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Saints Row 2 Review

Saint's Row 2 pack shot
Developer:Volition, Inc
Publisher:THQ
Genre:Sandbox Action
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.saintsrow2.com/
Release Date:October 17th, 2008 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
 

Sandbox gameplay isn't exactly a rare thing in gaming anymore. In fact it often seems that there are so many sandbox-style games out there, that a visit to your local game store seems more like a trek across the Gobi desert (tortured metaphor).

When it was first released, Saint's Row offered gamers yet another taste of the sandbox, but it had an undeniable charm and a huge amount of fun in the case as well.

Saint's Row 2 (SR2) Takes that undeniable charm and fun attitude and ramps the intensity up, bringing a more enjoyable romp of mayhem and destruction, at the expense of its sanity.

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The story picks up a few years after the last game finished- with a full and resounding 'boom' as everything blew up. Your character wakes up in prison, having been in a coma since the end of the last game. As the doctor takes off your bandages, you choose your sex, age and characteristics, then escape from the prison, and begin your quest to retake the city of Stilwater.

Of course, the fact that the Third Street Saints have been disbanded and five other factions have sprung up in their place forces you to start from the beginning, reforming the Saints, finding a new HQ and fighting your way to the top.

The other factions this time around include the usual upstart street gangs, with one particular stand-out being The Brotherhood- a dark, Goth-like group, whose missions are sick and twisted, yet strangely satisfying. Another, slightly odder, addition is the ULTOR Corporation- the company that has basically bought Stilwater and is trying desperately to turn it into a Yuppie's paradise.

Those of you familiar with other THQ games, including the excellent Red Faction, might recognise ULTOR as the shadowy organisation who ran the mines on Mars and were bought to a halt by a miner uprising.

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The question of why or how they are on earth in the 21st century isn't answered, and the developers loose a couple of brownie points in my opinion for not having the brains to think up a new corporate foe.

The missions offered by the other factions come in all kind of flavours. There's the usual bunch of go-here-kill-that missions, as well as the stronghold missions gamers will remember from the last game. Also making a return is the massive range of shops and side-missions that made SR1 so much fun.

Several of these side-missions kept me amused for hours. For example, the Insurance Fraud mini-game had me flinging my body at cars and the public in a bid to raise as much cash as possible- accompanied by a lovely squelching noise as your limp body is flung into the air. Another stand out mode was 'Fuzz' which had you dressing up as a cop and driving round the city, putting down criminals with excessive force while a camera man looked on- hilarious.

Also included are new 'diversion' missions that can be played whenever you feel like it- I often discovered them by accident- for example, I decided it was time to indulge one of my favourite activities from GTA 3- riding the top of a car, shooting at passing walkers as the driver panicked and drove at high speed, so imagine my surprise when I clambered on top of the car and an option to play the 'car surfing diversion' popped up- resulting in my character doing a headstand as the car drove off a cliff- nice.

In fact, the whole point of SR2 is centered on those two points- excessive force and hilarity. Unlike Rockstar's excellent Grand Theft Auto 4, which took the stupidity and insanity of the previous games in the series and gave it a much more mature and balanced aesthetic, SR2 sets out to create one thing only- mayhem- and thank goodness it does.

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Honestly, GTA 4 deserved all the praise it received, but as the series evolved from GTA 3 and Vice City it lost something- its sense of fun- a baton passed smoothly on to SR2.

Again you can skydive from a flaming airliner as it hurtles towards the ground, again when you punch a pedestrian he flies a mile, again you can slip into a fire suit, set yourself on fire and run around in circles- it's your world, do what you want.

That isn't to say that this game is perfect. The AI is abysmal, as are the occasional bugs that leave my character stuck in a building or the floor. Plus the graphics are certainly not up to the standard of GTA 4- but you will be too busy mini-gunning pedestrians to notice.

Also, while almost everything is customisable- from your gang to your crib, the fact that it is so easy to change everything removes the player from connecting with your character. And while having a bisexual sumo-wrestler with a woman's voice and a penchant for bra's as a main character is all fine and good, the fact that I could visit a plastic surgeon and change all that takes away that inherent connection you have to feel to a character in order for the story to make sense- not that having outlandish characters isn't one hell of a lot of fun.

Multiplayer wise, SR2 is mediocre at best, offering only a couple of modes, one of which is just a glorified collection of the minigames, which are played competitively. But the game does offer a co-operative mode which allows drop-in drop-out gameplay over Xbox live, which as a bonus, has no strings- so if I’m spray painting walls, it's perfectly fine for the other player to be on the other side of the city playing with grenades and a row of parked cars.

Summary

Overall, if you miss the fun-and-stupid aspect that was lacking from GTA 4, and if you would love nothing better than to drive around on a motorbike as an anorexic man with a habit of doing a little jig when he guns down line after line of cops while wearing a traffic cone on his head and a suit of Roman gladiator armour- then this might be worth a go. Keep in mind that this game has its tongue firmly set in its cheek, sit back and enjoy the mayhem.

The bottom line
8.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Fun, really, really fun
  • Huge number of minigames/costumes/guns
  • Hilarious dialogue
  • Mayhem aplenty

Not so good stuff

  • Average multiplayer
  • Dumb AI
  • Occasionally dodgy graphics
  • Leave ULTOR on Mars next time.


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