Gang violence, brutality, police beat-downs, over the top humour and more await you when you boot up Saints Row 2. The original was labelled as a GTA clone and largely forgotten by most gamers/gaming press because it was buggy, glitchy and had some serious issues that marred the game in terms of graphics, playability and design. Yet it had a stalwart fan following that kept the torch alight in the hope that Volition would see fit to continue the story from the obvious sequel ending. Finally with the advent of the Xbox 360 and the current generation of consoles (Next Gen was about 2 years ago now), that dream for Saints Row fans has finally been realised.
Enter Saints Row 2, a game that picks right up where Saints Row left off. Iím not going to say much on the story, except that itís tongue in cheek, brutally violent and targeted at a mature audience. This isnít a game for kids moms and dads, so if you let little Johnny play it, then you only have yourself to blame. Likewise, crusading Jack Thompson wannabees and irate parents, police and so on, itís time to stop blaming the video game industry for your lack of responsibility regarding minors and these kinds of games.
Iíd hope the adults (that this game is focussed towards) would have the damn decency to restrict a minor playing it. I hear time and time again that GTA IV and games like it desensitise kids to violence, wrong, itís not movies or games that do that. Itís the news that shows uncensored footage from wars and murders, at least most gamers Iíve met have the understanding that it all goes on in a make-believe world and theyíre not going to go out, jack a car and drive around the streets beating up police officers.
That rant aside, this is supposed to be about the game. So here we go, thereís a lot thatís changed between Saints Row and Saints Row 2. The second game is bigger, better and sharper in many ways compared to the previous outing. Volition has listened to the feedback from their fans, theyíve adjusted things, theyíve paid close attention to the problems that the first game had and theyíve come out on top. This is a big game and it will take a while to get %100 completion, itís packed with activities and diversions as well as some solid (checkpoint style) missions for the gangs. There are three new gangs, The Brotherhood, the Ronin and the Sons of Samedi.
The game presents a darker view of the gang related scene and does indeed have some brutal cut-scenes. That aside, caveat from above as well, this outing has a lot of fun packed into the release. The diversions and activities range from being able to car surf, basejump, barnstorm; collect cars in the chop shop to engaging in destruction derby, a fight club and many more. There are almost too many to list, alongside the old favourites such as insurance fraud and so on.
Saints Row 2 offers complete character customization, with a huge array of options, facial modifiers, body modifiers, style, personality and numerous other things to tweak and change. You can alter any of these from the in-game plastic surgeon as well if youíre not happy with how you look. This extends to the multiplayer component of the game as well; you can tweak your character in and out of the various gametype sessions and buy things from the mp shops. In single player, Volition has packed a bigger Stillwater with even more shops for you to spend your ill-gotten gains on.
The customization doesnít end there; you can own cribs and a gang hideout in the sp story. You can change the look of the crib; you can alter certain aspects of it and also modify the overall style. You might want that stripper pole or a big plasma TV, if you have the cash, you can get the upgrades. Some of these items are functional as well, the TV allows you to replay the cinematics and even play a video game. This game is the best game-within-a-game yet, I wonít say what it is but it is extremely fun and frenetic.
In your hide out, you can customize your gang. You can change their style, your gang tag and the sign (their physical taunt etc) and the vehicles the gang uses. There are several unlockable styles and vehicles to gain throughout the game for the gang and missions. The customization doesnít end there. You can customize vehicles: motor-bikes, cars in the various mechanic shops in the city and this is far deeper than Saints Row with more options and content. The excellent in-game garages are back and they allow you to store vehicles you borrow or earn throughout the expansive single-player story. Donít worry about wrecking something as well; if you pay a small amount you can recover that vehicle at any of your garages or mechanic shops.