Saints Row 2 (360) Reviews

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Saints Row 2 (360)

By: Rex Inego | Oct 17, 2008 10:13 PM

Saints Row 2, the direct sequel to the 2006 surprise hit, takes everything that was in the first game and applies a x10 multiplier to it. Bigger and badder than ever, the sequel is more crass and crude than any sandbox title to predate it. It doesnt at all try to replicate the tranquillity and existence portrayed in GTA IV, opting instead for an all guns blazing shoot out.





Saint Row 1 appealed to a wide audience, sandbox lovers, violence lovers and all those waiting for GTA which was inevitably delayed. Saints Row 2 seems entirely geared towards just the violence lovers.
One big change to the formulae is the character modification mode. A vast array of choices can be made in the opening with all of the in-game movies rendered using your actual character. Any combination of statistics can be used. I made my character a small, skinny, old woman of Afro-American origin with a grey, beehive hairstyle and seeing her perform my choice of taunt, a dog style wee wee, was fairly amusing if not a tad predictable.

Merit has to go to the developer Volition for improving upon the formulae. The second title has a much more definite structure and itҒs now much easier to be able to forward the story progression. To be able to move through the story based missions your character will have to perform a multitude of different task in order to earn enough Respect within the city towards your gang. Once the respect bar has been filled (through the activities mentioned later or through attacking rival gangs) you simply drive to the mission location.

Activities available for those who arent mission-inclined include the standard mode of racing and also some not-so-standard sandbox extras. A particular highlight is the kidnapping mode. Steal a vehicle with a passenger inside and you will then kidnap the passenger, drive fast for the allotted time and ensure that the victim doesnҒt escape, provided you can evade The Fuzz that it attracts. Complete the challenge and the passenger will cough up the ransom money.

Missions still follow the old staple of driving and shooting with the odd exception. To spice up these missions the developer has included crazy items and story line quirks, such as in one early mission its your job to sneak into a nuclear power plant to steal some radioactive waste. From here is a shootout whilst you wait for a chopper and during the flight youҒre the designated operator of the attached machine gun with the task of bringing down enemy choppers.

The story picks up where the first Saints Row left off - all the main characters are dead. Thats where you enter, as you awake from a coma thatҒs gone on for years. After character creation, your new best friend Carlos persuades you to escape together. He even admits to getting beaten up purely to meet you, some would say loyal and others would say creepy. With the entire world swept clean its up to you to start all over again.

Getting back to the intro, once you breakout of the Prison, you and Carlos will cut your way through a small army of rather easy Police officers on your way to the docks. Once there, the pair hijack a conveniently placed boat and head out for the main land. Jumping on the attached machine gun, you will have to bring down enemy choppers and advancing speed boats before you make it ashore. With dry land underfoot, Carlos makes his exit before explaining to you just how much the city has changed and how the Saints are nothing. You are it. He gives you one tip before heading off: keep your head down.

From here the game becomes the sandbox youҒve come to expect. Gangs control the city and its your job to rebuild the Saints brand of gang war and recapture the old city. Well, I say old city, itҒs been rebuilt from the ground up to give the game an updated feel. The city itself or the trendier areas at least, have a semi-futuristic style almost reminiscent of Crackdown.

In truth the story in Saints Row 2 is bland and two dimensional, lacking the flair and tenderness that was offered in GTA IV. Saints 2 is consistently crass and crude, which will be nice for some and a real annoyance for others. Women are often portrayed as prostitutes and joggers in skimpy clothing, with the occasional OAP and female police officer to try and balance it out.

One mini-game features you playing the part of the police for a local TV producer to make a real-lifeӔ cop show in the vein of COPS. Your job is to respond to incidents and act accordingly. Missions like Stop a StreakerӔ actually mean beat a naked man to death. In some cases the guy filming your supposedly heroic acts will ask you to use a flamethrower to increase the action. Thats the by-the-book way to deal with protestors, right?




The sandbox city is filled with all manner of people walking the streets; from the hookers hanging out by the docks and the local protesters (does Police brutality still exist? Җ I thought that it only appears in 80s movies) to the Zimmer Frame-wielding pensioners. ItҒs a varied cast, but the scenery characters just dont possess the same level of purpose, charm and life as those created by Rockstar North.

Choosing a weapon is a simple process of holding down the B button and scrolling around the choices ҡ la iPod style. With a third person view point, and with the triggers already assigned, bringing the weapon up for a more accurate shot involves a quick right stick click. Crouching down for cover is put on the left stick click. In fact, the controls seem to work quite well, for handling your character anyway.

Running and gunning works fine but add a vehicle to that mix and problems occur. Control of the various cars and trucks is sketchy at best. Your machine will pitch around corners at unusual angles and all vehicles seem to have just two speeds, one being as fast as the physics engine will allow for its weight and the other being a stand-still. The part of the engine (pun unintentional) that controls the cars just doesnt allow you to go at a slower pace and experience the city at a gentle cruise.

Some occasional graphical glitches made themselves apparent only five minutes in, with the odd screen flicker popping up and distracting me from what is a confusing art style. Whilst the game world around takes an extremely gritty, grey and brown approach the rest of the world has a slightly comic visual style. Although not bad to look at, the lack of apparent cohesion is disappointing.

Each component is nice to look at in its own way but the stark contrast just doesnҒt work. The bright and airy characters give the developers lots of room for expression (even if the potential is never fully explored) that isnҒt mirrored in the world they inhabit.

But what a world. Its a humongous place with lots of different shapes and sizes giving each individual area, or ғhood its own feel. Some are gritty with dark alleyways and even darker people. Then you have the bright lights of the central city with its sharp-suited office workers. Exploring the entire world will take a good amount of time, and with 45 individual neighbourhoods to explore gamers will have their work cut out for them.

The development team has done a vast job on improving the original engine. Textures seem to load correctly and so far in I havenԒt fallen through the map. Thats not to say that itҒs a fault-free product.
The game also seems to suffer some frame rate issues as well and, whilst not game breaking, they always seem to pop up when the game is required to load a large area of the map. But worst of all is the camera control when driving a vehicle, panning out quite far, and the camera is practically useless in quick turns or when you get shunted by another driver. None of the elegance offered over in Liberty City.

Many of the street scene items such as lighting, pedestrians, bins and such will just magically pop up. I suppose Volition will blame a wizardӔ on that one. In one sequence, the storyline required the game world to be set at night. If this had been done whilst I was busy slaughtering the SWAT team sent in to get me out of the Courtroom in a body bag then no harm would have been done. Instead, the game waited until I was outside to blend the daytime aesthetic to night time in the space of two seconds. The resultant effect was sloppy.

Music in Saints Row 2 is much more varied than that of the first game. Following a very similar radio stations system cough, GTA, cough ֖ music includes your typical Hip-Hop and Rap down to classic Rock, modern Rock, Indie, Jamaican music, funk, 80s and even classical music. For those epic car chases, I presume. All tracks are fully licensed, a nice addition in the modern era of Rock Band and Guitar Hero where names are everything.

On the other hand, voice-acting is very basic. Lines are often over or under delivered, lacking care and attention. The voices are largely generic and lines donҒt flow into each other but are all stiffly recited by an uninteresting and incapable cast. Another bad choice by the developers is the decision to include so much profanity, rarely a sentence is delivered without at least one F-bomb. The quality of the writing material is also another disappointment; lines are primitive, predictable and rather cheesy.





As a last minute attempt at sales, a multiplayer mode has also been chucked in for good measure. Players can opt to play through the single player game cooperatively or instead fight online. Players can choose between simple deathmatch and a team deathmatch variant (named Gangsta Brawl) or they can play the other mode called Strong Arm.

Two teams face off to complete missions that replicate those of the single player conquest as squads. The teams fight to win the most cash with the single caveat being that each side can affect each others missions. Of the modes, Strong Arm is certainly the strongest likely due to its unique offering.

Pros: -Plenty to do -Good variety in music -Better framework that the first title -Lots more customisation on offer -A worthy sequel -Decent character control and a brilliant weapon selection system -Generally appealing graphics, but…..

cons: - a convergence of art styles that is misplaced -Stiff voice acting -Some occasional glitches -Awful vehicle control -Static storyline

conclusion: For those who loved the first game or are missing GTA (or waiting for that DLC to turn up) then Saints Row 2 is an essential buy. For those who aren’t really into sandbox titles then Saints Row 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel. For you Saints 2 is a game best rented and for those of a quiet disposition, head well away. One of the major problems that developer Volition has created for itself with Saints Row 2 is where they go next. There’s no way to conceivably make a game bigger and badder and to relocate the 3rd Street Saints to a new city, well away from Stillwater, would go against the whole idea of a gang anyway. In a word - Adequate

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