this game is that it fun to do. Saints Row has so much depth and so much good going for it that it is really hard not to enjoy it. Saints Row has a good storyline, it offers up some really intense missions, and the multiplayer in the game really gives you somewhere to go when you need a break from the single player action.
In the end, Saints Row is just a great game, and although it is still early in the Xbox 360’s lifespan, it shows the potential that this console has. For those hoping that this would be a GTA killer, well unfortunately this is not the case. Saints Row does borrow a lot from that series, but also adds just enough of its own flair to make it a great game to go pick up and play.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.