|Release date(s)||NA 20060829August 29, 2006
AU 20060831August 31, 2006
EU 20060901September 1, 2006
JP 20070621June 21, 2007
Saints 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 neighborhood Saints Row, and works with the Saints to free Stilwater from gang control.
Saints Row is an action-adventure video game set in an open world environment, affording the player a large open environment in which to move around. On foot, the player's character is capable of walking, running, swimming, climbing and jumping, as well as utilizing weapons and basic hand-to-hand combat. Players can also drive a variety of land-based vehicles like automobiles, trucks and vans.
The open, non-linear environment allows players to explore and choose how they wish to play the game. After a short cinematic-based prologue, the entire environment can be fully explored. Although storyline missions are necessary as they are part of in-game progress, players can complete them at their own leisure and after filling up a bar of 'respect', which is in-game currency used to unlock missions. As missions are separated into three linear mission arcs with different storylines, each mission can be completed at the player's leisure or played through in respective order. In addition, the player can replay any mission or cut scene through use of an in-game movie theater. Should the player fail a mission in Saints Row, the option of instantly retrying the mission is given to the player, instead of having to drive back to the point in the city where the mission originated from. The goal of the game is to wipe out other rival gangs.
When not taking on a story line mission, players can free-roam and explore the environment, spend money on various shops and participate in eleven mini-games called activities which in turn earn the player money and respect. However, creating havoc can attract unwanted and potentially fatal attention from the authorities and rival gangs.
Combat in Saints Row allows the player to engage in basic hand-to-hand combat and utilize a variety of weapons. A 360-degree free aiming reticule appears when a weapon is equipped, allowing for fast and responsive aiming. The player can still move around freely with a gun equipped and still has the ability to run while firing as the game does not feature a fine-aim zoom mode, except on sniper rifles. Weapons are select-able from a one-touch inventory system, rather than toggling through each weapon. The player can also perform a melee attack with a gun equipped through use of the alternate-fire trigger on the Xbox 360 controller. The player's health will slowly regenerate over time, however food items can be bought to help regenerate health more quickly and efficiently.
The game incorporates the use of a vast array of weaponry. The player is capable of firing over twenty different weapons, including melee weapons, pistols, sub machine guns, shotguns, rifles, an RPG and thrown weapons. Many weapons can be bought from weapon stores across the city however some need to be unlocked throughout the game. The player can tap into their own private stash of weaponry through in-game progress, available at their crib for use at any time.
The game uses a "wanted level" system and a bar is gradually filled up when authorities and rival gangs are provoked. 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 will go down over time, but the enemy will continue to be aggressive towards the player until all the bars are fully depleted. When arrested by the police, the player will reappear outside a police station with a small bounty collected from their earnings, but will not have any items revoked. The player can recruit members of the 3rd Street Saints as "homies" who will follow the player around and respond to any attacks made on the player, serving as personal bodyguards.
The game allows the player to create a customized male character using a number of different features, including facial and body makeup. Furthermore, the player can dress their character in numerous styles of clothes available from shops around Stillwater. The choice of color and style of the clothes can affect the game, as by dressing in the Saints' colors (purple) the player will earn more respect for completing missions. The player can further customize their character through facial hair, jewelry and tattoos. Additionally, the player can perform custom body work and paint jobs on their cars, and purchase new in-game music through the city's stores.
The use of an in-game mobile phone is featured in Saints Row. The phone can be accessed from the in-game menu. The phone allows the player to call different services around the city, including emergency services. In addition, the phone can be used to input a variety of cheat codes which can then be activated through the "cheats" menu, but will subsequently disable Achievements. The phone can also be used to call up special "homies" which are unlocked through in-game progress and depending on the player's location, the "homie" will arrive in his/her vehicle within seconds.
The game displays a large map of the game world on the pause screen, as well as displaying a mini map while as part of the game's HUD; this allows the player to view a graphical representation of the streetscape and view each district with its subsequent neighborhoods, shown in different colors indicating which gang controls that territory. The map also filters numerous icons used to represent unique points on the map such as shops, activities, missions and cribs. Saints Row is the first game of its kind to adopt an in-game GPS navigation device. Through the use of this, the player can set a waypoint anywhere in the city and a directional line will indicate the quickest route to the marked destination.
The 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 lead an unsuccessful attack on the Saints hideout and fails, 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.
The following actors appear in Saints Row:
- Keith David as Julius Little
- Daniel Dae Kim as Johnny Gat
- Michael Rapaport as Troy Bradshaw
- Jeffery Allen Qaiyum as Dex Jackson
- Tia Carrere as Lin
- Sy Smith as Aisha
- Michael Clarke Duncan as Benjamin King
- Mila Kunis as Tanya Winters
- Ogie Banks as Warren Williams
- Terrence C. Carson as Anthony Green
- Joaquim de Almeida as Hector Lopez
- Freddy Rodriguez as Angelo Lopez
- Philip Anthony-Rodriguez as Victor Rodriguez
- Andrea Zafra as Luz Avalos
- Carlos Ferro as Manuel Orejuela
- Greg Sims as Joseph Price
- David Carradine as William Sharp
- Andrew Kishino as Donnie
- Clancy Brown as Alderman Hughes
- Chris Williams as Marshall Winslow
The design philosophy behind Saints Row's arcing mission structure was to provide players with more freedom in how they interact with the open world. By developing three story arcs, the team wanted to provide a nonlinear approach by allowing players to progress through the story at their leisure. Adhering to such a design philosophy created a challenge for the team, as they had to balance the open-ended nature of the mission structure with a story progression that felt natural and player-engaging. "Stories, by definition, are fairly linear, so the two goals conflicted with each other", design director Christopher Stockman opined.
During development, the team turned to earlier open world games to establish principles for innovation, adopting the design philosophy "everything matters". The team wanted to synthesise game mechanics together to make the missions, activities and customization options work in tandem. Stockman felt that previous open world games did not reward players for experimenting with the sandbox enough because story progression was siphoned off from free roam gameplay. From this sentiment, the concept of the activities developed; players in Saints Row would be encouraged into off-mission content because progression through activities would unlock more story missions. The team would conduct review meetings to assess how the activities developed and whether or not refinements would need to be made. Some activities went through larger design changes than others; in an earlier inception of Drug Trafficking, players would have driven around the city providing addicts with narcotics while under the pressure of a time limit. Concurrently, the team were making refinements to defensive sequences in the story missions, which influenced the final revision of the Drug Trafficking activity.
Developing the city Stilwater required scaling back revisions to appropriate for a play space that could be comfortably traversed. During early production the team rendered an elementary model of the city in the engine, and drove around in the model to get a sense of the city's scale. They found the revision too small, so they quadrupled its dimensions, but soon had to scale it back to a more manageable size. Having found an appropriate size, the team began working on the city in detail, adding in transportation networks and buildings. The team made further revisions during this process as necessary, balancing the number of interior models like shops and and mission-related buildings in each district so that no one section of the city would feel denser than another. Some districts planned for the city, such as an indoor shopping mall, a train station, and a trailer park, were cut during development.
The soundtrack of Saints Row includes over 130 musical tracks covering the classical, easy listening, electronica, metal, reggae, rock, and hip hop genres. The music is presented by 12 radio stations, and there is an in-game music player accessible through the pause menu. The player purchases songs for the music player at the record store franchise "Scratch That Music" in Stilwater using in-game money.
Several packages of downloadable content (DLC) have been released. The DLCs are as follows:
- Funky Fresh Pack - players get over sixty exclusive clothing and accessory options
- Industrial Map Pack - players get a new map for use in competitive multiplayer modes
- Ho Ho Ho Pack - players get Christmas-themed costumes and hair styles
- Gankster Pack - players get two exclusive vehicles
- Exclusive Unkut Pack - players get access to Unkut-themed outfits and tattoos
As of 2013, those DLCs are no longer available on the Xbox Live network.
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.
Most critics have praised the "Activities" and the online multiplayer, as well as the free-form control scheme. Common complaints about the game are over issues with glitches, unsatisfactory car physics, cartoonish graphics and forced, hit-or-miss humor. While the robust character creation mode was praised, several gaming publications also complained about the main character's lack of dialogue.
Although welcomed by critics and fans alike, the online multiplayer suffered from significant lag upon the game's debut, making it difficult to play. This issue was mostly fixed by a patch that took two months to develop.
Rapper 50 Cent has expressed interest in developing a screenplay for a Saints Row film in collaboration with THQ. However, following the bankruptcy and sale of THQ, no word has come about in regards to the project.
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