Ever since Grand Theft Auto first came out back in 1997 (god that was ages ago!) I have always said to myself, and others, that nothing would beat it, that it is a unique game that would be on our console systems for years to come. I was right about one thing – it has been on our console systems for years and has just sold over 10 million copies of GTA IV worldwide. But now I am asking myself – is it still the best, or has something better come along to challenge it?
About Saints Row
After Saints Row went down surprisingly well back in 2006, developers Volition Inc and publishers THQ decided to make Saints Row 2. Just to recap on the events that took place in Saints Row two years ago, we remember that there was a tragic ending involving your character and I was left thinking, is there even going to be a second one? If I remember rightly, I had successfully taken over the city of Stilwater (a city based on Detroit and Chicago), and wiped out all of the rival gangs. So, Saints Row 2 pretty much starts the way Saints Row ended. You wake up in a prison and find out that you’ve been in a trauma-induced coma for five years. It isn’t long before you’re breaking out of the prison to re-join what’s left of the 3rd Street Saints (your gang). You quickly learn that your gang has fallen apart in the last five years and a lot of the city has changed. The city is now 50% larger than before with more districts such as, the University, The Marina and even a whole new underground cavern. On top of all this, three new gangs have arrived and now it’s up to you to take Stilwater back and once again be able to call it “My City”.
Missions / Story
The main story to this game is as I’ve just mentioned – regain Stilwater and take out the rival gangs. You will do about a dozen missions for each gang, trying to destroy them and their business. Your gang is still 3rd Street Saints (or The Saints) and are recognised by the colour purple. The Brotherhood are recognised by the colour red and they are known as the aggressive gang and have a pretty bad mo’ fo’ as a leader. The Samedi are recognised by the colour green and are of a Caribbean origin and follow voodoo. The Ronin are recognised by the colour yellow and are of a Japanese origin and are pretty quick and nippy in their combat. Each of these gangs report any problems to the ‘Ultor Corporation’ – the big cheese of the city. It’s inevitable that you will become face to face with Mr. Vogel, the boss of Ultor.
You can follow the gang missions in whatever order you want, gaining respect along the way. The more respect you have, the more missions you unlock and the more money you earn. I personally think these missions are great, they really make the story entertaining. I have found myself laughing out loud at a lot of the storylines which of course makes you want to play more and more.
Overall, the story missions probably took me about maybe 15 hours to complete. Which is pretty substantial considering a lot of games now-a-days can be finished in 7 hours. This game probably could be finished in 7 hours, but I think you’d be pushed – driving round the city adds up!
Saints Row was famous for its fun activities on the side. These activities have been included in SR2 and are completely optional but provide endless amounts of fun and entertainment and I’m currently working my way through these. Each completed activity will earn you money and there are usually six levels to each activity. As well as the original activities such as ‘Chop Shop’, where you are given a list of cars to deliver to a client and ‘Hitman’, where you are given a list of targets to kill, there have been some new additions. ‘Septic Avenger’ is hilarious – you have to accompany your client in a septic truck and you’ve got squirt the city with…crap…literally crap. If you squirt the targets on your map, you’ll get more money. ‘Trail Blazing’ is probably one of my favourites. You are required to drive around on a buggy wearing a fire proof suit. Your buggy is also fire/explosion/crash proof and you basically follow a route and pass through the checkpoints causing as many explosions as you can. This is a great way to relive stress at the end of a really bad day at work.
There is also a short mini-game that can be accessed via the television in your crib. It’s a zombie game and you’ve got to survive six levels of the game. Basically kill all of the zombies using any weapon available – including a chainsaw!
All in all, these activities are varied, funny and will keep you busy for a long time.
This game has definitely improved since the first instalment. The graphics have been slightly upgraded, noticeably at night with some pretty lighting effects. One thing that has been improved is the ‘pop-up’ issues from the first game. I must admit I was not a big fan of the first Saints Row as the ‘pop-up’ fault was a major flaw in my opinion and it drove me mad when the road would just disappear, or suddenly a lamppost would appear out of no-where. Luckily, SR2 does not have anywhere near as much ‘pop-up’ as the first game – there is still some ‘pop-up’ when you’re entering the city and the large buildings will appear in the distance, but as for the road disappearing, this never happened while I played.
The controls for this game are so easy to pick up I would like to think that even my dog could pick it up – yes this is pretty unrealistic – but these controls are so simple. Analogue sticks are used to walk and move the camera, the triggers are used for shooting and aiming, right bumper is sprint, left bumper is cruise control, ‘A’ is reload and accelerate (yes, much to my approval Saints Row uses the buttons to accelerate and brake), I know people have their own opinions over whether or not triggers or buttons are better for driving, but I’ve been a champion girl racer all thanks to buttons :).
I didn’t really ever suffer any major lag, although it might struggle abit when you have a 5 star notoriety level, and then you decide to blow up the petrol station at the same time – this was awesome to see, but my system did judder abit!
As mentioned above, the graphics have been improved, but this game is not as attractive as the likes of Grand Theft Auto IV. I think Saints Row seems to rely more on its content than its quality, but this works so well. Sure it’s always good to play a good looking game such as, Gears of War, Dead Space, Assassins Creed or Call of Duty. I think we can also agree that these games are pretty damn awesome to play, but for me, they don’t have the silly fun factor that Saints Row has.
Blow up a petrol station, a building, some cars then sprint away from the cops and look back at the awesome carnage you’ve left behind. This game does look quite good when you create explosions; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used the rocket launcher to blow up vehicle after vehicle – never gets boring.
Co-op / Multiplayer
A great addition to this game is the co-op facility. In the first game, you could only participate in multiplayer games via xbox live and this wasn’t anything great, but now, Volition and THQ have listened to what people want and one of the things was a co-op facility. With this, you can play the whole story via system link, or via xbox live. This, I think, is brilliant. It prolongs the game and also provides great entertainment. You can also do the activities I mentioned before, together.
The multiplayer has somewhat improved with some new activities to play. You can play as your character from single player, or create a brand new one. Some of the game modes online include, racing around the city, fighting with a rival gang to try and take hold of as many districts as possible. There is also a game mod which kind of reminds me of ‘Territories’ on Halo, you’ve basically got to spray graffiti on a wall and protect it from the other team (gang), if you fail, the other gang will spray their graffiti over yours and take hold of this ‘territory’. There is also a mode where you create as much carnage as possible in the city.
Overall, the multiplayer is a lot of fun, but I don’t think it could last as a top multiplayer game. I personally prefer the co-op to the multiplayer, but that’s all just personal opinion. There were some laggy issues, but this is probably due to the quick moving, huge explosions going on!
It’s great to work towards something, so unlockables is a must have in any game. In SR2 you can unlock weapons, cars, homies and items of clothing. You can also unlock helicopters and planes. Saints Row was known for the fact it didn’t have any planes or helicopters to fly, and this was a big let down for a lot of people. So, Volition and THQ have again given the people what they want, and have provided us with helicopters and planes, some with the ability to shoot bullets and rockets.
There are some really interesting items to unlock. For example, if you mug 50 people you’ll unlock a paintball mask for your character. If you surf a vehicle and accumulate 3 gold stars (they’re like in-game praises for things you do) in the process, you’ll receive an achievement and a Traffic Cone that can be worn as a hat! Yes ladies, this is not particularly fashionable, but it sure is funny. Some of you may be frowning at ‘surfing a vehicle’, so to clarify, this involves you jumping on a vehicle and then while it drives around the city, you have keep your balance on the car by moving the analogue stick – it’s actually quite difficult, but won’t take long to do.
Now, this for me, is the best thing about this game. Obviously a great thing about the first Saints Row was the fact you could create a character rather than being given one that you may not like the look of. Well, in the first game you could customise their hair style, colour, skin colour and weight – but let’s not forget that you could only be a male. One thing that really upset me about the first game was the fact that the character you played never spoke – obviously this was due to the fact that being able to create your own character would mean their voice would sound odd on some that were created. But this has been resolved. Also, ladies, you can now create a female character for SR2. Finally, a chance to strut your stuff round Stilwater as a bad ass bitch that nobody wants to get on the wrong side of. You can customise their age, weight, race, cheek bones, lip shape, eye shape, eye colour and even choose a voice for them! There are three male voices and three female voices to choose from. I spent ages creating my character and now she’s blinging!
Another customisation feature is being able to choose how they walk, how they compliment someone and how they insult someone. There are some very funny choices here and some very stupid ones, but, it’s entirely up to you which one you choose. You can also customise their fighting style. When you first start the game, you can’t customise this, but eventually you’ll unlock different fighting styles with game progression.
If you ever get bored of the way your character looks, then there are a wide range of clothes and jewellery shops in Stilwater to take your character to. There are your basic cheap chops (‘On the Rag’ and ‘Sloppy Seconds’) and then there are the more upper class clothing stores (‘Impressions’). If you’re feeling frisky, you could always take your character to ‘Leather and Lace’ where you’ll find a range of bondage clothes, short skirts, knees high boots and thongs. Fellas, if you’re reading this and thinking that your male character won’t be able to wear any of these clothes (whatever floats your boat) then have no fear because this games allows your character to wear whatever they want – females can wear male clothing and males can, if they choose to, wear female clothing.
As with the first game, you can also customise your vehicles, and this is a favourite with self confessed boy racers. Turn any car into a chav-mobile.
You can now customise your cribs too. Turn your once dull, smelly, apartment into a pimp palace, complete with a plasma screen and rotating bed. Yes – the possibilities are endless.
Sound / Music
The sound in this game is pretty good. Explosions sound brilliant, insults that can be heard as background noise are pretty entertaining, and the music is certainly an improvement from last time.
We all know that Grand Theft Auto has been known for its big budget soundtracks, and Saints Row was pretty disappointing first time round. However, you can certainly tell that Volition and THQ made some money out of the first game as they seem to have spent abit more money in the song choices in SR2. I only tended to flick between old pop songs, r&b and the heavy metal stuff, but I liked what I heard. You can expect to hear songs from Ne-Yo, Cassie, Amerie, Ah-Ha, Europe, Trivium and Avenged Sevenfold. If you fancy listening to the more cheesy tunes, then you can also expect to hear some Paramore, Panic at the Disco! and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Like I said, a big improvement from the last game.
I also noticed that there have been a couple of slightly famous voice-overs too. Eliza Dushku (famous for ‘Dark Angel’, ‘Bring It On’ and ‘Wrong Turn’) does the voice over for one of your main gang members. Jaime Pressly (famous for ‘Not Another Teen Movie’ and ‘My Name Is Earl’) does the voice over for one of the rival female gang members and Michael Rapaport (famous for ‘My Name Is Earl’ and ‘Prison Break’) plays Troy, a police officer.
I think I’ve made it pretty clear that this game is endless. There is so much to do, and if completing the story and activities isn’t enough, there are 50 graffiti tags to be sprayed, CD’s to collect and stunt jumps to find and do. I can definitely see this game lasting me a hell of a long time, and with an achievement for playing this game for a total of 50 hours, I now have an excuse!
The achievements are not very generous to begin with, but gradually as you progress you’ll be picking them up pretty quickly. There are achievements for finishing each of the gang missions and each of the activities. There are also ten secret achievements, which I won’t give away as it’s a secret ;).
In total, there are 1000 gamerpoints to get, and I think it’ll be pretty hard to get 100% in this game, especially if you get achievements for finding all of the stunt jumps – this is proving to be quite a challenge!
My Overall Opinion
As I’ve pretty much given my opinion on all aspects of the game, I’ll keep this pretty brief. I think it’s quite clear that I am really impressed with this game and I hope I have made this appealing to some of you. It’s really a lot of fun and I suppose it actually goes back to Grand Theft Auto’s roots. Speaking of which, I must compare this with GTA as it’s the only other similar game in the market at the moment. Whilst I loved GTA IV and past GTA’s, I just feel that SR2 has done something special, and dare I say it, I actually prefer SR2 to GTA IV! Yes shock horror, some people may really disagree with me, but I am not saying that GTA IV was rubbish, it’s just not as fun as SR2 and when I play a game, I want it to be fun. GTA IV for me was more serious, and the extra bits like taking your girlfriend out became a little tiresome after a while. SR2 just reeks of entertainment and laughs, and I never got bored of it.
I do think Saints Row has still got a lot of hard work on their hands if they want to be as successful as GTA, and in some ways, I think this is appealing to a different audience, but, lovers of GTA cannot hide the fact that this game is really good, and really brave. Anyone who fancies their chances at taking on GTA, one of the best selling games of all time, is certainly very confident!
Taking everything into consideration, I would highly recommend this game to girl gamers everywhere, as the opportunity to play as a female character is kudos for Volition and THQ, they’ve obviously recognised that the female gaming population is growing and so have accommodated this with the chance to have a female character run the 3rd Street Saints.
Pick up a copy of this and enjoy every minute of it, just like I have.
Saints Row 3 has been confirmed by THQ and Volition and is due to be released sometime in 2010. The game is rumoured to take place in Stilwater once again with even more customisation options, new activities, and much more.
Gameplay.co.uk – £34.99
Play.com – £34.99
I have also published this review on dooyoo.co.uk