It's hard not to have fun with a game as whacky and out of control as Saints Row 2
SoNin360 wrote this review on .
Sadly for PlayStation 3 players, the original Saints Row never made it's way to the PS3. However that's not a major issue as all vital details of the previous game are quickly explained. That leads to one thing that makes Saints Row 2 so great, and that is the character customization. This is where you can make your character as serious or as goofy as you please. The action kicks off right after that as the main character all ready has to shoot up a bunch of people to escape an island where he or she woke up from his or her coma due to events that occurred in the previous game. Soon after, the main portion of the fictional city of Stilwater is introduced, and from then on the player is free to complete missions, engage in side activities, or just quite simply cause as much chaos as inhumanely possible.
The main story missions focus on three opposing gangs that must be dealt with in order to make room for the returning rise of the Saints Row. Some of the characters throughout the game are interesting and well-developed, while others are more stereotypical and shallow. You have a gang of Japanese individuals who ride around in expensive cars and fast bikes, a Jamaican drug-dealing gang, and a group of large-muscled thugs roaming around in humongous trucks. Completing missions unlocks more territory, but even being able to start missions can be problematic at times thanks to the fact that your respect level must be high enough. Respect is gained through multiple and various means, but namely completing side activities. These activities range from shooting garbage on to property to assaulting enemies from an attack chopper. While they are varied and for the most part interesting, it becomes more and more of an annoyance to be forced to complete them and play through the same increasingly difficult activity again throughout the course of playing the game. So to those hoping to just focus on completing the story missions, you're out of luck.
Stilwater is of a respectable size and contains many large and flashy buildings, a few surrounding islands, and four vicious gangs constantly quarreling with one another over territory. Visually speaking, it's quite easy to tell that this game came out in 2008. The details and character models aren't all-that amazing, but an overall look at the city is a little awe-inspiring. Some of the numerous vehicles in Saints Row 2 look sleek and provide the sensation that they would drive really fast, which many of them do. However the vehicular damage mechanics are laughable until they explode into a glorious fireball. There's not too much to complain about when it comes to the audio effects from guns, cars, and everything else. Even the voice acting is well-done for most of the characters. Some glitches come as no surprise to a game of this size, but when some of the technical issues get to the point where the game has to be reloaded, then it becomes an issue. This was the case at least once during my playthrough.
The gameplay consists of what you'd expect in an over-the-top gangster action game. Saints Row 2 in contrast to many other games of a similar genre is much more goofy and amusing. No other game I can think of can top some of the crazy activities that can be experienced in this one. Your sadistic side of you may show up as you burst out laughing when that person you hit with your car goes launching 20 feet into the air. Maybe it'll be when you get quite the chuckle out of using someone else as a human shield to mow down enemies, then throwing that very same person a great distance. But not to worry, this game clearly isn't meant to be taken seriously. Of course this does make some of the very few emotional moments in the plot a tad bit awkward.
One aspect that could have been better were the controls. While the gameplay for the most part looks smooth, operating it may be awkward for some. There aren't many options, but as far as shooting goes, you either have to use L2/R2 to aim and shoot respectively, or R3/R2. For the PS3 controller and the fact that zooming has to be locked in and out manually, it can make for an awkward experience. It won't matter for some shoot-outs though, as you might just be able to run around and hip-fire everyone. However when that isn't a viable option, good luck finding using cover. Crouching is an option, but usually one that obstructs your view and ends with you getting filled with more lead. Some sort of cover system would have been helpful, even if most of the shooting gameplay consists of running and spraying your ammo at enemies.
The difficulty of Saints Row 2 increases to at-times frustrating lengths. Large-scale shoot-outs become more agitating due to useless friendlies, the sometimes lack of available ammo, the ridiculous numbers of tough enemies ,and not to mention the endless waves of enemies in vehicles for some portions of missions. Some areas require a bit of composure, which sucks when all you want to do is run around and blast some fools. There is a relatively friendly checkpoint system, but even with that it's no fun playing through some of the lackluster firefights again. Fortunately you can create your own fun with the many available cheats. There aren't any trophies in this game, so using cheats is essentially consequence-free. It adds more enjoyment to a game thats initial fun slowly deteriorates as a result of the forceful completion of activities and repetitive stronghold missions that must be finished to reach the grand finale.
Despite being over three years old, Saints Row 2 is a still great game to play through and a worthy competitor to GTA. It may not have the amazing story and glorifying visuals, but for what it lacks it makes up for with its goofy natured and free roaming game style. To complete the story alone should take a good 15 hours so, and with multiple levels of a good number of activities to be completed, some collectibles, and whatever else I didn't mention, it would be quite easy to keep on playing dozens of more hours. So perhaps those with some patience or who are truly engrossed in this game may not find the mandatory respect gaining as pesky of an obstacle as I did. In any case, it's hard to hate a game that doesn't even take itself too seriously.