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Saints Row 2 Review

publisher: THQ
developer: Volition, Inc.
genre: Action

ESRB rating: M

release date: Oct 14, 08
» All About Saints Row 2 on ActionTrip

If you can stop your mouth from uttering the words "will the real GTA, please stand up" or "shameful GTA clone," then you should also be able to muster enough strength to understand what Saints Row 2 is about. While the GTA series has been labeled, in general, as one of the most influential games ever created, the developers decided to make thing grittier and more realistic in the latest installment. Saints Row 2 is a completely different experience, parodying every possibly aspect of city crime. Yeah, GTA IV does that, but in subtle, more down-to-earth fashion; whereas, SR 2, mockingly portrays gangster lifestyle perhaps more than any other game out there.

The game first caught my attention with its in-depth character customization. You can adjust practically everything, from stature and the way your character walks, to an impressive variety of weird-looking and utterly hilarious fixed facial expressions. Creating a male protagonist in female underwear with a slightly feminine attitude is entirely possible, for those who never got a chance to live out their twisted fantasies. You may also choose the type of accent for the character - typical American gangster style or maybe a British, cockney accent would suit you more?

The story takes place a few years after the events in the original. Having returned to the city of Stilwater, your character seeks to rebuild the Saints Row gang. Things have changed a big deal in the city and this will prove to be a greater challenge than anticipated. Three completely new gangs now fight supremacy in Stilwater and each gang uses different combat techniques, car types, etc.

Again, the whole thing is very GTA-ish, but in a good way (similarly to the first Saints Row game). Contrary to the new GTA though, Saints Row 2 doesn't use the much touted cover system present in nearly every contemporary 3rd person shooter. This shouldn't be misconstrued as a disadvantage, since the game has a commendably low learning curve, allowing everyone to get used to the gameplay mechanics very quickly. This also helps keep the action going and the shootouts are far more intense. Certain tweaks to the GTA style gameplay, make the game less realistic, though considerably easier to play. For example, when driving, you can set the speed of the car to your liking without holding down the gas. This allows for a solid tactical advantage during car chases and it makes any drive by a lot more effective.

The straightforward spirit, along with the over-the-top violence and exaggerated physics (you can toss people 20 feet into the air and then watch as they unrealistically bounce and slide off of other objects), make for a surprisingly fun ride. Why surprisingly? Well, mainly because we're mostly tired of developers overemphasizing the sandbox gameplay and we thought this wouldn't turn out to be any different. Sure, Saints Row 2 is a GTA clone (there I said it). Hell, but, at least the developers weren't serious about it. The game provides plenty of hilarious moments, which, I'm sad to admit, is a rare experience these days.

The dialogues in this game are okay, though nothing beyond that. With all the amusing stuff you can do in this game we honestly expected a bigger effort with the voice acting as well as conversations between the characters. Moreover, don't expect any breakthroughs in terms of visuals either. Saints Row 2 features relatively uninteresting, mundane city environments, with poor textures and outdated character and car models. The only positive side to this is that the game runs smoothly in both single-player and online multiplayer modes. Yes, online co-op is available and it's a blast.

There's so much to enjoy in Saints Row 2, even though the game doesn't take itself seriously. For instance, you're bound to have fun with the "zombie uprising" game, which you may access on the TV at your home. It's actually a 3D horror survival game, where you get to fight for your life and attempt to avoid the horrific zombies. Weapons and ammo are limited, so running is usually the best option you have. The chaos and carnage that ensues within this sub-game is, in fact, very entertaining and frequently a welcomed sidetrack from the free-roam urban gun fest.

In the end, flaws like repetitive missions, dumb enemy AI, in addition to generally poor graphics, prevent Saints Row 2 from joining this year's list of top releases. Mind you, it doesn't stop this from being good clean fun. What I'm trying to say is that despite of your initially skepticism, don't hesitate to give Saints Row 2 a whirl. Chances are you'll enjoy yourself, either on your own or with friends. It will never be up to the standards of GTA IV, but then, as I've said, it doesn't try to do that. The gameplay is not perfect, although it will provide many hours of decent entertainment. As such, Saints Row 2 provides an experience far more exhilarating than you can ever hope to expect from recent travesties such as Mercs 2 or Fracture.


7.1   Good

A cool take on the GTA recipe, amusing over-the-top action, fun both in single-player and in multiplayer;

AI, visuals, story and dialogue.



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