"Saints Row" is part of a growing genre known as "GTA Clone," referring to the "Grand Theft Auto" series, built on free-roaming criminal adventurers. The similarities are instantly recognizable, from the ability to commit crimes like larceny and homicide—causing policemen, and later FBI agents, to hunt you down—to the mission-based system, as well as the mini-games that allow you to gain money and respect. One could accuse this game of plagiarism, but don't be too harsh. "Saints Row" may be an imitator, but at least it does it well.
The gameplay is fantastic. There's a reason why "GTA" is so often copied—it's damn fun. You can utilize an arsenal of firepower—from knives to rocket launchers—to obliterate those in your way. The controls are surprisingly crisp; shooters are often hard to balance on consoles, but "Saints Row" does a hell of a job. The one control issue I have is with the inventory system. I strongly suggest familiarizing yourself with which buttons draw which item. While learning the ropes, I pulled a cheeseburger out in the middle of a gunfight more than once. Not good.
One of the best advantages "Saints Row" has over the "GTA" series is personalization. You create your character from the ground up; give him clothes, jewelry, tattoos, even plastic surgery, if you feel the need. Every car you find can be brought to one of the many garages around the city, customized down to the shiny, ever-spinning rims themselves and then stored in your garage. Once you've saved a car in your garage, you cannot lose it by accident. Ever. Fans of the "GTA" series will be overjoyed to know that their expensive rides will no longer be permanently scrapped because of a little run-in with gangsters.
The graphics are wonderful. Maybe it's because I'm used to the inbred-ugliness of "GTA," but there's something about actually being able to make out my character's facial features that is really refreshing. The cars are well made, with an unbelievable choice of colors including shiny, iridescent tones that I didn't even know existed. Then there's the physics. I tell you, I can't help but get a thrill out of blasting a car so high into the air I can hit it with another rocket before it lands. That gives me goose bumps. In previous games, carnage is often just confusing. In "Saints Row," carnage is fun.
This game also handles sound very well. The voice actors are perfect for their roles. The music is available from one of the many radio stations or from the music store, where the player can buy songs to put on his audio players. The audio player will go on regardless of where you are, so you can give your whole "Row" experience a soundtrack.
"Saints Row" is a good game. While some minor technical hurdles and a fairly spotty plot might irk some players, you'll enjoy playing around in Stilwater. And in the end, that's what counts. Also, street cred.