BRR: Saints Row 2 Review

Before the successful launch of the first title, a small group at Volition began working on the sequel.  After 3 years of development the title was released, but in response to the more serious tone of Grand Theft Auto IV, the game adopted a more comedic style.  Now, I personally find this to be a brilliant move, originally beginning as a potential competitor, they noticed a shift in the market and adapted as such.  That, and they thankfully waited a while before releasing it.  But was the tonal shift good for the series?  Yes, but if you want more info, continue reading.

Saints Row 2 Review
Release date: 14/10/2008
Platform:  Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC
Price I Paid: $9.99

Set five years after the WTF ending of Saints Row 1, Saint’s Row 2 opens with a greatly improved character customizer that allows your mind to go wild creating a zany, fully voiced character.  The game then proceeds to launch you straight into a prison break, a police chase, and a courthouse to bail out your psychotic companion from the last game.  It is a thrill ride that cuts the crap and begins the quest to rebuild the once great Saints.  However, three new and colorful gangs appeared from the relatively bland trio of the first game.  You have the tattooed monster truck riding Brotherhood, who want to work with the Saints, only to be monumentally screwed over.  The drug selling Sons of Samedi who sent you on a memorable drug trip and sick their junkies on you.  And the Ronin, a Yakuza-like Japanese gang who have some awesome sword battles with the leaders of the operation.

In addition to the half-rainbow of gangs you have Ultor, a new corporate foe, who claimed your original starting territory and have proceeded to conquer and expand the City of Stillwater.  Such expansions include, a University, a hotel district, an expanded residential area, and two small islands off to the west.  It maintains the familiarity of the original while including new and interesting locations to explore.  

To explore Stillwater, your vehicle library has been expanded to now include planes, which control like rubbish, but are never really used or needed.  Boats, that are stiff when not moving, but a thrill ride when you know where you’re going.  And helicopters, which are wonderful when you’re not up against other helicopters, who happen to have heat seeking missiles.  As for cars, they handle even better than they did in the original, but momentum is disrupted by foot tall concrete walls a bit too often.  Gunplay is very similar to Saints Row 1, excluding the ability to aim, which feels a bit too stiff to be useful.  But this is a bit balanced by a surprisingly well designed melee system that was good enough to get its own activity devoted towards it.  

There are a few new activities added to the mix, notably Trailblazing, where you drive a kart that is on fire and hit cars and people to gain time bonuses.  Septic Avenger, where you paint the city brown with it’s own fecal waste.  Helicopter Assault, where you escort a Saint while you kill opposing gang members with heat seeking missiles in order to transport drugs, or maybe just pick up some Chips.  And Fuzz, where you dress up like a cop and fight Ninjas and Pirates with chainsaws, enough said.

They are all insane activities where that are some of my favorite parts of the game.  However, that doesn’t make the other activities worse, if anything they’re better, with only two instances and six levels per activity.  It feels like there is a lot, but the game never overwhelms you with these diversions.  In addition to these wonderful activities, there are diversion, smaller activities that can be unlocked anywhere, such as taxi driving, streaking, or becoming a firefighting crossdresser.  Despite some difficulty issues, I found these side missions so entertaining that I managed to obtain infinite Respect a fourth through the game.  Yet I am still a bit bummed out that they removed the activities where you rammed trucks to steal and protect sex slaves, and another one where you hosed down homeless people.  I understand not wanting to be offensive, but I must ask why that is not okay, yet crossdressers beating up innocent old ladies is.

I am also very impressed by the audio aspect of the game.  The dialog and voice acting is fabulous.  The soundtrack is overall improved, and is expanded to include more genres of music.  But what really made me love it’s game is how it casually approaches insanity, and balanced it with reality.  Characters are killed and given proper send offs, but you can still call up their corpse to eat police officers if you bother looking for the phone number online.  And it is canon how you assassinated guys in hotdog suits back in Saints Row 1.  It acknowledges its weirdness, but never gets lost in it or fully embraces it as its main aspect.  All of this topped off with one of the most satisfying endings and epilogues that I’ve played in a long time.  If I had to pick large a negative point, it would be that game can be a bit grey and doesn’t have the best graphics.  Yet that doesn’t prevent the character design from shining through.

In the end, Saints Row 2 is a very well executed and controlled romp of insanity.  The narrative and audio are both spot on. The gameplay has been refined.  And the world has been expanded and includes higher quality content.  Only suffering from less than stellar graphics and some difficulty balancing, it is a wonderful sandbox.  

The game manages creates an immersive world, has well designed and enjoyable gameplay, and may only be lacking a few additions or a bit of polish.

I also want to talk about the Saints Row 2 DLC packs, namely how crap they are.  They’re overpriced, costing $7.50 or $10 for just 3 missions.  And the mission quality is average at best for this game’s standards.  All you need to know is that the Saints basically run Ultor, as implied by the ending of the main game, and Dex, an ally from Saints Row 1, was working as Ultor’s head of security.  I say, “was”, because he left Ultor at the end of the second DLC pack.  I would recommend the second pack if $10 seems like a good price for unlimited RPG ammo, but no other reason.  Hell, I spent $8.50, half price, for both of these packs, and I still feel ripped off.  Especially when you consider that the Saints Row Double Pack, which contains the first two games and is what I bought, is a bargain at only $19.99.  Also, I would assume that “The Complete Saints Row Collection” would have the DLC with it, but it is still a damn good bargain.

//I am not very happy with this review, mostly because I had to adapt it from memories and notes, I was desperately trying to get my thoughts together around it, but since I waited too long, a lot of information and criticisms were lost.  But the actual game, I only remember loving it, and that should be good enough of a reason to buy it and the double pack I mentioned, which you can find pretty easily, but it may cost a few more dollars.  But hey, Saints Row 2 by itself is worth the full $60 it launched for, at least to me.

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