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 Saints Row 2 review

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Harden Cox
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Harden Cox

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Saints Row 2 review Empty
PostSubject: Saints Row 2 review   Saints Row 2 review EmptyThu Oct 13, 2011 5:22 am

So yea same stuff as the first review i did not write the review credits will be at the end this one was not as hard to find as the first one because everybody who has played part 2 loves it

Saints Row 2 review Box_140161-hd

Maybe it’s time we retire the phrase “GTA Clone.” The type of open-world sandbox gameplay that Rockstar pioneered with that game has become so commonly aped that it’s almost become a genre unto itself. In addition to plenty of excellent variations on the theme of “go anywhere, do anything” gameplay in games, such as Mercenaries 2, is the fact that so many upcoming games like Far Cry 2 and Prince of Persia are adopting the sandbox structure.

But still, the Saints Row franchise is pretty obviously still the closest thing to GTA’s original urban crime simulator in setting and theme. In fact, the first game’s main claim to fame was that it beat the GTA franchise to the next-generation consoles, giving gamers the first opportunity to jack cars, shoot cops and create general mayhem in a large open city environment on the Xbox 360. But to suggest it is a clone was to maybe give it too much credit.

Saints Row aped a lot of GTA’s main features—the third-person view, the car-jacking, the radio stations playing real licensed tracks, etc.—but obviously didn’t do it as well. The first game felt somewhat clownish in its depictions of inner-city life, what with the Huggy Bear-inspired pimps and gratuitous use of bling. It was easier to feel sorry for their cluelessness than be offended at its stereotypes.

Pirates and Ninjas have a common enemy: cops with flamethrowers.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the sequel. While GTA IV moved into a grittier and more focused storyline (while still remaining incredibly funny), Saints Row 2 has taken the ridiculousness straight over the top and into the self-parodying stage. As a result, Saints Row 2 seems to be in on the joke that it is, and that makes it somehow endearing. That plus the fact that it gives the player so much to do outside of the main mission thread, so many diversions and activities and collectibles, that it now seems the polar opposite of the GTA franchise. And that’s a good thing.

If GTA is a juicy filet mignon served with a nice bottle of red wine at an upscale steakhouse, Saints Row 2 is a platter of potato skins slathered in cheese and bacon served with a gigantic margarita at T.G.I. Friday’s. That latter meal may be cheap and bad for you, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t really good to pig out on some times. That’s exactly what Saints Row 2 is: pure videogame junk food. And if you say you don’t enjoy that sometimes, you’re either a liar or a hippie.

Saints Row 2 gives the player so much to do, so many different types of missions to engage in, customization features to play with and dumb stuff to collect, that you’ll find yourself wallowing in it for quite sometime. I just can’t bring the snobby critic in me to slam it…I had fun.

And in some ways it actually does innovate. The cooperative and multiplayer modes were approached from some really fresh directions, and do some things that make you wonder why no one else had done them before. They’re actually designed with the viewpoint of, what would be fun to do here, what have I always wanted to do in a mode like this but couldn’t before? That, and the ability of the designers to plant their tongue in their own cheeks more firmly this time around are the best things about the game. Of course, there are some other core mechanics of the game that don’t get innovated upon and in some cases are just outright poorly designed, and that holds everything back considerably. But still this is junk food; you should know what you’re getting.

It’s been written about before, but the basic plot of Saints Row 2 is a direct sequel to the events in the first game. Your character wakes up from a coma in prison after getting blown up at the end of the first game. You’re quickly filled in on events by a fellow prisoner whose older brother was in the Saints with you before and regards you as a hero…as do all the ex-Saints, apparently. Once you fight your way out of prison, you return to the city you knew and begin your rise to the top once again along the road of revenge.

The fact that you’re supposed to be the same character from the first game presents some interesting problems of continuity. Saints Row 2 allows you configure your character almost any way you want, and definitely more than you could in the first game. You can play as a female this time, most notably. But there’s no way to import your character from the first game. If you’re super anal about it, I suppose you could take the time to try and meticulously re-create your character, but truthfully, the design options this time around are so much more numerous and result in characters that are so wildly different, that it’s almost better to start from scratch. Older characters are just going to comment that your hair looks different anyway.

The other main thread of continuity from the first game that really works, though, is the city of Stilwater itself. Sure, it’s changed in the “X” amount of years you’ve been in your coma, especially the old neighborhood of Saints Row, which has been taken over by the evil Ultor Corporation and transformed into a more swanky area, with its own well-equipped private security force (slash army). There are more areas that have developed, too, but the main layout is the same, and should be familiar to players of the first game. This, and the fact that the GPS system unlocks shortcuts as you find them makes it much easier to get around quickly.

The basic structure of the game remains the same, too. Story missions unlock by you building up your reputation through doing activities in the game, with style bonuses added for the way you dress as well as the things you do, such as driving and killing enemies. Kind of like Burnout, you get bonuses for weaving through oncoming traffic and nearly missing other drivers. Similarly, when you’re shooting it out with cops or other gangs, you can get bonuses for head shots, one-shot kills and the like.

But, still, this method of forcing you off the critical path to play minigames is something that some gamers might not like. Some prefer the direct approach, but I think the design and concepts behind the minigames are so much fun, that their diversionary nature is a good thing. They force you to mix things up, sure, but rarely does the game get sluggish or feel like I was grinding. It helps that the new activities keep with the tone of outright silliness. They include:

Crowd Control—You’re a bodyguard to a celebrity, and as they walk down the red carpet, you must grab the crazed fans trying to attack them and then throw them into various objects for bonus points. For instance, when you’re at the airport, you can throw the stalkers into a jet engine to be chopped up or onto a luggage conveyor belt to launch them in the air. This mode is cuter in concept than it is fun in execution, especially in the later rounds when the celeb is getting mobbed by crazies with baseball bats.

This is a good look for me, no?

Fuzz—You impersonate a cop for a camera crew from the “Cops”-like show, “Fuzz.” You’ll get called around to various disturbances like political protests, polygamist brawls and prostitute riots where you’ll have to put down the perps. The point is to get good footage of the cops going nuts for the show before the timer runs out. When you’re offered the flamethrower, use it. It gets big ratings.

Heli Assault—Most games like this withhold the super-awesome weapons and vehicles until much later in the game. Not here. You can engage in the Heli Assault activity pretty early on, flying an attack chopper around, protecting your homies on the ground who are getting harassed by enemy gangs, while they try and make their “deliveries” (if you know what I mean). The attack chopper sports a gatling gun as well as guided missles, which can lock on to vehicles or just strike wherever you point your reticule. It’s as fun as you would expect, and really gets the game going early on.

Septic Avenger—While not exactly fun—you’re basically controlling a turret on top of a truck—this mode is awesome simply for what you’re shooting. Ca-ca. Dookie. Crap. In other words, you’re spraying feces around, lowering property values and sending pursuing cop cars out of control (who can see through a browned-out windshield?). From a gameplay perspective it’s a bit dull, but conceptually it’s awesome. I can’t imagine how much fun this would be in real-life, provided I had a gas mask on.

Trail Blazing—Sort of a race-type activity, Trail Blazing involves you, a fire suit and an ATV. You must race around the checkpoints of a course, igniting cars, people and barrels of fuel to add extra time. Again, the gameplay is fairly straightforward, but the orgy of explosions make it somewhat worth it.

Fight Club—I’m talking about it, so what? This is the place you get to try out the much improved melee combat system. You can choose from multiple fighting styles after you unlock them in the single-player game, then get in the ring and pound the hell out of some bad guys. The triggers are your feet and hands, respectively, and both together is block. You can stomp on dudes when they’re down, as well as finish them off with a scripted button-mashing sequence. Helpful spectators will also drop weapons and food for health into your personal little Thunderdome.

All of the activities from the original game return as well, some of them with significant upgrades. The Hitman and Chop Shop missions are a lot less random than before. No more just driving around aimlessly for the vehicle or target you’re looking for. The Hitman missions now give you more specific instructions about where someone is or what you have to do to make them come out. For instance, one guy may hang out at the trailer park, but is wary of outsiders. Put on a wifebeater and drink a forty and he’ll soon show up. You’re also free to kill people with whatever you want, instead of the really specific weapons you had to use in the first game. Hunting down human contacts is a lot more fun now and feels more like a mini-mission, as opposed to the annoyance of buying a specific weapon and driving around a specific neighborhood aimlessly like you did before.

Chop Shop stuff is better now, too. Once you unlock the lists of each chop shop (by simply visiting them), any time you hop into a wanted car, it will let you know and instantly set the GPS for the local shop. This can even happen when you’re in another mission, presenting you with a choice. Returning the cars to any chop shop is also a nice touch.

Other activities have been upgraded in little ways, but the best is still Insurance Fraud. Probably the most fun activity from the first game, Insurance Fraud now has an adrenaline meter that you can build up by getting run over in really specific areas. Once your adrenaline is maxed out, you’ll go super-flying when you’re hit, and in the air you can control your direction some. Set up in the right spot and control your body correctly, and you can keep getting hit by the same car over and over for a combo chain that will send your points through the roof. It’s a bit reminiscent of the original crash mode in Burnout, requiring you to strategize a bit. Not only is it fun, it looks totally brutal.

In addition to the activities, there are a plethora (if that’s even enough of a word) of other diversions to take part in. Jobs like Fireman and EMT, not to mention Ho-ing. Gambling games in the casino. BASE jumping with the parachute. Flashing and streaking unsuspecting citizens. The list goes on and on and on. If you’re one of those completist type of players who has to get 100% in every game like this, collecting every last collectible, you’re going to be playing this game for weeks on end. That either excites you or pisses you off, I’m sure.

So many weird fantasies coming true at once.

But if you’re the online type of player, the options Saints Row 2 has for you are pretty solid, too. Co-op can be played from the beginning to the end of the game, or you can drop in and drop out at any time. Story missions scale up or down for difficulty, and many involve the two players doing very specific things. For instance, there’s a mission where you’re being chased in a truck full of fireworks. Play single player and you’ll be in the back, heaving exploding boxes while the AI drives. In co-op, one of the players does the heaving, the other the driving. Completing a mission in a friend’s campaign completes it in your own as well, though you have the option to replay.

The two co-op diversions are fun, too. If one player kills his teammate—a frustrating occurrence that’s quite common if you’re friends with a lot of griefers—you can jump into one of two diversions. You can either go head to head in a little two-player deathmatch or you can face off in vehicles: one person in a high-powered race car, the other in an attack chopper overhead trying to stop player one from escaping. These co-op diversions add a whole new facet to the game and are a total blast.

Multiplayer on the other hand is still fun, but maybe a bit more chaotic in its execution. It basically consists of a group of players being placed in a confined part of the map, where they’ll play a series of modified versions of the game’s activities. Things like Insurance Fraud and Races are definitely a lot of fun, as are races, too, and the pre-level waiting room where you can run around and beat on each other or shoot baskets can be a minigame of its own. It’s definitely different, that’s for sure, but worth your time if you’re going to invest in the game.

All this talk about features and game types, and I still haven’t said anything about the story missions. They’re really good; varied in what they require you to do and the enemy gangs are interesting and totally fantastical. Getting away from the bogus-street life of the first game, Saints Row 2 invents some gangs who are totally absurd (riding a motorcycle around with a samurai sword on your back seems really dangerous) and imminently likable. The cutscenes are really well done, too, with some surprisingly good writing. I was not expecting Saints Row 2 to feel fresh and fun in that department, but there you go.

Even though there’s all these things I like about the game, there’s plenty I don’t. Graphical glitches abound once again, and pop-in can be downright outrageous at times. The physics engine punks out with some frequency, too, causing cars to get stuck on six-inch high curbs and helicopters to flip over for little or no reason with some regularity. While these incidents were isolated, many times they ruined an activity I was working on and drove me nuts. This game could have used some major tightening in the technology department.

But creatively, it’s all good. And you couldn’t have asked for more things to do in a game. It’s like a ginormous buffet of junk food. So bad, but so good. I think I’ve found this year’s ultimate guilty pleasure. Funny thing is, I’m not feeling that guilty about it.

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