Game Check


September 07, 2006|By TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

Saints Row


[Xbox 360] Rated M

Are you a Grand Theft Auto fan? We know what you'll be doing for the next few days ... or weeks ... or months ... or maybe until the next GTA episode comes out about a year from now.

The highly anticipated Saints Row is a GTA lover's dream, but that doesn't mean it's simply derivative. In many ways, Saints Row out-GTAs GTA.

Design a character with the detailed tool set available, and you're ready to take to the streets of Stilwater.

From there it's all driving and shooting and clobbering and carrying out various nefarious missions. The theme, the tone, the action and the goals of Saints Row are pretty much in line with everything you've seen in Vice City or San Andreas. But somehow, Saints Row manages to come across as a wholly unique equal.

The biggest boost comes in Saints' use of artificial intelligence. Forget about cops and bad guys who are willing to take one to the face. Run afoul of the law, and they'll come after you like they know what you did - because they do. Fortunately for you, the tweaked AI cuts both ways: Your rotating posse comprises gun guys and wheel gals who know what to do in a crisis.

Your cohorts pick up guns, take cover, watch your back during holdups, automatically pile in your vehicle if there are enough seats and find a way to follow if there's not. They'll attack anyone you attack or anyone who represents a direct threat, and some will even take the wheel so you can focus on other duties while they drive.

The voice actors are excellent. The game environment is eye-popping, and much of it is interactive. The vast soundtrack pays props to stars, has-beens and should-be-knowns from the past and present.

Plug in Saints Row and within a few hours you'll forget about the comparisons to GTA.

Star Fox Command


[Nintendo DS] Rated E10+

The video-game company famous for Mario the plumber is turning to one of its lesser-known characters in a new title for the Nintendo DS handheld. With Star Fox Command, Nintendo reintroduces spaceship captain Fox McCloud and his supporting cast of interstellar animals in a series of minibattles against aliens called Anglars.

For those of you who a) never played the original Super NES game in the early 1990s or b) have never heard of Fox McCloud, yes, he's a fox. He and his buddy Slippy Toad and some other anthropomorphized pals happen to be ace fighter pilots.

Having all the cutesy critters doesn't mean it's for kids only: There's actually a surprising amount of character conflict that may resonate more with adults.

The game's core elements are split between 3-D dogfights - a Star Fox staple - and a new turn-based system that brings a strategic element to the action.

The developers have effectively incorporated the DS' unique design. The game's interface and controls are simple and effective, and piloting the various Airwings by tapping and dragging on the lower touch screen was more precise than anticipated.


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