E3 2008: Saints Row 2 Hands-On Update

We take another look at the E3 demo of Saints Row 2 and get some new information from Volition along the way.

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Earlier today, while meeting with members of the Volition development team working on Saints Row 2, we were invited to play through the same prologue mission that we checked out last week. Nothing exciting about that, you might think, but this time we were playing in co-op mode, we took a very different route through the prison escape, and we talked about some other features while we played. Some of you might consider this new info to be a spoiler of sorts, so consider yourself warned.

Unsurprisingly, playing through the prison escape mission in co-op mode seemed a lot easier than in our previous single-player experience. There didn't appear to be any additional enemies thrown into the mix to account for the presence of a second player, and it probably didn't hurt that we were playing alongside someone intimately familiar with the game either. We opted to skip the tutorial on this occasion, so we weren't being nudged in any particular direction as we escaped the prison and were free to explore.

We ended up taking a very different route out of the building, bypassing the rooftop encounter with guards and helicopters completely. On our travels we found the prison's weapon storage room, where we were able to add satchel charges and machine guns to our arsenal. As soon as we stepped outside, we found a quad bike that, while not necessarily very useful in this particular scenario, was fun to ride around on for a while. Incidentally, though you'll have an opportunity to get your hands on some really powerful weapons as you play through the prologue missions, we're told that you'll lose almost all of them when the game proper gets underway--otherwise you'd simply be too overpowered early on.

After beating the mission, we got to talking with the Volition reps that we'd been playing with and were given a sneak peek at one of Saints Row 2's previously unannounced features. When you arrive in the city of Stilwater you'll find that the entire map is unlocked but that many of the annotations on it are simply displayed as question marks until you visit them. Among these are a large number (we'd estimate at least 60 or 70) of different stores that you can not only shop at but, once you raise some capital, can actually purchase and enjoy a steady income from. Furthermore, if you purchase all of the stores from a particular chain your character's likeness will start to appear on billboard advertisements all over the city. We didn't get to see any of the stores on this occasion, but we're told that they include vendors for clothing, tattoos, music, liquor, firearms, cars, bikes, and boats, as well as restaurants.

Finally, when we asked if any of the Stilwater locales were recognizable from the first game we were afforded a quick look at one that is--sort of. The church that the Saints called home in the first game wasn't demolished along with the rest of the neighborhood, it seems, and now stands in the middle of a park flanked by skyscrapers. The building has apparently been restored to its former pre-Saints-Row glory, and is considered a historical monument.

So there you have it. Saints Row 2 looks to be absolutely packed with gameplay features and, considering how wildly different our two plays of the first mission in the game were, there shouldn't be any shortage of replay value, either. We look forward to bringing you more information on Saints Row 2 as soon as it becomes available, though we're unlikely to learn anything more at E3 at this point. Three months and counting...

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