Do the hustle.
Most gamers know as much about gang-banging as they do about regular banging, but that embarrassing fact has done little to stem the tide of gang-oriented games. Of course, none of the new recruits have managed to topple the leader of the pack, GTA, though that doesn’t seem to stop ‘em from trying. Game developers must really love that Beat It video.
[image1]But the next thug in line, THQ’s Saint’s Row, isn’t just another bitch in pimp’s clothing. Though the single-player game seems poised to follow in the footsteps of its scandalous cousin, this upcoming 360 action game puts some brand new flava in your ear thanks to robust multiplayer and character customization. While we’re not ready to tip a forty to the memory of GTA just yet, our recent encounter with Saint’s Row at a THQ multiplayer event at least made us throw our hands in the air. To, you know, grab some hos. Or burgers, actually.
Although that isn’t very smart, since taking your hands off the controller is a good way to get ganked. Set in the brutal city of Stilwater, Saint’s Row lets you kick ass and take no names as a roughneck member of the 3rd Street Saints. The single-player campaign looks to be big, open and brutal as you battle it out against rival gangs, slowly taking over the city, one drive-by at a time.
You’ll have to take all that with a gram of PR, uh, salt, though, as we didn’t see any of it. Instead, we created a character using a pretty impressive character creation toolset. My shirtless, mohawked fatso ran around in yellow underpants and diamond-studded sunglasses, proving that you can, after all, create yourself in video games.
From there we played all five of the game’s multiplayer modes in full 6 on 6 gang warfare. Though others have had little success with multiplayer gangbanging, Saint’s Row hopes to get it right by sticking closer to the bullet-proof vest. In addition to Gangsta Brawl (basic Deathmatch) and Big A$$ Chains (a Deathmatch variant in which players race around picking up and dropping off gold chains), the game offers a few interesting takes on third-person multiplay.
Protect Tha Pimp is essentially Counterstrike Protect the VIP mode, albeit misspelled to make it tougher. The (tha) Pimp can’t use guns, but he can “pimp slap” for serious damage. It sounds silly, but getting slapped by the pimp actually feels worse than getting shot by the VIP in CS. You just feel dirty and abused and want to apologize for not having his money, baby, it’ll never happen again, I swear.
[image2]The coolest mode of the lot is Blinged Out Ride (aka, Please Don’t Sue Us, Pimp My Ride). Here two gangs attempt to turn their jalopies into sweet cars by collecting cash and taking it to the centrally located shop for an upgrade. There’s a good amount of strategy tucked away here, as you can protect the shop by parking cars in front of it or go on a rampage trying to kill the other guys to slow them down, or even aim for their car to knock it down a level. It’s not Battlefield, but it got us hooting and hollering more than we care to admit.
Sweetening the sugar is Co-Op mode, where two players have to survive waves of cops and rivals as they try to complete a series of specially designed missions. And yes, one can drive while the other shoots, you sicko. We're hoping this Co-Op play extends to the single-player game as well (sort of expanding on San Andreas' meager Co-Op offering), but no word on that yet.
Perhaps most surprising of all is the fact that despite some tepid showings at E3 and prior events, the game is starting to look pretty decent. Smoother animations would help, but the explosions, carnage and framerate are shaping up nicely. Whether or not it develops into something worth the inevitable GTA comparisons is another story, one that will ultimately have to wait until Saint’s Row blows up shelves at the end of August.