If you can get past the over-the-top mature themed content, you’ll no doubt have a ton of fun with Saints Row.
The Good: Great visuals across the board. Character models look fantastic and lip-syncing is spot-on. Very intuitive and advanced character customization. Great combat system and massive explosions. Compelling story with hilarious dialog. Lots of familiar voices by some big name actors. The story is a good length and lots of side missions as well as a decent online component to keep you playing for many hours. Ability to replay story missions at any point is awesome.
The Bad: Side missions are all pretty similar and get stale. Very heavy in the mature content department that seems a bit too over the top for its own good at times.
First thing’s first, let’s get the GTA comparison out of the way. Yes, Saints Row is a GTA inspired open-ended mission based third person action game chalk full of gangster goodness. The content is wicked bad on many levels and should not be played with children present. With that said, if you can put your morals aside you’ll probably have a blast with Saints Row.
The game starts you out at a character customization screen that you’ll no doubt be playing with for some time. It’s not quite as advanced as Oblivion, but it’s definitely one of the better character customization modules I’ve seen. Once you’re done setting up your badass mofo, you get thrown right into the story, quite literally. One of my favourite aspects of the game is that your character is part of a vast majority of the cutscenes. While you don’t say much (3 lines in the entire game but they’re all hilarious!) it’s super rad to see the character you created right there in the middle of the action.
The story itself is very compelling and I definitely found myself hooked after the first few missions. Basically, you join the Third St. Saints who are on a mission to “clean up the Row”. In other words, anhiliate the other 3 gangs that currently have control of the various neighborhoods. You can take them on in any order you like, or all at the same time for that matter. As you progress through the story missions, you gain control of neighborhoods by taking over Strongholds. Often, after clearing out a Stronghold, the opposing gang will try and retaliate and regain their lost territory. If you don’t quickly jump in and clear out their crew, you might lose that neighborhood.
Between story missions you’ll be doing side-missions (or activities) which range from stealing prostitutes to insurance fraud to drug trafficking to escorting prostitutes to acting as a hitman to stealing cars for the chop shop, and the list goes on. While it’s nice to see so many different types of activities, although they don’t vary all that much. And once you’ve done a few of each, they get a little stale. When you do activities, you gain respect. You need respect to do the story missions, so you basically have to do activities so you can progress through the story. I only found this to get tedious towards the end when I just wanted to wrap up the story, but I had to keep stopping in between to get my respect level up. Thankfully though, you can do a bunch of activities in a row which will allow you to take on multiple story missions without having to stop for a while.
Saints Row looks and sounds awesome! The characters in particular, really look great. During the cutscenes, the voice acting and lip-syncing is very well done. I’m still laughing at the fact that I heard Jin from Lost say “I’m gonna skull-fuck that bitch.” Seriously, did not see that coming!
The action scenes and combat are fucking rad and so much fun! One thing I always hated about the GTA series was the terrible on-foot combat. It simply was not fun to be running around shooting dudes. With that terrible shoulder button target selection… *shudders*. Saints Row cleans up in this department. Running and gunning is simply a blast and the variation in weapons is awesome. You have everything from small firearms to automatic weapons and RPGs to blunt and blade melee weapons and some explosive toss-ables in the form of hand grenades, pipe bombs and molotov cocktails. All of which feel completely different, but take all of 3 seconds to get familiar with. Selecting weapons is also very well done. Instead of repeatedly pressing a button until you land on the weapon you’re looking for. The B button pulls up a circular menu with all of your available weapons and health items.
Another are I feel Saints Row out-shines GTA is in the “good things never last” department. You know when you finally find that high-end vehicle only to smash it 2 minutes later, or when you finally get your hands on an RPG but it only has 3 rockets in it. Saints Row gives you tons of the good stuff. When you park a car in your garage and save, it stays there for the rest of the game. So you can take it out, smash it and not have to worry about it as it will appear back in your garage next time you visit it. Although, the condition will be persistent. So if you put a car in there that’s totally smashed up, it will be in the same shape when you go to take it out. A quick trip to the mechanic will fix it right up, though. Weapons are also very plentiful. You end up with tons of money so you can buy whatever you need but best of all, on the missions where you need to use an RPG, in most cases, you have unlimited ammo. It’s nice to be able to just blow shit up without having to worry about conserving ammo.
While I didn’t spend a whole lot of time playing online, the time spent was quite enjoyable. There’s a decent variety of online modes including gang vs gang battles and co-op objective based missions. I definitely plan on getting back to this some time soon and really explore the online aspect of Saints Row.
I’m sure Saints Row has gathered a bit of a bad rap for being a GTA clone and for the mature content. But as I said, underneath is a great game that is a ton of fun and exceeds GTA in almost every aspect. Give it a shot, if you haven’t already.