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Monday, October 22, 2007

My Weekend in Stilwater

If you'll recall, my plans for the weekend included relaxing with my family and playing some Saints Row. I'm happy to say that my weekend was a success! Although looking back, it might have been wise to put "get sleep" on my to-do list; however, "stay up very late with a screaming baby" seemed to find its way onto my list without any prompting on my part.

When I first picked up my controller on Friday evening, my plans for Saints Row were to clear three to four achievements over the weekend: Stilwater PD Award, AudioPhile, Grifter, and Jumped the Shark (these achievements are all described here). I managed to squeeze in an extra gaming session on Sunday afternoon which allowed me to clear all four of these achievements along with a couple more. Here's a list of of the achievements I cleared this weekend, along with some thoughts and comments.

Stilwater PD Award: This is definitely one of the more brutal things I've ever done in a video game. When playing Grand Theft Auto, I used to go out of my way to avoid killing pedestrians and other innocent bystanders. The fact that Saints Row seems to encourage and reward the killing of innocents is a little disturbing. However, I chose to play the game and I chose to clear the achievement; ultimately, it was my choice to be "bad" and I can only congratulate THQ and Volition on creating a game that put my morality to the test. Sure, I failed the test...but I did pick up 10 gamerpoints for my efforts!

AudioPhile: Working my way around Stilwater by foot and by car looking in all the nooks and crannies of the city in the search of hidden CDs reminded me of Grand Theft Auto series. It felt like a homecoming of sorts. It was strange to feel both at home in the game while also lost in the back-streets and alleys of Stilwater. Much like the Grand Theft Auto, finding the hidden CDs allowed me to tour Stilwater at my own pace, take in the sights, and get acquainted with the city where much of my playing time will be devoted over the next few weeks.

Grifter: At first, I thought that this achievement would require me to complete all eight levels of the Insurance Fraud activity in Saints Row. Luckily, that wasn't the case and I was awarded this achievement after a brief (and fun) ten minute period of getting knocked about by speeding cars. The trick to racking up the big dollar amounts is to enter the crash zone in a speeding vehicle of your own and smashing into another vehicle, a wall, or some other sturdy object. As your body flies through the windshield and out onto the street, the money earned will more than make up for the cuts and bruises suffered when skin meets asphalt.

Marathon Runner: I was wondering how long it would take me to pick up this achievement. I did a lot of running around on foot while finding the hidden CDs scattered throughout Stilwater. I managed to finish my 26.2 mile trek while jacking cars for the Grease Monkey achievement. Easy-peasy, as Jamie Oliver would say.

Grease Monkey: I figured I'd try this achievement when I realized that it simply involved grabbing a total of 50 cars and taking them back to the 3rd Street Saints' crib. With an intersection just outside the crib's front door, it was pretty easy to steal a car and place it in the crib's garage. I think this achievement took me about 15-20 minutes; I might have managed to complete it in less time had I not been chased by the police on a couple occasions.

Jumped the Shark: I was worried about finishing this achievement since I knew nothing about any Loan Sharks in the game. Luckily, clearing this achievements boiled down to standing still outside the bank in downtown Stilwater and hitting the Y button on my controller 80 times. Another 10 gamerpoints for my willingness to perform the most mediocre of activities...

Over the next few days, I plan on tackling some more Saints Row in an attempt to clear some or all of the following achievements:

  • Getting Up: This achievement requires me to spray paint 75 locations throughout Stilwater. I've already finished off about 10 locations.

  • Professional Thief: I need to steal 30 boxes from various stores in a series of night-time robberies. No problem...especially with the number of good quality hints, tips and strategy posts on the Internet.

  • Negotiator: This achievement requires me to take 50 hostages: I wonder if this means I can simply take a hostage than bail? Or do I need to complete 50 separate hostage mini-missions? If I'm looking at the latter case, I may not get this one done by the end of the week. I'll give it a shot though.
And while not strictly an achievement, I'm going to do my best to finish up all 8 levels of the Insurance Fraud activity as well. Upon completion of Insurance Fraud, my on-screen avatar will be rewarded by becoming a little more resilient to the harmful forces at work in Saints Row.

I've got a busy week ahead of me as I continue to balance the video game addiction and my family. Still, it's a game I know well and have come to enjoy.

I'll be back tomorrow with a quick note about how I log into Xbox Live and why many (if not all) of my recent achievements earned are missing their timestamps.