Saints Row
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| Saints Row

You can't beat a spot of shooting, car-jacking and general gangster antics. (We mean in games, of course. We wouldn't recommend you take this approach into the real world and start popping caps in people's asses in your local Wetherspoons.)

Bad boy behaviour is thus an enduring theme for console games, not least since the global mega-success of the Grand Theft Auto series, which cheerfully brought drug-running, mobster hits and really cheesy soft rock into the living rooms of millions of gamers.

GTA has since spawned plenty of imitators, of which Saints Row is one on console. However, GTA hasn't made it to mobile yet. And that means the mobile version of THQ's gangster romp is actually a pioneer, rather than a copycat.

The game sees you causing mayhem as a new member of the 3rd Street Saints gang, who have the street lingo to prove how tough they are.

"The Row ain't safe no more son.. we got gangs fightin' over stuff 'ain't theurs and you in they way, they don't care if you representin' or not," says the boss in the first bit of dialogue in the game. It's like Oliver Twist goes to Compton.

Anyway, the game's structure is mission-based, as you try to build a healthy respect rating by completing tasks for the gang, which generally involve streaking through the streets in a stolen car shooting at people. The objective is usually fairly simple, but the tough time limits test your thumb skills to the max.

The graphics are top-down, with the odd bit of atmospheric zooming in and out for effect's sake. Saints Row looks fairly unspectacular if we're honest, and the small sprites can cause confusion. For example, you won't recognise a policeman until they start shooting you from two steps away, because they look much the same as all the normal citizens who are milling around.

There are also problems with the driving part of the game. The streets seem too narrow, there are too many cars, and when you crash, they freeze in an awkward way that often leaves you bashing fruitlessly to try and get past them. Is this realistic? Maybe, but when you miss a delivery deadline after spending 20 seconds fighting your way through a pile-up, it's maddening.

That said, the good thing about Saints Row is the sheer depth of it. There are loads of missions, and completing the game will take you a lengthy time, not least because you can take a break from the main missions by stealing cars to order for the chap in the respray centre. You can also pop in there to repaint cars. Another touch that you may recognise from Grand Theft Auto is the weapons shop, where you can upgrade your shooter.

Finally, there's a mightily entertaining pass-the-handset multiplayer mode where you have to stay alive for as long as possible in the face of hundreds of angry cops. Note: stealing one of their cars does not make them any calmer.

Saints Row can be frustrating to play, but it does reward perseverence. If you can grit your teeth through the traffic jams and trigger-happy cops, you'll discover a playable game that presents a significant challenge.

Saints Row

It's got flaws, but this is nevertheless an engrossing and challenging game that'll give mobile GTA a run for its money (if it ever arrives)
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