#864 Saints Row 2

Posted: 22nd January 2012 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , , , , ,

117th played so far

Genre: Adventure/Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: PC/PS3/Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Publisher: THQ

Right, although this is really Peter’s pick for a game, I’m writing the intro. Now that means I don’t know as much of the game as he would, beyond what I’ve seen while playing. The problem is that, well, Peter’s already addicted. More in that in the proper writeup, obviously.

Saints Row 2 is another sandbox game. This time you’re a gangster who just escaped from jail. I know you’re all shouting GTA now, but bear with us a bit longer.

You see, there’s a few things that set this apart. Mostly it’s the lack of realism – you’ll be throwing stop signs further than humanly possible, and survive impossible falls. Second is what feels like a sense of fun and chaos – possibly best explained by a side quest that takes you on a ride on a septic tank as you lower the property values in several neighbourhoods.

Our Thoughts

Okay, I am addicted. This blog doesn’t always lead to games that peak my interest. In fact there are games on the horizon that make me groan at the very prospect. Then there are the games that have been in my ‘itching to play’ pile such as future 1001 games BlazBlue Calamity Trigger and this game which I got when I bought my PS3 and been wanting to test drive ever since. This is not helped, I think, by last night – we had a quick look through our box of games we own and have coming up, with some appropriate sorting, leading to some pleasant discussion on what we’d want to play next… Don’t worry, most games we agreed on.

We recently tackled another open world game in the form of Far Cry 2 and where that excelled in its realism this one delights in being delightfully immature. I would be lying if I did not say that if it was not for Grand Theft Auto games Vice City and San Andreas since it owes a tremendous of amount of it’s gameplay to these giants. In fact there are some improvements that Saints Row 2 has made such as mini-games related to tagging and that awkward moment when you hijack a car and there is someone left in the passenger seat… it happens to the best of us.

It’s worth emphasizing this immaturity. It’s a good thing here, as (as is referenced in our book) it makes an actually quite harsh world far easier to deal with. I’m not sure I would have felt as comfortable with the violence and so on without that slight wink.

The key to creating a great sandbox game is having a world that is big and varied enough to explore. This is a challenge when it is in a distinctly urban setting so there needs to be plenty of side-quests, unlockable and diversions to make the exploration worth while… and in my time playing this for the blog I barely played any of the missions because I was so easily distracted by carnage, mayham and an erotic minigame involving the analog sticks (I felt mildly soiled after playing that game).

Another nice part here is the large amount of customization available. The character’s looks are more customizable than I have seen in so many other games and the options to change your clothing and hideout make the options infinitely more interesting. It’s impressive and I’m already looking forward to spending a lot of time playing with it.

One issue I have with the game are the somewhat lackluster graphics. I am told that a big reason for this is that the game should look cartoony… but when I compare the game to Far Cry 2, which came out in the same year, they really just look bad. Style or not, it feels like a little bit more could have been done with them and felt a bit worse after playing that game.

One problem with this game though is GTA IV… and the fact that no matter how great Saints Row 2 does things it still pales in comparison in every single way. Graphics, Sound, Script and Controls are all sad casualties of the phenomenon of a game that raises a genre’s bar so much higher. In a way it’s like how I felt about Prototype after playing inFamous. Okay this is really downplaying how much I loved the game because it is a whole lot. It is unfair to compare games to those that rank amongst your all time favourites (probably why no sports game has ever thrilled me the way SSX Tricky did) but when they base themselves so much on  franchise it would be bad reviewing not to make the comparison.

Final Thoughts

Another open world game, another reason that we should have covered Body Harvest by now… I really need to dig out the N64 and get onto eBay.

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