Great sequel that really outshines the first, while opening up new grounds for free-roaming games

User Rating: 9 | Saints Row 2 (Collector's Edition) X360
Okay, I'm first going to start off by saying, I am not going to turn this review into a bashing session between GTA and SR. Everyone either likes them both or one over the other. That is how it is. Therefore, I will only talk about SR2 here. On that note, SR2 is a big improvement over the first, but how so? Read on to find out.

First things first, the graphics in SR2 are great, but not outstanding. For being 2008, I would have thought that the amount of clipping, pop-ups, (and even the disappearing of cars!) could have been reduced or eliminated. Fortunately, they have been fixed and happens less than in the first. But when the game is running full blast everything looks cool and has a nice shine to it. Water effects look great, and now you can drive boats and even jet skis to compliment it. Now explosions look like explosions instead of an orange ball, which leads temptation into blowing whatever you can up.

Now for the meat and potatoes of the game, the gameplay. For the most part, the controls are exactly the same as the first, however, you have some new ones to keep things fresh and interesting. For one, you have a cruise control button, mapped to one of the shoulder buttons. This greatly helps while shooting when driving. Also, you have and over-the-shoulder aiming button when you click down the right analog stick, which helps you nail down precise shots (perfect for lining up those nut-shots. Yes you have them, borrowed from Scarface). The fighting from the fist needed some work. All you had was punches mapped to the triggers. Now you have a combo system. When you input different combinations, you have a different finisher, which includes a knee to the face and a swift kick to the family jewels (ouch!). Also, you gain new fighting styles after you beat certain missions.

Now, you even have access to planes and helicopters, and to add the cherry ontop of the ice cream, you have parachutes! And the for the extra cherry, if you hold forward while falling you will go into a nose dive, while back does a cannon ball roll; even the parachute have challenges attached to them. The story seems to be very long. My friend and I were seven hours in, and only beat the Ronin missions, and were at 16%. Which included some activities. As for the activities, there are too many to list, but include spraying contents of a septic tank onto property to lower its value and riding an atv that is lit on fire to catch others on fire. Ridiculous, but fun. Taking human shields are also implemented into the game, and works quite well if you are in need of a quick shield. However, there is no cover system, as found in most other FPSs. You can even car surf! There is even more that I haven't said, believe it, that you can do that I haven't stated.

Onto the multiplayer, which deserves its on section. you have the typical deathmatch an what not the you also have a variant called Strong Arm where taking over your enemies territories and killing their team nets you big cash bonuses and other nifty rewards. You even have a badge system (thing Battlefield: Bad Company) where fulfilling certain goals gets you a badge to prove it. Original, no. Fun and immersive, YES! And I have to say it: ONLINE CO-OP IS REVOLUTIONARY! As promised, the whole story, and game for that matter is playable with a friend or someone over Xbox Live and PSN. And it is even drop-in and drop-out at any time! When playing co-op, there is hardly any lag, and generally runs and plays like you were playing solo. Also a first, the game is co-op, and so is the freedom. You can be on one side of the map buying clothes, and your partner can be on the other taking part in a robbery. Again, limitless freedom, and proof that developers can make something new with effort.

Story wise, the game succeeds in this with flying colors (no pun intended). It picks up were the first left off a few years later. After getting back on your feet, you are off to set things right. The quality of the cutscenes are great and are filled with loads of humor and lots of action. Characters die, and you feel sad and get angry while new characters are introduced and you are interested to see their side of things. The great thing about it is that the quality remains throughout, and never feels rushed.

In terms of sound, SR2 has a bunch going for it, but still, somethings missing. People, cars, guns, and explosions all sound solid, but you can hear some of the same lines over again. However, not near as many as in Mercenaries 2! Radio stations are varied and carry many top songs that are on real radio stations around the world. Once in a while, you will hear the sound effects go quiet for a second, then start again. Not major, and hardly noticeable.

HOWEVER THIS IS THE PART FOR NEGATIVITY! This game is far from perfect. I have played around 12 hours and have had the game crash on me twice, forcing me to restart my 360 on both occasions. Once during a Drug Trafficking activity and the other during the Crowd Control activity. The online co-op will lag occasionally, which lasted for maybe 10 minutes (half the problem may be the dsl on my part). Online play is for the most part smooth, but I have only played a couple of matches of Strong Arm.

Even though it has it's share of problems SR2 is a great game, that makes up for it's problems with variety and lasting appeal. From the get-go, you are literally overwhelmed with things to do, that can take you months to complete. If you are looking for a game with great humor, fun gameplay, an interesting story, and don't mind some technical problems, definitely give this game a shot.