Saints Row 2 Review
Technical problems mar this delightfully crass, immature, and over-the-top sandbox game.
- Tons of variety
- Zombie Uprising is awesome
- Co-op mode is a blast
- You can throw people 20 feet.
- Frame rate issues and tons of pop-in
- Friendly AI is frustratingly stupid
- Multiplayer is forgettable.
When the original Saints Row came out two years ago, it served to placate fans until Grand Theft Auto made its next-generation debut. Saints Row's deviant destruction didn't push the boundaries of what to expect from a free-roaming urban assault game, but it did provide an enjoyable outlet for consequence-free chaos while never taking itself too seriously. Since then, Grand Theft Auto IV has injected a dose of maturity into its typical sandbox fare, removing many of its outlandish behaviors to create a more grounded portrayal of the gangster lifestyle. Saints Row 2 is not concerned with growing up. It is a morality-free alternative to GTAIV, an unremorseful descent into mindless mayhem. The lack of any major advancement in gameplay or storytelling may elicit a few flashes of deja vu, and the technical problems will haunt your every turn, but the unrepentant joy of terrorizing this humble metropolis makes Saints Row 2 a viable palate-cleanser for anyone willing to embrace the role of immoral dirtbag.
Unleashing unprovoked havoc on the streets of Stilwater can be as much fun on the PC as it was on consoles, but while the core elements have made the transition intact, the visuals have taken a serious hit. On a PC that exceeds the recommended requirements, Saints Row 2 has a choppy frame rate and jarring pop-in that make driving around this busy metropolis a pain. The forgiving driving physics make it possible to get from one point to another without too many of crashes, but vehicles and even buildings pop in and out of view with regularity, and any element that requires precise maneuvering will torment all but the most patient players. Firefights are particularly agonizing--trying to mow down a target from afar, even a stationary one, is a matter of luck more than dexterity. If you're running a machine that far exceeds the recommended specs, you'll experience a sometimes choppy but ultimately playable thrill ride through this open world, but anyone with a more modest configuration should proceed with caution.
The story begins in a jail hospital, where you've been in a coma ever since a gigantic explosion at the end of the first Saints Row nearly ended your criminal actions permanently. After easily escaping from this lightly guarded compound, you set off to recruit more people to your gang and retake the city of Stilwater. The overarching story is derivative and not easily relatable, but there are some interesting episodes. The Brotherhood missions in particular are dark, documenting a tale of vengeance that is sickly satisfying. After putting nuclear waste in their leader's tattoo ink, you find yourself in a constant battle of one-upmanship. Deaths are taken lightly, propelling you to even more outrageous behavior, but it fits within the context of this over-the-top gameworld. The story never reaches beyond the barbaric needs of its protagonist, but the missions do contain a few worthwhile cinematic payoffs.
While you may not be able to affect the outcome of your story, you can design your conqueror in whatever image you desire. The character creation tool is quite extensive. You can drastically change the weight and age of your character, pick from four different races, mold facial features in whatever manner you desire, and even choose if you want a male or female protagonist. With only six voices to choose from, it can be difficult to accurately match one to whatever look you happen upon, but it's a small price to pay for the wealth of creative options. You can visit a plastic surgeon at any time to tweak your features, but the process is so in-depth that it's easier just to choose a look at the beginning and stay with it.
The missions are predominantly of the drive-and-shoot variety that has become commonplace in the genre. Though there are three gangs opposing you, as well as various law enforcement agencies, the only difference between them are the colors they wear and the scumbags who lead them. The majority of missions boil down to raiding a building and killing everyone who moves. While these excursions are usually entertaining, taking place in a variety of locations against increasingly ridiculous odds, the repetition of the actions is undeniable. Some objectives do provide an opportunity to do something a little different, though. For instance, when asked to rob a bank, you find out your prize is not a vault of money, but an even more valuable hostage. This leads to a strong detour in both the story and gameplay and serves to keep things fresh. And since most missions have a midway checkpoint, you'll rarely have to start at the very beginning if you make a mistake.
The controls that were so smooth in the console iterations feel uneven on the PC. You'll have no problem running around the city using either a controller or a keyboard and mouse combination, but the subtle combat maneuvers that were possible in the console versions have been hampered here because of the inconsistent frame rate. Before, it was possible to target specific parts of your enemies' bodies with ease, letting you cripple your opposition with a happy smile on your face. But long-range fighting is now a painstaking affair, forcing you to make the fights much more intimate. Because the aiming is unreliable and there's no lock-on ability or cover mechanic, fights generally devolve into running up to enemies and seizing them for temporary cover or to quickly dispose of them. It is still extremely fun to grab enemies and hurl them 20 feet in the air, but the other aspects of combat are too inconsistent to be rewarding.
- Player Reviews: 63
- Game Universe:
- Saints Row (PS3, MOBILE, X360),
- Saints Row 2 (PC, X360, PS3, MOBILE, BB),
- Saints Row: The Third (PC, PS3, X360),
- Saints Row 2: Ultor Exposed (PS3, X360),
- Saints Row 2: Corporate Warfare (PS3, X360),
- Saints Row Double Pack (X360),
- Saints Row IV (X360, PC, PS3),
- Saints Row: The Third - Gangstas in Space (PS3, X360, PC),
- Saints Row: The Third - Enter the Dominatrix (PC, PS3, X360),
- Saints Row: The Third - Penthouse Pack (PC, PS3, X360)
- Online Modes:
Competitive, Cooperative, Team Oriented
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
8 Players Online