Saints Row - single/multiplayer hands-on

Our multiplay session consisted of the standard deathmatch-style gametypes (called Gangsta Brawl), with a little Protect the Pimp thrown in for some extra spice. As we waited in the game's lobby for matches to begin, we were surprised to find that we weren't waiting at all. Instead, while the game's host was busily tweaking options and choosing the kind of game we'd play, the other players were cut loose inside an abandoned warehouse - free to blast away at each other with a full library of death dispensers (and no score kept... just mass carnage for carnage's sake).

We got to check out two different locales during our Gangsta Brawls, both suitably large and detailed in that beautiful, hi-res 360 way. We traded bullets in a parking garage littered with shotguns and bazookas (and, very soon thereafter, bodies), then we switched things up for an all-out orgy of man-on-man violence in a giant stadium that appeared to be set up for some kind of monster truck rally. Traditional fare, to be sure, but also remarkably satisfying after the long drought the 360 has experienced.

By far, the most unique and intense gametype was Protect the Pimp. Two teams of six square off against each other within a corporate high-rise (one group on the top floor, another on the bottom), the twist being that one team has a Pimp that must be protected so that he can escape the building. While the Pimp can't carry any weapons, he comes with a standard issue pimpslap that instantly downs anyone unlucky enough to come within striking distance. He also gets one of those silly purple fedoras with the absurdly long, zebra stripe feather poking out. Like Counter-Strike with some ghetto flava, Protect the Pimp had us snorting with laughter while we emptied clip after clip.

Can a game be called a copycat if it does what the original did only better and prettier? Sure it can, but who cares as long as it's fun... that's what we spend our money for, and that's what it looks like Saints Row will be dishing out on August 29.