Day 197: Saints Row Undercover

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It took me nearly 200 days to write about a PSP game, which is approximately 500 days sooner than I expected to. Though, if the game itself doesn’t actually exist, does that count?

I’m certainly not slagging the PSP. In fact, I very clearly liked it more than most people. There was even a good year or so when it was my primary music player, an overpriced 2GB memory stick being my only escape from the sounds of the outside world. All that said, history has not been kind to the thing and I won’t sit here and pretend that there was anything must-play that history has left behind. Sure, there’s the odd gem here and there, but it was mostly just a destination for ill-conceived ports, which I guess was great if you wanted to play inferior versions of PS3 games that you likely already owned.

Such is one of the many reasons that Saints Row Undercover never happened.

You can read up on the whole story here, but the gist of the whole thing was that the game simply wasn’t up to Volition’s standards, which is understandable given how hard the open world format translates (or doesn’t) to a handheld. What makes the story interesting is that they weren’t content to simply let the prototype sit on a hard drive somewhere, taking it upon themselves to upload an ISO of what remained of Saint’s Row Undercover for anyone to try. Unlike most games that are quietly canned and forgotten about, we weren’t just allowed, but encouraged to look at this unfinished and deeply flawed thing. It’s a great precedent to set for those of us interested in game preservation, but it’s also an opportunity to appreciate just how difficult game development is.

Playing the game for more a few minutes is a bewildering journey filled with glitches, wide empty spaces, and an uncomfortable silence. There’s an inherent creepiness to an unfinished world that seems almost by design; cars will have their drivers distort through windows, random NPCs will be missing limbs or bug out into indistinguishable blobs sliding across the street. Missions exist but don’t matter. You can hijack a car but will fling into the air after the slightest bit of contact. It’s equal parts fascinating and hilarious, enhanced even more with the knowledge that you were never intended to see it. Playing Saint Row Undercover is, for obvious reasons, very similar to what Resident Evil 1.5 felt like, a peek behind the curtain that feels like it could end at any moment. You feel like an authority figure is going to burst through the door at any moment and take it from you.

Lucky for me, that cop appears to be missing a torso. I’m pretty sure I can take him.

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