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Old 10-24-2008, 04:28 PM   #1
AgtFox
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Location: Twin Cities, MN
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[360/PS3] - Saints Row 2 Review

Saints Row 2 Review

Title: Saints Row 2
Platform: 360/PS3
Developer: Volition Inc.
Publisher: THQ
ESRB: Mature
MSRP: $59.99/$69.99 (360/360 CE/PS3/PS3 CE)
Editor: Loren 'AgtFox' Halek

Quote:
What's Hot: Lots of fun; Create your own character quite broad; Co-op drop-in/drop-out pretty cool; graphics aren’t too bad with a little pop-in here and there.

What's Not: People will compare this to GTA IV ad nauseum; quirky co-op things like waypoints only being seen on one side as well as textual information; cutscene graphics are jaggy
Saints Row 2 is a good game stuck in the worst possible spot in regards to game releases. I never played the first game, had always thought about picking it up but never did. The only experience with the original I ever had was play a bit of it at the in-laws and watching my brother-in-law showing off all the cool codes and the ability to walk around with a pimp cane shotgun which of course makes an appearance in this game. Before I stuck this game in the 360 I decided to catch myself up on the story of the first game through Wikipedia. With that out of the way, my journey began.

The game starts off with you creating your character. The create mode is quite vast and will take you a bit of time to get your initial character set up. You can’t choose from much in the way of clothes to begin with, but it certainly gets the job done. You will note that whenever you see a loading screen when booting up the game that your character will be a black guy with big muscles. That is the default character, but I wanted a preppy white boy. With that out of the way the story begins.

The game starts with you recently coming out of your coma related to the explosion from the last game. You are in Stilwater prison and another prisoner comes into the infirmary having shanked himself in order to meet you. His name is Carlos and he wants to help you escape so you can start bringing the Saints gang back to power. As you break out you really have no idea how much time has transpired since you went into the coma, you think it is only days…maybe months. The truth is it has been five years and the area the Saints used to control has been taken over by Ultor Corporation and rebuilt, including Ultor headquarters right in the heart of where the Saints used to set up shop. Three new gangs have also come into Stilwater, replacing the ones from the first game. These gangs are named The Brotherhood, Sons of Samedi and Ronin. Your job is simple: take out the three other gangs as well as Ultor and make the Saints matter again in the city of Stilwater.


First up on your task list is breaking out Johnny Gat from his trial for over 300 murders. You walk right into the courtroom and start killing everything in sight, defending Johnny and getting out of the courthouse. From there you drive to the publicly dead, but very much alive, Aisha who is still Johnny’s girlfriend. From here the game opens up and the world is pretty much your oyster. Where Grand Theft Auto IV had some moral choices for you to choose from such as saving or eliminating someone, Saints Row 2 has none of. There will be very real tragedies that befall the Saints gang under your tutelage, but overall there is no redeeming quality to your character or the characters around you and in other groups. This somewhat separates this game from GTA IV with this being a far more over the top experience than that game.

Early on some things become apparent from the graphics and sound side. I really like the opening Volition music with their logo and I actually like the hip-hop stuff at the title screen. I’m not much into hip-hop or rap, but the songs just seem to fit the mood of the game. The graphics in the game are good, but not great. I think it is very hard to make a sandbox game with no loading and expect a drop-dead gorgeous graphic assault. There is some pop-in, but nothing extremely noticeable unless you’re looking for that sort of thing. The graphics do take a downturn in cutscenes for some reason though. All the characters seem very jaggy and the colors seem washed out in them. I’ve seen other games with characters you can create yourself that look better in cutscenes than the ones presented here. Also of note is that radio stations are in this game as well, running the gamut from classical, alternative, rock, hard rock, classic rock, hip-hop, etc. I found myself listening mostly to the Mix station that has 80s pop and the rock/alternative stations that have newer songs that I seem to like quite a bit. The radio lineup may not be as vast as what Rockstar has, but it works well in the game if you want some music while tooling around Stilwater.

Unlike GTA IV, the whole map of Stilwater is available to you from the start. It’s up to you to get to those out of way places by boat or air, but there is no story progress you have to reach in order to touch all the areas, which is a nice change of pace. In order to go through the main story you need to play through activities scattered around the city in order to increase your respect so you can play through the story. There is a large variety of activities to choose from. 11 of the 12 from the first game make a return with Hijacking being the notable exception. In its place are six new activities: Crowd Control, Fight Club, FUZZ, Heli Assault, Septic Avenger and Trail Blazing. Crowd Control sees you bodyguard a celebrity from fans rushing towards them. Fight Club is pretty self-explanatory. FUZZ is like Cops except you take down the perps in as interesting of ways as possible to score major points. Heli Assault sees you defending drug runners from attack. Septic Avenger sees you take control of a sewage truck and spray crap at targets. Trail Blazing has you go through checkpoints on a 4-wheeler on fire while wearing a flame-retardant suit taking out people and adding time to your allotted amount toward the next checkpoint.


The only minus I could see in this situation is that you have to go through activities in order to finish the story. This isn’t to say the activities aren’t fun to play, but there are some that aren’t as good as they could be. Getting to level 3 and beyond on each can be tough as well, although you are given unlockable items after each third level with each activity having six total levels.

The main story itself is serviceable. This time around you are in charge of the reassembling and leading of the Saints Crew. Julius, the leader from the first game, is notably absent, but you may come across him during the game. Troy, the undercover cop in the Saints from the first game is now the Chief of Police in Stilwater and the surviving Saints are none too happy about his quick rise to power. There are a variety of new characters introduced as well, including new Saints lieutenants that you find and bring on after running an errand for each of them. Things have certainly changed in the past five years in Stilwater, but it’s your job to take back what was once the Saints turf. One thing of note is that some of the stuff both you and the other gangs do to each other is pretty low down and emotionally destructive. They’re brilliant ideas, but the amount of emotional anguish running through this game would probably break any normal person. Depending on how deep you get into the activities and doing other things in Stilwater, the game could run you 20+ hours total, but if you want a burn through you could probably have it done in 10 as long as you don’t get stuck failing activities trying to open up missions.

Additions to the gameplay from the last game is that you can now use human shields, although they become useless once your star rating is high enough that the police have kill orders no matter what. The human shield is quite effective when you get into large firefights with gangs and police. This time around you can also dual-wield both handguns and sub-machine guns. From my understanding most of the weapons are new in this game versus the first one and are easily accessible by pressing the B button and moving the stick to the desired weapon. There is also more of a stress on driving and shooting at the same time. Volition has implemented a cruise control mechanism so you can pick a speed and more easily target other cars/enemies than before. Granted, you still have to watch the road in order to turn, but you no longer have to worry about getting back up to speed after a break because the car will cruise up to the speed even after you initiate a slowdown.


2-player co-op play is also available at any time. You can read about my experiences playing with Scott (Psykoboy2) at the Co-Optimus review of that side of this game. You can drop in and out of the game at any time. No matter who hosts the game you come in with your money and weapons/ammo from your game. The map you play on is based the host map and one of the biggest problems is that you can each set a waypoint, but you can’t see the other person’s waypoint. If one sets a waypoint and the other is driving, you’re driving blind unless your partner gives you directions via their waypoint system. There is also some lag here and there, but nothing that takes you out of the game. You both can be anywhere on the map and do anything you want alone or you can go through things together, it’s all up to you. If you do go into situations together the difficulty ramps up since it is now two human controlled players versus the computer. Co-op is a lot of fun and the over the top goodness becomes double the fun with another player, especially in some of the more unique activities.

Saints Row 2 is a good game that basically drops you in the city of Stilwater and do what you want. With the whole city at your disposal right from the beginning, this game does beat Grand Theft Auto IV in that regard. It also beats it on the fact that there are no redeeming qualities to the characters in this game whereas Nico had some misgivings about things he was doing from time to time. The story is not as well done, but what is here is serviceable. There are some minuses such as having to rely on activities in order to unlock story missions and some jaggy cutscene graphics, but overall these are just minor. This game is an excellent pickup for co-op gameplay and even playing alone. The question of course is whether you can pick this game up with all the other games coming out around it. It certainly deserves attention, it just depends on your priorities.

Score: 4 out of 5 CoGs


Loren says, "Buy it if you have enough room in an avalanche of releases coming around it, it’s quite fun"

- Read the Co-Optimus Review, also written by the editor with more emphasis on the co-op experience

- Review this title yourself over at Play It Review It, part of the CoG Network

*Note - Review based upon 360 version of game
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