Saints Row 2 Hands-On - Gang Customization and Side Missions

Can a posse of shadowy ninjas survive in the war-torn streets of Stilwater? We seek out the answer.

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The original Saints Row certainly didn't revolutionize the sandbox action genre, but in playing it safe, the game pulled off a successful imitation of the Grand Theft Auto formula while still managing to introduce a handful of novel features. Right from the get-go, players were introduced to an impressive and seemingly limitless palette of character customization options. It probably goes without saying that Volition will take that ability to obsessively mold your protagonist and carry it over to Saints Row 2, but now they've expanded the customization options to your entire gang. In addition to a few side missions, we recently took a glimpse at some of the ways you'll be able to design your ideal fraternity of criminals in Saints Row 2.

Ninjas--can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

Once you've escaped from prison and recruited a few followers, you'll be given the option to tinker with your gang's overall appearance. The most noticeable change is in the gang's style. With this option, you can choose a visual theme for the followers you see roaming the streets--both lieutenants and thugs--from a pretty hefty list. Among the wardrobes we saw were those listed as '80s, Body Guards, Pimps n' Hos, and last but certainly not least, Ninjas. If you want your gang to look stern but classy, Body Guards might be the look for you. If you want an army of underdressed ladies hanging in your crib, Pimps n' Hos would be a safe bet. But if you're anything like us, you'll immediately choose the Ninja style and never look back.

With this option selected, all the thugs that belong to your gang will resemble stealth assassins of the night. So as not to stand out from your cronies, you can go into your own wardrobe and select your own ninja garb. If you really want to get into the spirit of things, you can also change your fighting style to the Ronin technique. This will change the look of your attacks to more of a nimble martial arts technique--as opposed to the street-tough look of your default character's punches. Thus, with our ninja cycle complete, we could move onto the other gang options.

These additional options include choosing an official gang taunt, graffiti tags, and the types of vehicles you're buddies will be driving. Gang taunts range from vulgar gestures (think everyone's favorite amateurish first-person shooter celebration) to comical Irish jigs. The graffiti tags are all authentic-looking designs, courtesy of one of Volition's concept artists, who we're told has a background in the tagging arts. And finally, the vehicle options let you choose the models, designs, and features of the cars you'll undoubtedly be stealing from your own comrades whenever you need a quick lift.

Once we had our gang done up to suitably absurd levels, it was time to test out a few of the game's side missions--or activities. We went with a pair of stronghold missions: goals where you need to find a rival gang's base and cause a huge ruckus. The first mission had us taking to the air in an attempt to destroy a rival gang's drug farm. Your character sits in a helicopter with an assault rifle in hand, and your goal is to blow up every last structure in the complex from on high. Once you get that done, it ends with you running down fleeing Cadillacs filled with armed thugs doing their best to make a successful escape from your rampaging ways. When successful, you're shown a newspaper clipping (Headline: "Hippies Mourn Loss of Drug Farm") that will adorn the walls of your crib. It's a wistful token of nostalgia, as well as a functional teleport, that gives you the ability to go back and replay that mission whenever you like.

The other stronghold mission we tried involved taking on a gang of a slightly higher stature. Rather than busting up a field of hallucinogenics, this one required plowing through a warehouse, stealing a large sum of money, as well as blowing up all their trucks and airplanes. The action itself feels similar to most third-person shooters, but a variety of guns and death animations help make things interesting. Most strategy requires knowing which weapon to use and when to crouch behind cover to let your health regenerate. The tricky part was the second stage of the mission, where you exit the warehouse and find yourself on an airport tarmac. Thugs are shooting at you from all over, but with the handy aid of a satchel charge and rocket launcher, you can take them and their vehicles out with enough effort.

Weather effects significantly alter the way you drive at sea.

The demo we played was on the PlayStation 3, which gave us our first opportunity to see how the Sixaxis controls work. We tested this functionality on a racing activity, which was a time trial where you need to race through the sewers on a jet ski. The motion controls were a bit more fidgety than we would have liked, but they became easier to deal with as we progressed from the confines of the sewer to the wide-open ocean. At the very least, the Sixaxis controls are purely optional because you can turn them off whenever you like.

Minor control issues aside, Saints Row 2 is looking like a worthy follow-up to its well-received predecessor. It may not be the towering artistic achievement that Grand Theft Auto IV turned out to be, but with even more features added to a game that already boasted lots of hidden surprises, the city of Stilwater should offer plenty to see. You can expect to see the game released on October 14.

Discussion

199 comments
BRK_Elite
BRK_Elite

Saints Row 2 was an excellent game. Characters such as Johnny Gat and yourself have lots of funny, quirky moments. I'd say this game is better then GTA IV in some minor ways. Things such as there is a great variety and fun fullfilling side missions which helps make the city still feel alive after the main storyline. With the storyline in mention, the game had only about 70 missions which were including strongholds. GTA happened to have plenty more missions but not suprising seeing how the game had so many demands and expectations aswell as Rockstar being a multi million dollar corp. However Saints Row 2 still holds up to be one of the greatest and funniest games of 2008. If they made a 3rd which i doubt they will, i would be first in line.

poopmaster369
poopmaster369

this game looks better than GTA 4 maybe i'm prob. getting it soon christmas is around the corner u now what i mean dudes and dudets BLACK POWER from AFRICA

theis123456
theis123456

i just reserved the game i am soooooooo eksiet for this game .Just for the fist time i herd of it it looks soo awsome . But cant some tell me wat difrent there is on the ps 3 an xbox 360 versoin . Mr T :-)

ediot567
ediot567

i think gta4 sucked and this game is going to be awesome what is on the collectors edition

GoldBengal
GoldBengal

I got SR2 reserved already! I'n just can't get a system 'til Nov. but I hope it's gonna be betta than part one... *Happy Trails*

burstlimit514
burstlimit514

i hope the demo comes out soon. Or is their not going to be one?

Purple300
Purple300

hey when is the demo out for 360 or is there not even going to be a demo

gameshark45
gameshark45

If its not on playstaion network soon then you could probably find out on thier site

kucharz508
kucharz508

dont you guys know where i can get the demo for ps3??? PLEASE ANSWER

llSiCKL3ll
llSiCKL3ll

I think SR1 blew GTA4 out of the water. GTA4 had noting to show but an average to good story and beautiful graphics (not enough for re-playablity >.>) But SR series has always had mini games and side missions to keep you entertained. So yea, cant wait, I want my killer purple clowns to destroy Still Water lmao

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

beets321
beets321

can't wait for this game hope its not as buggy as the first one.

mathew_vartuli
mathew_vartuli

Gta iv was a waste of time, i'm sure that saints row 2 will be heaps better. Customization sounds mad and they missions are cool.

kucharz508
kucharz508

I am sure that saints row 2 will be better than gta 4!Well for me saints row 1 was better than gta4 f**k yeah!!!

Blood_Diamond
Blood_Diamond

on a more serous note, GTA: IV and Saints row may be under the same banner but are two completely diffrent sides of the scale. Gta = serous story and action. Saints = Less serous but funny

Blood_Diamond
Blood_Diamond

how funny would it be if you could dress your gang as gimps?

DbAssassin
DbAssassin

Whoa! This is gonna be so awesome game. I'm gonna buy this for real.

Sunrie
Sunrie

Excellent. This may end up with a bigger following that GTA IV because of new content being offered. GTA IV's DLC had better be pretty good to compete. GTA V will undoutedly offer a lot of the same options.

Ultrama666
Ultrama666

Pirate vs Ninja! GTAIV might be beautiful but Saints row is alot of fun.

istylee
istylee

Oh i am so pumped to get my hands on this game! The first game was so addictive!

gameboy360
gameboy360

im sick of this fascination with ninjas. i dont know where this ninja fad came from but its getting annoying. To your comment ---Saint---- this is still a "yo yo" style gangsta game...more-so than ever actually. but yeah, sounds interesting overall

wogglies5
wogglies5

Ninjas are hard to shoot (I've never done it my self, though XD) I mean they are like masters of stealth and assasinations. They cant catch bullets with their teeth or deflect them but they are very agile and are HARD to shoot. Unless you bring your gang with you.

Althon
Althon

WoW ! Just like GTA IV ! I like it !!

gangsterjc
gangsterjc

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Drakboy90
Drakboy90

Yeah, Im so getting this.But ninjas? Sword + gun = Sword gets owned.XD!

hiroyukiwu
hiroyukiwu

could be good but beat gta4?....no chance

---Saint---
---Saint---

I hope they left out all that gay gansta stuff and just have gangster stuff now. Yo Yo we bes repping biatch!! OMG I hate it!!!

Ryozo
Ryozo

mjc0961: rest assured that pirate garb made the cut. In their 'Fake Businesses' blog ( http://community.saintsrow.com/blogs/?p=99 ), the developers reveal that one store - Let's Pretend - is dedicated to the more... unusual apparel. Specifically: "At Let’s Pretend, Stilwater’s premiere costume store, you can find outfits to make your character look like a clown, hippie, pirate and more!"

Spitmeout
Spitmeout

Wasn't really into the 1st one, not really into this one..

iuns
iuns

I much preferred saints row to gta4, so i'll probibly give this a shot.

MattXSI
MattXSI

"a great choice before GTA 4 first downloadable episode " Sums up this game pretty well when it's filler before DLC for another game. It looks far too silly and hanging on the coat-tails of GTA3-era GTA.

charlieprince
charlieprince

if its anything like gta4, i wont play it... i like mindless distruction, not no hookers!

alz619
alz619

hmmm improved visuals, better city (still the same though) It will be like the transformation we got from gta 3 to gta 4 except this game may actually be good.

firesage423
firesage423

ya it will complete and beat gta4 i know it! wheres game happening? like what city? cause its stillwater just a face lift and new stuff everywhere, 10 years in the future

Ivoon
Ivoon

This could be good competition with GTA 4!the question is!where is the game happening?

Yay_Gamerz
Yay_Gamerz

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

firesage423
firesage423

@imafnpro mass effect and bioshock had a good story for the 5 hours they took to beat it.. which end up sitting on the shelves staring at u laughing cause u payed $60 for a 5 hourse of entertainment.. Ya but how real is it that u go around shooting anything u see with rocket launchers! ITS A VIDEO GAME!! there ment to be a break from reality for u to have some fun..

Treflis
Treflis

Sometimes you need a game with a good story and characters who's personality makes you like or dislike them. Sometimes you just need some serious tumb-on-button or high-paced games to unwind. Saints Row 2 will probably fall into the last chategory and I might buy it just for a laugh and as a stress relief.

Omnipresence
Omnipresence

firesage423 they did that for the sake of realism. Grand Theft Auto 4 was made to be a realistic, serious game driven by story rather than all the little gimmicks in SA. GTA4 is a truly 'mature' game, which I think is great. I think tanks, harriers and monster trucks would stop me from playing GTA4 if they were in there tbh. It's the Grand Theft Auto I've wanted for ages, and I don't want them to go back to the SA style. Saints Row is for messing around with over the top weaponry and vehicles now. Thats not a criticism, I'm still buying SR2, because I enjoyed the first one.

imafnpro
imafnpro

I'm not going to buy SR2. I don't know. I'm tired of gaming for the sake of gaming. I want a good story (Portal, GTA IV, Bioshock, Mass Effect, H3). Frankly, having played a bit of SR1. SR2 is going to be weak on story. Sorry, just tired of mashing buttons for the sake of 'completing a mission'. Been there, done that.

faceless44
faceless44

The first Saints Row was a great affair and it really played a little better than GTA:SA. The whole GTA affair now has been blown out of the water and anything that has got GTA in the title is guaranteed a 10/10 score. I personally havent played the new one and was planning on buying it but now im seriously reconsidering after reading some of the comments here, seems like rockstar really need to pull their fingers out and make things more fun. They seem to have forgotton that its the reason we loved the series in the first place.

nunes123
nunes123

this game looks like it could the next best seller

daniel_beck_90
daniel_beck_90

a great choice before GTA 4 first downloadable episode .

jaza1200
jaza1200

gta was great, saints row was great and i know that saints row 2 is gonna be even better. CANT WAIT!

Temtamperu
Temtamperu

Looks good, And a team of Ninjas!!! The game has just been bought me thinks.

MatrixSpidey92
MatrixSpidey92

Finally a game with every little detail grand theft auto didnt think of, or didnt want to fill in.