It's quite difficult to find other areas of the game that distinguish it from GTA. Instead of secrets you search for songs to play on your in game player, which is a novel touch. I also preferred the handling of weapons in Saints Row - by pressing the B button you can instantly select the weapon of choice, which is far more efficient than the shoulder button scrolling system of GTA.
The game also implements a manual aiming system that works well, whether on the streets or in a car. It makes the whole process of killing an enemy feel far more controlled.
The in game sat-nav style is also a welcome addition: a quick click on the start menu map will plot the quickest route to get to the desired destination. The map also introduces a nice ring feature on certain missions, allowing you to gauge how far you should be away from other cars to get the missions complete. This is particularly useful in missions where you need to track someone but aren't meant to get too close.
These features generally make the game feel tighter
and less prone to you failing them through an unavoidable slip up, they help you feel in control of how the action plays out.
Despite these positives, the game is ultimately an inferior copy of Rockstar's legendary series. As I have already said the uniqueness of GTA is one of its most charming features which in Saints Row is lost, most notably, in the humour elements. Although the developers have tried to mimic everything from the cutscenes to the radio broadcasts, they have failed pretty miserably at making the game funny. The use of swearing in the game is also far too over the top, making the game a cringe worthy parody of the genre. Making a game actually humorous is no easy task though, and on the whole the lack of funny jokes doesn't make the experience too detrimental.
The poor bits
The AI is an area I did take issue with, it certainly seemed a weak area of the game, especially the police. I very rarely worried about being caught by the police, and being chased by them never lead to the adrenaline rush you would get in GTA as the stars built up. Being driven around by the AI is also not too pleasant an experience; however, certain missions require it and it thus cannot be avoided. The 'enlist-a-hood' feature works quite well but most of the time it is probably as easy, and quicker to just do things on your own. On the whole the AI isn't that
bad, it just isn't up to GTA standards.
The game also suffers from some graphical glitches, stuttering if a lot is going on such as explosions and lots of people/cars. Without actually seeing the code it's impossible to know why this happens, or whether it will be fixed in future patches. However, my feeling is that it poor design, as opposed to lack of computing power, that causes the issues. Unfortunately, due to the pressures applied to games developers to get games out as quickly as possible this is probably something we should get used to in the future, games that haven't been polished due to publishing release date requirements.
An inferior imitation of a great game doesn't necessarily mean you have a bad game, and in with Saints Row that is certainly not the case. It's a fun, hectic experience that provides a lengthy amount of gaming fun-time. The game isn't unique, but then neither are a lot of things that we know and love.
The best thing about this game is its gap-plugging abilities. Everyone is waiting for the next GTA (out in October 07) and until that time Saints Row will provide crime simulating amusement to anyone requiring it. It's never going to be as good as the classic original but it still is pretty good and is well worth a look if you enjoy a bit of crime from the safety of your couch.