Saints RowSaints Row is an open world, action-adventure video game for the Xbox 360. Developed by Volition, Inc. and published by THQ, Saints Row initially released in North America on August 29, 2006, followed by an Australian release two days later and a European release on September 1, 2006. It met with generally positive critical reception; reviewers noted its similarities with the Grand Theft Auto series, with some feeling that Saints Row improved Grand Theft Auto's open world formula. A PlayStation 3 port of the game was scrapped in 2007, with Volition moving on to full development of the sequel Saints Row 2, which released in 2008. The success of Saints Row and its sequel have since seen the development of Saints Row as a series, including a third and fourth entry.
Like other open world games, Saints Row allows players to freely roam the play space and engage in missions at their leisure. Missions are unlocked by trading in "Respect" points, currency earned by completing mini-games, and are played through three story arcs each with the objective of overthrowing a rival gang. Saints Row is set in the fictional city Stilwater, modeled on Chicago and Detroit. The player character becomes inadvertently involved in a gunfight between the three gangs fighting for control of Stilwater; Los Carnales, the Vice Kings, and the Westside Rollerz. He joins forces with the 3rd Street Saints gang, based out of the Saint's Row district, and works with the Saints to free Stilwater from gang control.
Saints Row PlotThe player is walking down the streets of the metropolis Stilwater, in the middle of a gang war among several gang factions. Though he attempts to maintain distance, he witnesses a fight amongst the three major gangs, namely the Vice Kings, Los Carnales, and the Westside Rollerz. Members from one of the gangs attempt to gun him down, but the 3rd Street Saints, led by Julius Little, step in and save him. Julius informs the player that he formed the Saints to bring down the other three gangs with the goal of returning peace to the streets. After proving himself to the Saints, the player is initiated into the gang and asked to assist them in taking over the city. The player, over the course of the game, assists in several missions and stronghold takeovers directed against each rival gang in turn, slowly bringing the entire city under the control of the Saints.
The player joins Johnny Gat, and his girlfriend, popular R&B singer Aisha, in their mission to bring down the Vice Kings, who control most of the Stilwater's entertainment. They successfully target several of their interests, but eventually Johnny is captured by the VKs' enforcer Anthony Green. The player then kills Green and saves Johnny. However, Johnny is injured in the process and needs to use a leg brace afterwards. Later, Vice Kings second-in-command Warren Williams leads a coup against the leader Benjamin King, and King is forced to flee. On Julius' orders, the player saves King and attacks Williams, who is later killed by the Kings' prostitution manager Tanya Winters. The player and Gat, with King as their ally, attack the gang's headquarters where King kills Winters, bringing an end to the Vice Kings.
The player and Saints member Dexter Jackson begin working against Los Carnales gang, who deal in arms and drugs. Several LC drug labs are hit and the player eventually assassinates their leader, Hector Lopez. Hector's younger brother Angelo takes charge and orders an attack on the Saints hideout, but they are unsuccessful, and the player kills the Carnales' enforcer Victor Rodriguez. Eventually, the Saints work out a deal with the Carnales liaison Manuel Orijuela, who gives up Angelo's location. The player and Dex attack it and Angelo is forced to flee by plane, which the player destroys, killing Angelo and terminating Los Carnales.
Saints member Lin disguises herself as a member of the street racing Westside Rollerz, and gives the player tips from within the gang. The two of them sabotage several of the Rollerz interests, but eventually Lin is found out. She is shot and stuffed into her car trunk with the player by Rollerz financer William Sharp, who then pushes the car into the water. Lin sacrifices herself so that the player can escape and kill Sharp in a car chase. Eventually, Sharp's nephew and Rollerz leader Joseph Price attempt an attack on the Saints hideout but fail, resulting in the player killing Price in a car chase.
The player receives a call from Julius, who tells the player that he is the new second-in-command. However, he implies that he is about to be arrested by corrupt cops, who were waiting for the gang wars to end before they made their move against the Saints. At this point, other members of the Saints turn to the player for their orders. The Saints begin attacking Stilwater's mayor and chief of police in order to free Julius from prison. Once this is complete, the player is invited to the private yacht of Alderman Richard Hughes, the only other candidate for mayor in the upcoming election. Hughes thanks the player for eradicating his political rival for him, and states that he is planning to use his mayoral power to destroy the Saints. Before the player can respond to Hughes' ultimatum, a bomb can be heard beeping and the yacht explodes, killing Hughes and his men, and seemingly killing the player.
Saints Row GameplayAt the beginning of the game, players create their character through a system that allows them to customize his ethnicity, fitness, face and hairstyle. After completing the first mission, players are then given free roam over the game's open world, the fictional city of Stilwater, which is modelled on Detroit and Chicago. The game makes use of third-person view, which allows players to freely rotate the camera around their character. Players can run, jump, swim or utilize cars to navigate the world. They may also access the character customization system again at a plastic surgeon, apply cosmetic changes to their character at clothes stores, tattoo parlours, barbers and jewellers, and tune vehicles at chop shops. A personal garage can be used to store customized vehicles, and vehicles that have been destroyed or lost can be redeemed for a cash fee.
Bar the introductory and epilogue mission sequences, missions in Saints Row are divided between three linear story arcs which can be progressed through simultaneously or one by one, each with the objective of extinguishing a rival gang. Players engage in these missions at their leisure, but a prerequisite to instigate a mission is that they have filled up a bar on their Respect meter to allow them to unlock and play it. Respect is a currency earned by completing activities, which are mini-games that are scattered across the world and have increasing levels of difficulty. Missions and activities also accrue players cash income, which can be spent on goods and services such as weapons and clothes. Should players fail a mission, they may instantly reattempt it without incurring a loss of their Respect points. Cinemas scattered throughout the game world allow players to replay missions an unlimited number of times.
A player fires at traffic with the rocket launcher
Players use hand-to-hand combat, melee weapons, firearms and explosives to fight rival gangs and the police. A free aiming reticule appears on the screen while players have weapons equipped. Weapons are accessed by a "weapon wheel" inventory system which appears on the screen as players hold down a button. Each of the eight slots on the wheel correspond to different types of weapons, such as submachine guns and pistols. Players may only carry one of each type of weapon at a time. Saints Row makes use of regenerative health, but this process can be accelerated by eating fast food items.
A "wanted level" system governs the response by opposing forces to players' aggressive actions. In the head-up display, surrounding the minimap, are two bars; the topmost bar represents rival gangs and the bottommost bar represents the police. As players incite opposing forces, the corresponding bar fills up. Each bar filled is represented by the provoked enemy's logo, be it a star to represent the police or a "gang sign" to represent an enemy gang. One bar of notoriety will result in non-lethal retalliation however two, three, four or five bars of notoriety will result in a gradually increased lethal response. Notoriety depletes over time, but enemies will continue to be aggressive towards players until the meter recedes. Players may remove their notoriety instantly by utilizing drive-through confessional booths or visiting plastic surgeons. or to input cheat codes. If arrested by the police, players will reappear outside a police station with a small bounty collected from their earnings.
Player progression through the game directly affects the presence of their friendly gang, the 3rd Street Saints. The game world is subdivided between districts, such as the Red Light or Downtown districts, each comprising several neighborhoods. Each neighborhood is controlled by a rival gang, but as players complete missions the 3rd Street Saints will take over neighborhoods, causing street members of the gang to spawn there. The pause menu displays a large map of the game world, which allows players to view a graphical representation of the streetscape, and a color filter over each of the neighborhoods represents the gang whom control that neighborhood. Saints Row features an in-game GPS navigation device, which allows players to set waypoints with a directional line indicating the quickest route to the marked destination. Players may enlist allied forces, referred to as homies, to aid in combat. Street members of the 3rd Street Saints may be summoned, or players may call up unique homies on their in-game mobile phones. Players can further utilize their mobile phone to contact services such as taxicabs, or to input cheat codes.
ReceptionPrior to the retail version of Saints Row being released, the demo set an Xbox Live Marketplace then-record for being downloaded more than 350,000 times in the first week of its release.
GamesRadar 4/5 stars
Critical reaction to Saints Row was largely positive. Reviewers likened Saints Row to the Grand Theft Auto series; some felt the game improved upon the gameplay of Grand Theft Auto, but others criticized the game's lack of originality. Steven Embling of play.tm wrote that while Saints Row "isn't going to win any awards for originality", the game's graphics and sound design were "impressive" and "highly commendable". Ryan McCaffrey of GamesRadar considered Saints Row a worthy entry into a genre beholden to Grand Theft Auto, praising the game's graphics and use of the Havok engine, but lamenting the Respect system for disrupting story progression. Will Tuttle of GameSpy considered that while not all players would respond positively to the Respect system necessitating mission progression, the Activities "offer some of the game's most memorable sequences". Scott Sharkey of 1UP.com noted that Saints Row removed frustrating elements from previous Grand Theft Auto games, like load times between city sections and combat reliant on auto-aim, but considered its attempts to recreate urban gang culture and satire "so hackneyed that they cast an embarrassing shadow over the whole thing".
The game has received generally positive ratings. Although most critics have noted the striking similarities in gameplay that Saints Row shares with releases from the Grand Theft Auto series, they have also praised the game for the inclusion of new features and its improvement of existing ones from GTA. Saints Row has received ratings of 95/100 from GamePro, 8.75/10 from Game Informer, 80/100 from Official Xbox Magazine, 8.5/10 from IGN, 8.4/10 from GamerNode, and 8.3/10 from GameSpot. GamePro called it "the best reason to own an Xbox 360 this side of Oblivion", while IGN noted, "Hate it if you want to, snicker at its obvious me-too qualities, but don't forget to recognize impressive, kick-ass gameplay as you walk out the door." Saints Row has received an average critic score of 82% on Game Rankings and 81% on Metacritic. It was Australian video game talk show Good Game's, first ever review, with the two reviewers giving the game a 7/10 and 8/10.
Saints Row received awards from GameSpot for "Most Surprisingly Good Game of 2006", as well as Gaming Target for one of 52 Games We will Still Be Playing From 2006 selection. Saints Row sold over 2 million copies, and has since joined the Xbox 360 lineup of "Platinum Hits" games.
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