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Saints Row 2

 

Saints Row 2

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: PS3
Category: Action Games
 
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Author:

Developer: Volition
Publisher: THQ

Features

Players: 1
2 Players Co-op Online
Online Multiplayer: 2-12 Players
Required HDD Space: 3.8 GB
HDTV: 720p/1080i/1080p
PlayStation Network Compatible
Headset Compatible

Saints Row 2 is set years after the original in a Stilwater that is both familiar and strange. The explosive events of the last chapter has left your character wounded, betrayed, and thirsty for revenge, and after a long coma induced sleep it's time to take back the city that has forgotten you. As a sequel, Saints Row 2 features all new customization options and a much larger city. It is also playable online via a 2-player co-op mode allowing you to play the entire single-player campaign or in an all-new open-world competitive multiplayer mode never before seen in the genre. Having played GTA4 quite extensively I was quite curious to see how this game turned out, and since the games are so similar in design I couldn’t wait for another turn in the sandbox.

Graphics

I wanted to stay away from drawing too many comparisons to GTA4, but the likeness of both games makes it inevitable. Visually GTA4 took the open world genre to new heights, whereas Saints Row 2 is happy to be serviceable. It's by no means an ugly game, and at times can look rather impressive, but detail in the city is quite minimal and the framerate is often poor, both of which shocked me a bit. The PS3 is a juggernaut of a machine and it really shouldn't have any problems of this kind. Overall I found Saints Row 2 lacked the finer details that GTA4 packed in its game to strengthen the experience. Saints Row 2's streets look barren, characters bland and the city just didn't feel as alive. Within a few hours GTA4's Liberty City felt like home, whereas many of Stilwater's streets seem blend into one. Couple this with the fact that GTA4 was superior in its visual production on the PS3 than the 360 and you'll raise your eyebrows and wonder why such a difference.

Seemingly the game is plagued with little visual glitches, particularly in terms of character and gameplay interaction. As mentioned in our Xbox 360 review, this was noted as characters fell through the stairs becoming trapped or having their paths blocked by an object such as a vehicle that logically they could have walked around. I also noted that the collision detection in areas is suspect as well, but this can be overlooked as it was also present in the GTA4. Regardless I think the graphics do a good job of conveying the on-screen action and they do manage to help drive the story forward.

I think it is worth noting that I found the same problems also appear with the visual when playing online in varying degrees and volatility. The screen was susceptible to more tearing, especially if there were more than a few bodies and/or vehicles on screen at the same time. I began to wonder if the game was ported to the PS3 from the Xbox 360, as these problems are consistent with porting over of code. However, most gamers will be far too busy with the logistics of gameplay and should be able to overlook most of the finer details they have come to take for granted.

Sound

The sound effects are solid in Saints Row 2 which helps make the game what it is. Each vehicle has a distinct sound instead of a recycled engine noise plugged in as filler. Cars sound distinctly different from trucks and various types of each of these vehicles sounds different from one another too. So a VW bug like car won't sound like a large four-door sedan. The weaponry at your disposal also comes equipped with distinct sounds, which is another plus as a bigger gun should sound quite different then a smaller one. As to be expected in a title that focuses on gangland warfare, the game is filled with a variety of sounds. From weapon fire, explosions, sirens, bullet impacts, to screams of fear or the whimpering of a stripper wishing she had chosen a different career path, these are just a smattering of what you can look forward to hearing in Saints Row 2. Of course the whole game is encoded in Dolby Digital, which is a plus in my book as everything is so crisp and clear.

In terms of the voice acting I was somewhat impressed as the voice cast as it is simply amazing. It features several great talents such as Keith David, Michael Dorn, Eliza Dushku, Neil Patrick Harris and Daniel Dae Kim. Throughout the game your gangster will receive cellular calls from a variety of people and the voices were expressive and clear and set the story without the need of visuals from a cut scene. It really did add to the overall atmosphere of the game.

The music compliments the solid sound effects and voice acting found in Saints Row 2. With the money gained from your character's crimes, and other lucrative endeavors, you can purchase tracks for your music play list. This menu can be accessed using the start button, which allows you to use your phone, fiddle with the music settings, then save and load. As with GTA4, you can listen to a wide variety of music when driving. There are 10 radio stations available in the game playing a variety of genres such as Modern Rock, Hip Hop and Rap, Electronic, Funk, College Radio, 80’s Pop and Rock, Hard Rock, Easy Listening, Jamaican, and Classical Music. The variety was one of the highlights of Saint’s Row 2 as the musical selection provides a little something for everyone with some old favorites and even something new. Some track examples include: Gangsta Bitch by Apache, Let Me In by Hot Hot Heat, and, Hear I Come by Barrington Levy. I assure you there are lots more. Let us also not forget the hilarious radio ads scattered amongst the music. They are worth paying attention to for a good laugh.

Gameplay

Saints Row 2 is a pretty large game. The story picks up where the original game left off and your character has just awoken from a deep coma and has to have reconstructive surgery. This is a perfect tool to let you create any type of character with an almost limitless array of choices. Since you’ve been out lots has changed in Stilwater. Your right hand man Johnny Gat has been in prison and in the meantime the Saints have lost their grip on the city. Three rival gangs, the Sons of Samedi, the Ronin, and the Brotherhood, have taken control. So, it's time for you to rebuild the Saints and take back what you consider to be rightfully yours. What follows is a ton of gang warfare, plenty of over the top characters, huge amounts of killing, and a whole lot of fun.

Saints Row 2 has 40 plus missions including shooting, driving, flying, boating, assassinations, and tons of side missions to keep you busy. By filling up your respect meter you can eventually take on one of the story missions. Filling up your meter is done by taking out rival gang members, performing stunts, or by completing one of the many activities the game has to offer. Activities are definitely a fun way to pad anyone’s respect meter. These usually include such things as insurance fraud, where you cause as much damage to property and vehicles as you can, to murdering rival pimps and recruiting new hoes. One of my faves was the septic avenger where you spray buildings, or anything you desire, a nice shade of brown. In total there are 12 activity types to play, each rewarding you with vital respect points if completed.

While activities can only be accessed from certain locations in the city diversions, another rep making venture, can be triggered at any time. Diversions can include such things as stunt jumps, driving taxi cabs for money, or surfing on moving vehicles. Combined with the more rigid structure of activities, you'll never be short on things to do in Saints Row 2. The beauty of diversions is that you gain rep and/or cash from doing things that would otherwise be deemed as messing about. There's no denying that Saints Row 2 is an incredibly fun game to play and it rewards you for having a good time. Dressing your character in as much gold and diamonds as possible, bling if you will, increases your style rating in turn increasing your respect multiplier.

Saints Row’s gameplay draws heavy comparison to GTA4. There is no doubt that the two games are very similar, but I found the combat system in one area to be quite different. GTA4 made taking on authorities rather difficult whereas the ease of headshots in Saints Row 2 immediately makes combat feel incredibly satisfying and nowhere near as punishing. Rather than rely on a targeting system Saints Row 2 uses the same free-aim system seen in the original game. You can aim with more precision by clicking in the right thumbstick, making head shots all that more easy. Mind you a lock-on targeting system similar to GTA4 would have been a nice addition, especially as I had played the game for months, however after a bit of tinkering I found the aiming is incredibly forgiving and enemies go down without too much trouble. Hand-to-hand combat is also pretty easy, and you can now take hold of a pedestrian and use them as a human shield.

Driving in Saints Row feels a lot like older GTA games, with cars able to corner at high speeds with real-time car physics being thrown out the window. This won't be for everyone as cars, trucks, or heavy equipment all feels pretty much the same, aside from the obvious speed issues. Again as with the combat system the driving seems easy, at times almost too easy. For example, there is a handy cruise control button allowing you to move your thumb from the accelerator onto the right analog stick which is great and ideal for drive by shootings. I found the option took away from the urgency or suspense in the heat of battle and it was a bit of a let down. I suppose you could say it was not rewarding enough, at least not for me.

Saints Row 2 has some cool multiplayer functionality. The entire game can be played cooperatively with a single friend online. The game adjusts enemy health accordingly when playing on or offline resulting in a pretty enjoyable experience. Getting online was no problem and the lag, if any, was tolerable. Of course there are also online adversarial modes. I was quite surprised with how much fun the territory controlling multiplayer game Strong Arm was. Two teams of four go against each other across seven maps completing activities and killing opponents to earn money. This money is then used to buy out the neighborhood therefore taking over the territory. Of course the standard deathmatch or team deathmatch mode, called Gangsta Brawl, is here as well. It is not quite as original as the territory mode but it is pretty fun too. Teams of up to six draw lines and play across another set of maps.


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