Game Review: Saints Row 2
Genre: Action-adventure, Open world
After spending a chuck of 2012 saving the galaxy in the Mass Effect series, I decided that I wanted a bit of escapist fun. I wanted a game that I could pick up and roll through without any pressure to save the world and no weighty decision making. So I went through my games collection and spotted Saints Row 2. I know it’s an old game but my cupboard is full of games waiting to be played (including the next edition in the Saints Row series ‘The Third’). I’ve wanted to play the Saints’ Row games since I saw the trailer for ‘The Third’ with its big pimp hats and death by dildo (unique selling point right there). I chose to start with the second game in the series as it was better received than it’s predecessor.
If you’re a gamer, and you probably are, then you will know that Saints Row is an action-adventure, open world game similar to the GTA games…just a bit more gangsta’ innit’? (the bad pun police have been notified).
The game is set in the fictional city of Stilwater, as it was in the first game, and begins with the main protagonist waking up in prison after being in a 5 year coma due to the dramatic events at the end of the first game, where they were blown up. It appears that a lot has changed in those years. Stilwater has been completely rebuilt by the Ultor Corporation after an earthquake destroyed it (they are pushed as the saviors of Stilwater and clearly have a bigger part to play in the story), and it is no longer a Third Street Saints stronghold. In fact, three new gangs have replaced them and taken over the city…The Sons of Samedi, The Brotherhood and The Ronin. After staging a bold and bloody rescue to save a former running buddy, Johnny Gat, the mission becomes clear – establish a new base, recruit new gang members and lead the Saints as you take back Stilwater. Simple.
This is the main plot of the game which is broken down into 3 story missions – one for each rival gang.
- The Sons of Samedi are predominantly drug pushers led by ‘The General’. They spend a lot of their time stoned on the city streets. Their gang colour is green and they are represented by a voodoo skull emblem.
- The Brotherhood are tattooed gun runners with a penchant for heavy metal and monster trucks. Led by a 7ft behemoth ‘Maero’, their colour is red and their tag is the Red Wolf.
- The Ronin are a Japanese gang led by ‘Shogo Akuji’ and they deal in prostitutes and pornography. Their gang colour is yellow and they use a Dragon as their tag.
The main story missions unlock by gaining ‘Respect’ from completing ‘Activities’ such as races, hit-man jobs and drug trafficking (septic avenger is one of my faves). All of these mini-games are on the city map and are available form the outset. Completing certain Activities and Missions grants you control of the respective neighbourhood and there are 45 ‘hoods to gain. Once you do control a ‘hood you are able to purchase any of the stores in that area and gain a daily profit from them.
The playable character is nameless and simply referred to as ‘Boss’ for most of the game (which I love!). As always I’m playing as a female. And holy Mick Foley is she fierce! She has no moral compass, a ‘do as you f**king told’ attitude and a filthy mouth…she’s awesome!
For a girl like me, wardrobe is really important. I love to customize my character and Saints caters for this really well with a variety of clothing available in numerous stores around the city (including a shopping mall! Exciteballs!). Everyone should be able to find a style they like. I’ve gone for the ‘street smart slut’ look, and why not?! And because I can customize everything, all her gear (and there’s a lot of it), is in black and ‘Saints purple’…so I’m a little OCD…it’s all good.
Another big customizable feature of the game is the cars. Big pimped out trucks or sleek and speedy racers – the choice is yours. I’ve amassed quite a collection of rides by stealing them off of the good people of Stilwater. Why would I go and drop 20k for a car when I can just go and steaal one?! I’d much rather spend my cash on guns and cribs thanks. I have classics, racers and hot hatchbacks and they’re all in matching ‘Crystal decanter white’ pearlescent paint with ‘Harlequin purple’ interiors…remember the OCD here peeps…
Cars aren’t the only vehicles available though. You can own motorbikes, boats, planes and some more ‘unique’ vehicles. If however, you want the ultimate in ease you can simply call a taxi on your cell phone and they will drop you at your desired destination, for a small fee of course.
A big effort has been put into the music for this game and I am impressed by it. By using 12 different radio stations (available in your car or one of your cribs), all music tastes are catered for. Big names featured included Paramore, Duran Duran, Panic! At the disco and more. If you pay attention to the chatter on the radio you’ll hear regular commercials for Ultor Corporation and really get the feeling that they have their corporate fingers in all the pies. Another great feature is the ability to create your own radio station ‘Play-list’ . You can visit one of the music stores and buy tracks to add to your personalized station ‘My Radio’. Excellent!
The game-play is basic and easy to control…accelerate, handbrake, shoot, hit…easy. And for this game it’s the perfect set-up. You can pick up most objects in the world and use them as weapons…bins, stools, parking meters… And obviously you can wield an array of guns from pistols to RPG’s.
Every little traffic misdemeanor won’t get you into trouble with the police but if you mow down too many members of the public (for example) they will get pissed at you and you ‘Notoriety’ level will increase. Your Notoriety is clearly displayed on screen with two bars – one to show your Notoriety with the police and one to show you Notoriety with a rival gang (in the instances you’ve been hacking them off). You will be chased until you’re caught. killed or you Notoriety level disappears. You can either hide and let it cool down or visit a drive through confessional booth ‘Forgive and forget’ and pay for forgiveness (this is really cheap and can be used during missions).
Throughout the city there are ‘collectibles’ in the form of CD’s and graffiti spots. There are 50 CD’s to find and collect and 25 graffiti tags to paint. In addition to the main game, activities and collectibles there are several amusing ‘Diversions’ to take part in. These include flashing (in a trashy trench coat of course), streaking and mugging. They’re fun to do and gain you small rewards.
There are several Multi-player options in this game too. In co-op mode you can team up with a friend to complete Missions, Activities or cause general havoc. It’s played on a drop-in/drop out system and there is no maximum vicinity to stick to; meaning that one player can be on the other side of the map to the other. Then there are the competitive modes featuring ‘Brawl’ and ‘Strong arm’ games, in which you can fight in manic team vs team brawl action or grapple over control of a ‘hood. Downloadable content is available for Saints 2. The first playable pack ‘Ultor Exposed’ features Tera Patrick, who plays herself , in a story to expose the ‘evils’ inside Ultor Corporation (come on now, you didn’t think they were the saviours of Stilwater did you?!). The second playable pack ‘Corporate warfare’ is again focused on the battle between Ultor and the Saints. There are further DLCs including Themes and outfits.
The city is alive and amazingly open. There’s no strict line to follow and no limit on what you can and can’t do. You can take a boat out into the bay and catch some waves, do some jumps. You can take a chopper up above the rat race and jump out! Yep, you can base jump. Or you can simply explore the world. I found a barbershop quartet the other day, and a sex cavern in the graveyard filled with blow up dolls. Random, huh?!
That’s what’s brilliant! Yes, I can chase down my rival gangs and pursue the story but I get to dictate the pace of it all. I love the freedom I have to whatever I want, whenever I want…steal cars, visit the Phantom Caverns or shop! I love the randomness of the city and the fact that my bad-ass gang leader sings along (badly) to A-Ha on the radio. Brilliant! The world is interactive and has plenty of amusement if you look for it. The characters are well structured and the voice acting is done really well; they all swear brilliantly!
This game is fabulously OTT and entertaining and is not to be taken seriously. It’s fun! It’s a thoroughly enjoyable game to play through and laugh at and I look forward to playing ‘The Third’.