Wednesday, September 22, 2010

VG Review: Saint's Row 2

Might as well get this fucker rolling shall we? Do you love GTA (Grand Theft Auto for those living under a rock)? Were you disappointed when the cooky almost arcade feel of the series got dunked in realism when it hit the next gen consoles? Are you just looking for a game that's like GTA, will provide you with hours of entertainment, and features a minigame where you drive a septic truck through a rich neighborhood and lower the property value of the entire city? If you said yes to all three of these then there's probably a mental institution waiting for you, but more importantly Saint's Row 2 just might be your new best friend (cause you already have SO many of those).
The Breakdown

  Title: Saint's Row 2
Publisher: THQ
Developer: THQ, Volition Inc.
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360*, PC
Genera: Open-World, Action, Shooter
Released: 10-14-2008 (I know its old, but give it a chance)
 *=Version I'm reviewing
The Story:
You might be thinking at this point, "Well what generic main character with a checkered past am I going to play as, and how soon til the first of many betrayals?" Well you are going to be pleasantly surprised, as since this is the sequel to the 2006 Saints Row your main characters checkered past can be summed up like this. He walked down the street in Stillwater City, nearly gets killed in a gang crossfire, gets saved by the 3rd Street Saints, joins up with them to clean the city up (cause he had nothing better to do I guess), kills all three gangs (because even though he couldn't handle a few thugs he can take on an three armies worth of them), and then gets betrayed. All right so one part of the formula made the trip. Anyway, five years have past since the end of Saint's Row when *SPOILER ALERT* You were betrayed by the leader of the Saints, and blown up while on a boat with a politician (obviously corrupt but hey just pointing it out). You're in jail, the city has once again been taken over by three gangs, cause we couldn't use this opportunity to expand or anything, and you must break free and reestablish control of Stillwater City for you and the 3rd Street Saints.  Pretty basic as you just did this exact thing back in 2006.
Gameplay in SR2 is pretty standard. Get missions from NPCs (Non-player Characters), drive across the city to get to said mission, kill gang members sporting colors that aren't purple, ???, and profit. With three different gangs that means you can progress along one of three different stories. These can be done all in one shot, or split up among the various other gangs. Variety is the spice of life you know.

This brings up my first big problem with this game. Didn't we already do this song and dance a few years back? Yeah we did in SR1 you beat three gangs each with their own unique color and style. Los Carnales sported Red, was filled with Hispanics, and loved to trade in guns and drugs. The Vice Kings donned yellow and did the dirty deeds of gambling, prostitution, and racketeering. Finally we had the Westside Rollerz (no that's how it's spelled, and it hurt to put that Z in there) who are rich white boys and Asians who love fast cars, and racing them. What made these gangs great was that they not only were stereotypical, but they were so stereotypical that it was almost like a parody of their real life counterparts. 

However, in SR2 instead we get the Sons of Samdi who are also drug dealers, ok so they are black (more specifically Jamaican) and wearing green, but the premises is the same. The Ronin, an odd mix of Yakuza and the Rollers (screw that fucking Z), and picking up the Vice Kings old yellow flag. Lastly we have the Bortherhood in red which is...ok so this is pretty original. These guys are like tribal tattooed, roughneck, big truck driving assholes. It would have been nice to either see either more gangs, or at least some new colors. I know its petty argument, but when your map is either red, yellow, green, or purple it stands out.

Story missions aside this game really starts to shine up real nice when you go away from conformity and start playing the minigames. These range from basic ones like racing, lifting specific cars, and completing hit lists. Then we jump off the cliff of reason and start fucking the town up. Everything from the septic truck fun I mentioned earlier to driving a flaming mini go-cart through a course leaving only chaos and explosions in your wake. There's also performing in a parody of the TV show COPS, stealing hookers from pimps, and finally culminating with being given a rocket launcher and a neighborhood full of destructible objects and told to go nuts.

These side games are not only fun but profitable. You earn cash which is used to buy clothes, cars, and weapons to advance your character. Respect is needed to unlock new missions, and without it the game stubbornly tells you you need to play a minigame just to progress the story. This can be a problem early on, but eventually you'll have a massive stockpile of respect and be able to do enough missions to finish the game twice over. The amount of respect you earn is augmented by your Style meter. You gain style based on the clothes your wearing, the cars you buy, and how you style your various safe houses.

With that we can go into customization which is probably the best aspect of SR2. You can customize the color and design of just about every piece of clothing in the game. You can also trick out cars with new paint, rims, and reinforced plating to make your cars similar in durability to that of a Sherman Tank. Your gang's look is also up for change, from Preps to Ninjas there is a variety to how your gang looks, and the cars they will drive. You unlock new looks and car packs for your gang by completing various story missions.

You are also a blank canvas at the start of the game. Even if you played SR1 and was black as hell at night, you can switch things up and be as white as a full moon. You can change your body's shape and look even though that's pretty standard now-a-days. However, you can also change how you walk, talk, taunt, and fight. This is a problem though as you were a mute in SR1, even though they make various references back to that in SR2. The big issue with this is the voice choices. You either sound like a black guy, a Hispanic gangster, or a Australian white guy (cause that's so gangsta!). More variety in the voices would've been nice so I didn't have to play as a white guy with a black man's voice just cause I couldn't stand the Australian accent (nothing against Australians, but this just sounded terrible).
Graphics in this game are...well not the greatest. I really don't see much on an upgrade here from SR1, and that game looked like a Mid-tier Xbox original title. Characters models sometimes don't look the smoothest, but not to the point where you can't tell who you are looking at. Too often you'll find yourself driving along only to have buildings pop into focus and distract you from the nice drive. A few times I even had glitches where the road disappeared and I was driving on air for a few moments.  

Saints Row 2 doesn't really set the world on fire with any innovative controls. If you played SR1 you know the controls of SR2. This might not help you PS3 and PC players out there, but...too bad, that's why I picked the 360 version to review. For the most part they are standard, and functional. Still not a fan of the weapon select system, but I got used to it after a while.
Saints Row 2 features a wide variety of licensed music for you to enjoy while driving generic cars that you know are real cars, but THQ (as well as the other companies that makes this style of games) was too cheap to get the licenses for the actual names. Artists feature 50 Cent, My Chemical Romance, Paramore, LCD Soundsystem, and Avenged Sevenfold. I personally found this the most varied and overall best licensed soundtrack I have seen in an open world game. The variety ensures that on any given station there's always something to listen to. When looking at voice actors the game does boast a few high name actors including Keith David, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jay Mohr.
Aside from the three DLC packs that are out for SR2, the game boasts a full online multiplayer system. This includes Co-op for the story, as well as competitive matchmaking. Players can join forces to conquer the entire story mode as well as all the activities. There is also the standard fare of competitive gametypes such as deathmatch and team deathmatch. The real draw to SR2's multiplayer though lies in Strong Arm mode. This puts two teams against each other for control of a section of Stillwater. By killing rival players, completing activities, and holding "tag spots" the teams earn money, and the first team to reach $100,000 wins. *PROTIP* Even if you don't plan on doing the multiplayer, do the tutorial to earn a free Achievement.

While SR2 doesn't revolutionize GTA-style (cause they did do it the best) games, it does deliver an experience that hasn't been seen since GTA:SA or VC from this style; just plain fun. It's the kind of game that has a story, but it does so much to take the piss out of itself you can't help but enjoy it. I loved this game, and recommend it to anyone looking for a fun PS2-era GTA style game that hasn't been dunked in realism. Just don't expect a good looking game.

Saint's Row 2: 8/10
Pros: Fun, easy to pick up and play, lots of customization, and very good soundtrack selection.
Cons: Not the best looking game, online isn't very balanced or fun (in my opinion), and story is pretty generic.

So there you have it my first review out of the way. Stop by next week when I'll be doing another throwback review to prepare you all for the upcoming hit Fallout: New Vegas. I'm gonna tackle Fallout 3 and ALL of its DLC. So until next time I'm S.F. and I'll be here same Loser blog, same Loser Blogger...Channel.  


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