Saints Row series
|Genre(s)||Sandbox, Action, Third-Person Shooter|
|First release||Saints Row
|Latest release||Saints Row 2
Saints Row (SR) is a video game series created by Volition, Inc. The series began in 2003 when development started on Saints Row, released as the first seventh generation sandbox-style game in August 2006 for the Xbox 360, gaining critical acclaim and commercial success. A port to the PlayStation 3 console was cancelled in May 2007 to focus development resources on its sequel, Saints Row 2, which was released in October 2008 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 systems and ported to Microsoft Windows in early 2009. A future installment has been confirmed by developers to be in "pre-development".
The gameplay is referred to as being "sandbox-style", being a mixture of action, adventure and driving in open world format and the series has gained controversy for its depictions of profanity, violence, drug use and sexual explicitness. In all its current releases, the series has revolved around the nameless protagonist's involvement in the 3rd Street Saints street gang who fight for power in the recurring fictional city Stilwater.
|Saints Row||Xbox 360, Mobile phone||August 2006|
|Saints Row 2||Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows, Mobile phone||October 2008|
|Ultor Exposed||Xbox Live, PlayStation Network||April 2009|
|Corporate Warfare||Xbox Live, PlayStation Network||June 2009|
Saints Row started development in mid-2003 under the name Bling Bling for the PlayStation 2 console, later swapped over onto the Xbox 360. The game was announced at E3 on May 16, 2005 and THQ representative Jack Sorensen said that the game "represents an evolution in open world game design and breaks the mold, pushing the genre in a new direction of choice and consequence". Upon its announcement, as the first seventh-generation "sandbox" title, the game gained attention for its unique style and impressive visuals. After being made available at retailers, a demo for the game was released via the Xbox Live Marketplace on August 1, 2006, breaking records after being downloaded over 350,000 times within its first week.
Saints Row was released worldwide on September 1, 2006 (August 29 in the United States) becoming the second-fastest selling Xbox 360 game at the time and rising to the number-one spot on the charts for the US, UK and Australia. The game stayed in the top ten for several weeks and stayed at the number-one spot in Australia for nearly three weeks. The game scored perfect reviews from The Times magazine and GameShark. GamePro gave the game 5 stars, calling it "the best reason to own a 360 this side of Oblivion" and a "must buy"; Game Over Online gave it 94% and said that it "succeeds in raising the next-gen bar for this genre"; IGN gave the game an 8.5 and an Editor's Choice Award; GameSpot gave the game an 8.3 and said that "The rare quality of its action and presentation [makes the game] stand tall on its own merits".
Saints Row sold nearly half a million units within its first month of release, contributing to a 38% sales spike for software sales in September 2006 and sold over a million units within two months of its release, joining the Platinum Hits line of best-sellers in May, 2007. To date, the game has sold over two million units. Developers confirmed rumours of a PlayStation 3 port of the game in January, 2007 and set a release date for Q2 2007; Saints Row 2 was confirmed in May 2007 along with the announcement that the PS3 port of Saints Row would be cancelled. Rapper 50 Cent revealed that he has plans to turn Saints Row into a movie, while promoting his video game Blood on the Sand at a conference call. He told journalists "My relationship with THQ, you'll see Saints Row. I'm optioning the rights for that right now" but there is no official confirmation from THQ on this.
Saints Row 2 started development in mid-2006, months before Saints Row was released. The game was first announced by THQ's Chief Executive Officer Brian Farrell in late February, 2007 in a conference call, alongside the announcement of six other THQ-owned franchise continuations for the 2008 fiscal year and was officially confirmed in early May 2007. Details on Saints Row 2 began to surface in March 2008 and the game began to harbour anticipation. A hefty marketing approach for the game began in March 2008 with the release of the Ultor Trailer. On April 3, 2008, THQ set the release date for August 28, 2008 and the game was then made available to pre-order from various retailers; in addition, the website underwent an overhaul. On May 28, THQ announced that Saints Row 2's release would be pushed back by about two months, from August 28 to October 14, 2008 in the USA. Senior vice president of marketing Bob Aniello told Reuters that "product quality is a huge driver of a game's success and this move allows us to polish the game. [..] There is a bigger trend within the industry to build big marketing events within a bigger time window. This allows us to lead up to the holiday timeframe". THQ confirmed to Big Download that a Microsoft Windows port of the game was in development on June 2, 2008. On July 23, 2008, it was revealed that the game had passed the OFLC classification body without having to be edited and was given an MA15+ rating with a release date set for October 16.
Saints Row 2 was released in mid-October 2008 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 systems and gained a positive response. PGNx Media gave the most favourable review - a 9.6 and an Editor's Choice Award - stating that "In terms of pure, unadulterated fun, Saints Row 2 is in a league of its own". MS Xbox World gave the game a 9.5 and said that "There are lots of games out this holiday season, and Saints Row 2 should be one of the games that you play, as there’s nothing at present that can rival its madcap adrenaline fueled flamboyance". GameSpy gave the game 4 and a half stars out of five and said that "Saints Row 2 offers up a shooting and driving experience that is plenty of fun [...] It's self-consciously funny in its irreverence, and its low-brow humor will definitely appeal to much of its audience". GameSpot gave the game an 8.0 and said that it is " is crass, immature, and really fun" and "will keep you happily creating havoc for a long time". IGN US gave the game an 8.2 and said that "The technical shortcomings are the only truly bad part of Saints Row 2, but the core gameplay experience is extremely enjoyable". The game shipped two million units within the first two weeks of its release and shipped 2.6 million units by January 2009. As of May 2009 nearly three million copies have been shipped worldwide.
The Microsoft Windows port was not released with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions and was delayed to January 5, 2009 in North America (the date was later changed to January 6). The retail version was released in North America on the 6th as planned but the port was delayed on Steam, released the day after on January 7. The European and Australian version releases were then confirmed for January 23 and February 5 respectively. Three downloadable content packs have been released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 systems only; the first, Ultor Exposed, was released on April 23, 2009, the second, Corporate Warfare, was released on May 28, 2009, and the third, The Unkut Pack, was released on June 11, 2009.
On September 11, 2008, before the release date of Saints Row 2, associate producer Dan Sutton stated in an interview with Next Gen News that "In Saints Row 2 we tie-up a lot of loose ends. I think we tie it up deliberately. We’ve already started work on Saints Row 3, and we have a new direction we want to go in with that which we of course can’t talk about. We wrap up a lot in this one. There’s no frustration". This interview was then quoted by GameCenterOnline, GameSpot, Next GN and Kotaku. In March 2009, more than 80 employees at Volition were laid off; GameSpot and Kotaku announced in the article that this had come at a time that Volition were working on Saints Row 3. On March 13, 2009, a Volition forum moderator released a statement announcing that "Saints Row 3 is not a confirmed game at this time, it was only referred to in an interview as being in pre-production. Unless the game makes it out of that phase, then it does not wholly exist, which is why we are keeping our focus on SR1 and SR2 now". On April 2, 2009, GameSpot confirmed that THQ was planning Saints Row 3 along with the possibility of new Red Faction and Darksiders games. On June 12, 2009, the Volition forum moderator opened up a General Discussion topic for Saints Row 3 while sticking by his previous statement that the game was in "pre-development". When asked about Saints Row 3 in a Q&A feature with Kotaku, Volition's Sean Kennedy said that "While we have other unannounced projects in development, I cannot comment on rumours as to what those projects might be". The conclusion of Saints Row 2 DLC pack Corporate Warfare sees Dex Jackson escaping to another city on the run from the protagonist, hinting that Saints Row 3 will revolve around the protagonist's hunt for Dex in a new city.. In the December 2009 issue of Game Informer, THQ's Danny Bilson stated that the game would debut at E3 2010 and dubbed it as "mind-blowing".
The setting of both Saints Row and Saints Row 2 is the fictional city of Stilwater, located in the mid-western state of Michigan, USA. Stilwater is primarily based on the real-world American cities Chicago and Detroit. During the early development process of Saints Row, the city was designed before the script was assembled and was more than four times the size of its final revision but was cropped to a smaller revision because development resources could not support a city of that size. During its development phase the city went through consistent expansion and cropping; examples such as the shopping mall and trailer park districts in Saints Row 2's city revision were originally included in early designs of Saints Row's city revision. A design challenge was creating the city without load-screen interferences and as such the engine was designed to stream around the player's location in individual chunks of the city.  The city was designed to feel diverse and have a variance of districts; Saints Row product art director Matt Flegel commented that "We wanted the city to cover all styles, from the towering sky scrapers of downtown to the gritty industrial feel of the factory district. We want the player to feel the changes between the districts, rather than just noticing the visual difference." The districts were also designed to feel relevant to the gangs that controlled them.
The Stilwater of Saints Row 2 is significantly different to its original rendition; the city is 45% bigger than its counterpart, having being rebuilt from a devastating earthquake, as the plot follows. Much of the city from Saints Row is redeveloped in Saints Row 2, albeit becoming more "alive" and full of depth. Saints Row 2 lead producer Greg Donovan said that "Stilwater in Saints Row 2 is very different from Saints Row. In fact, every detail has been touched to some degree or another. [...] I think that what will end up happening is that people who played Saints Row or are fans of the franchise are going to have a great time exploring the city and looking for new things. [Also], people that are new to Saints Row 2 are just going to be presented with a huge, very dispersive and very different looking environment, it's very well polished and detailed." There are no in-game load screens in Saints Row 2, a notable feat as the game allows for seamless co-operative play. There are over 130 interiors within the city, including over ninety different shops. The city is more dynamic and lifelike in Saints Row 2, as the artificial intelligence is smarter i.e. civilians will interact with each other. Additionally, certain elements of Saints Row 2's environment are destructible as the game shares some technology with the Volition-developed Red Faction: Guerilla game. Its environment also features numerous landmarks and Easter eggs; one such feature won "Top Easter Egg of 2008".
The games allow players to take on the role of a criminal in a city, typically an individual who brings the gang to power over the course of the game. Various missions are set for completion by gang lieutenants, which must be completed to progress through the storyline. Assassinations, and drug trafficking, among other crimes feature regularly, but various side-missions called activities and diversions are offered as alternate adventures, which can be done at any time during the game, with the exception of the periods performing main missions.
The Saints Row series, belonging to a genre of free-roaming video games called "sandbox games", grants a large amount of freedom to the player in deciding what to do and how to do it through multiple methods of transport and weapons. Unlike most traditional action games, which are structured as a single track series of levels with linear gameplay, in Saints Row the player can determine the missions they want to undertake. The city of the games can also be roamed freely at any point in the game, offering many accessible buildings and minor missions.
The use of vehicles in an explorable urban environment provides a basic simulation of a working city, complete with pedestrians who obey traffic signals. Further details are used to flesh out an open-ended atmosphere that has been used in several other games, such as The Simpsons Hit & Run, which has less emphasis on crime or violence.
Saints Row and its sequels have gameplay that is similar to Grand Theft Auto, featuring a combination of driving and third-person shooter games across the open world of the city of Stilwater. The player progresses through the game by undertaking a number of missions, typically based on putting an end to one of the other gangs that control the city. However, prior to taking any missions, the player must earn enough "respect" to access the mission. Respect is earned through several optional methods. The most predominate one is through "activities", optional missions that are not part of the main storyline. Each activity location has a number of mission levels to complete, each level granting more money and respect for the player for completing them as well as other bonuses. Activities are typically questionable or illegal actions, including street racing, drug running, and prostitution. Other diversions such as taxi driving, streaking, or base jumping can also earn the player money or respect, but not as great as from activities. Smaller amounts of respect are earned by killing members of the other gangs, or, as added in the second game, performing driving stunts or the like. The player's appearance can influence how much respect he gains; by wearing more expensive clothing and with colors of the 3rd Street Saints, more respect can be earned from activities.
Each game features three rival gangs that the player must take down. In addition to missions for these gangs, the player can also flush out enemies from a stronghold that a gang controls in a district. Once a mission or a stronghold is completed, the Saints gain control of that district, earning the player in-game money they can collect at several home bases ("cribs") around town. At times, the original gang may attempt to retake the district, requiring the player to kill the gang's lieutenants in order to resecure the area.
The player can gain the ability to control up to three companions ("homies") to take on any type of mission or activity; these may be assigned via a mission requirement but otherwise the player can find any Saints member walking in the street to join him. Clearing certain missions or activities will give the player the ability to contact specific companions at any time to assist them. Companions will help fight foes, including assisting in drive-by shooters or fighting on foot in missions. Companions that fall in battle can be revived by the player, but only if the player can get to their fallen companions in time (i.e. within 30 seconds), otherwise they die. Saints Row 2 adds in the ability for any other online player to join in cooperatively with the main player.
As the player commits acts of violence, the game tracks the attention level in a manner similar to Grand Theft Auto 3's wanted level, however, a wanted level is tracked separately for the rival gang and for police. Each level of attention will bring more gang or police forces to try to stop you. The game features a "cooling off" system that can reduce this attention by staying away from gangs or police; the player can clear their attention levels at drive-through confessionals scattered around the city.
|Saints Row||Saints Row 2||Saints Row 3|
|The Protagonist||Kenn Michael||Various Voices|
|Johnny Gat||Daniel Dae Kim|
|Pierce||Arif S. Kinchen|
|Carlos Mendoza||Joe Camareno|
|The General||Greg Eagles|
|Mr. Sunshine||Phil LaMarr|
|Veteran Child||Neil Patrick Harris|
|Shogo Akuji||Yuri Lowenthal|
|Dane Vogel||Jay Mohr|
|Troy Bradshaw||Michael Rapaport|
|Julius Little||Keith David|
|Dexter Jackson||JAQ/Jeffery Ameen Qaiyum|
|Benjamin King||Michael Clarke Duncan|
|Alderman Richard Hughes||Clancy Brown|