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Thursday | December 8, 2016
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Saints Row 2 (X360 & PS3)

Saints Row 2 (X360 & PS3)

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The original Saints Row was a successful release for THQ and while the comparisons with Grand Theft Auto 4 were sometimes unfavourable it was inevitable that a followup was forthcoming. Today we will see if the time passed has been well spent and if the game has more than just the obligatory prostitutes and gang mutilitations.

Saints Row 2 starts where the last one ended, your character has been in a prison hospital in a coma since the yachting ‘accident’. This led to massive injuries which opens the door to a very indepth character customisation system.  You can select from a huge variety of physical shapes, both female and male, and you can also select from three voices for each sex. There are also options for various personalities as well as costumes and fighting styles to enhance the depth of game play. If these options aren’t enough to get your creative juices flowing then you can also outfit your butch male character in a variety of women’s clothing (or vice versa). Yes, cross dressing is not only alowed, you get rewarded with style points.

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After you finish with the initial character building you are then set to break out of prison and to rescue your long time partner in crime Johnny Gat. The task at hand is to once again make the Saints a force to be reckoned with. You do this by reclaiming all the territory in the city and by recruiting lieutenants to take charge of various sections.

This introduction to Saints Row 2 is very impressive and you are immediately thrust into the thick of the action by breaking out of prison, jumping onto a gunboat and destroying some helicopters and police boats.

The game breaks from the usual mould by not requiring you to make progress to unlock various islands or sections of the map … you have access to everything in Stilwater right from the start. In a similar fashion to the last title there are a plethora of activities and tasks to perform such as the Septic Avenger (spraying feces on buildings and anything in your path) or the analog stick based sex game (there are no graphic depictions, just corny dialogue combined with motion movements on the stick to mimic sexual actions).  I won’t detail these as it will ruin the fun for potential buyers, but they are quite diverse and more than a little tasteless.

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The bulk of the game however are the mission based levels which form the core of the single player game and this is all surrounded by a rather good story. The voice acting is vastly improved on the original and it is clear that this one had a larger budget on all levels. The characters are movie like and have strong personalities and by the time the game is over you will actually feel a part of the sick and twisted world that developer Voilition have created.

The story revolves around three gangs, the Sons Of Samedi, The Ronin and The Brotherhood. Later on we meet the mean Ultor Corporation but this makes up the finale rather than the bulk of the title. Each of the three gangs are dealt with by your gang with one of three aforementioned Lieutenants. This does a fine job of enhancing the storyline and pulling you deeper into the game. Some of the characters die in the game and they certainly don’t feel two dimensional like many titles I have reviewed this year.

There are a ton of missions and they are all very varied in structure. There are some which are very basic, such as taking out some enemy cars or takinga hostage but some require serious skills, such a gang leader in a massive Destruction Derby. As always there are quite a few missions which end up repetitive but for the most part they are enjoyable and entertaining.  Thankfully there are now checkpoints within the missions so if you make a silly mistake near the end of a task you won’t have to replay everything all over again. This was a major problem with the first game in the series and I was pleased to see this rectified.

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There are also some other clever additions to the mechanics of the game such as the cruise control option. Before when you were chasing another vehicle it proved to be tricky to keep your speed constant while firing a gun. Now if you hold the left shoulder button you can hold the speed of the car steady while the first thumb is used for firing. Also for those of you who had nasty experiences with driving a car into the ocean and having to swim to shore for 5 minutes there is now a handy “warp to shore” button.

Graphically both Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions are respectible if somewhat lacking when compared with the higher budget Grand Theft Auto franchise. Certainly the juddery engine from the first title has seen an extensive and welcome makeover but there are framerate drops from time to time which somewhat mar the overall appearance. Unfortunately there are also  glitches ranging from poor collision detection to characters getting stuck in objects.

There are some problems with the physics, and many a time during a mission I would end up with some followers stuck in a fence or my helicopter upside down on a roof, with suicide the only way out. Sometimes you will even find a civilian embedded inside a door when you steal their car. I don’t think this is a problem with the engine as such, but more a case of rushing the game through  the final stages for release.

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To be fair, these negative points don’t ruin the game as most of them are minor and although they ruin the level of polish they don’t destroy the enjoyment of the game. If you steal a car from an old granny and find she was playing Lamb of God on the metal music station, then there are chuckles galore!

This leads me nicely into the audio side of the game which is very impressive. There are quite a few radio stations (11 in total) and they cater for all tastes such as RAP, World, Dance, Pop and Metal. It certainly won’t be putting GTA to shame but its fine nonetheless. The sound effects are top notch, with a variety of gun sounds as well as car horns and ambient noises to set the mood.

The AI is another aspect of the game that needed more development and playtesting time (I seem to be saying this quite often lately) as sometimes characters will do things totally out of character. Quite often you will see a gang member stand like a dummy or fire into a wall while he gets killed from behind. I found myself shouting at the screen “For f*ck sake man, MOVE!” more than once.

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Multiplayer is solid with cooperative play being a fun option. The entire game world is open to two players either online or via system link and the game scales in difficulty to suit the additional firepower (you can’t play split screen however). If you have a good friend handy it certainly enhances the whole experience and comes heartily recommended.

Competitive multiplayer is also very enjoyable and although the whole world won’t be opened the action is still intense in specific locations. With eight or twelve players going head to head in either objective or regular modes the on screen drama is frantic.

Overall and even with the issues, Saints Row 2 is a fun and addictive game that offers long term game play in both single player and multiplayer modes. The production levels are improved on the first game and the game engine is capable and runs smooth most of the time. With a friend SR2  reaches new heights and with multiplayer, the action is fast paced and addictive. Even with the glitches and technical problems the game is highly recommended.

Gameplay
90/100
Single player game is huge (20 hours+ if you take your time) and multiplayer is just as fun.
Graphics
80/100
Some glitches, but its a complex world and some of them are forgivable.
Audio
88/100
Not quite in the league of GTA, but still polished.
Value
90/100
Long term single player fun, with months of game play for multiplayer.
Overall
(Not an Average)
88/100
Very impressive, only mared by some technical issues.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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