Saints Row 2 (and a pinch of Grand Theft Auto IV)

You know how it is.

Every time I play a game to completion I think “Man I can’t wait to review that for INX! But first I’ll have a nap because I’ve got work in 3 hours.” Then by the time I get back from work, tired and hungry, I go to bed to catch up on lost sleep. Then I never actually get round to writing the blog, because there are more games to be played.

So that’s why I haven’t completed Saints Row 2 before writing a review on it. But I’ve played it for just under ten hours and I’m going to play it for plenty more than that so here it is: Saints Row 2 is not a Grand Theft Auto clone. What it is is a vastly superior spiritual successor of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

While Grand Theft Auto IV is dark, gritty, and eerily serious in places Saints Row 2 is light-hearted and fun throughout (the exception being when your friend Karlos was killed by a rival gang and he died shaking your hand, in a strangely stark moment which effectively gives your character motivation). My avatar can’t even be bothered to shave every morning, or lose weight (or his cockney accent – you get to choose one of three voices per gender) but he finally has motivation to steal nuclear waste to have tattooed into a rival mobster’s face. I didn’t make that up. That actually happens.

Saints Row 2 doesn’t wait. You start by breaking out of prison, thankfully being allowed to skip the tutorial GeOW style, and continue escaping until you reach the mainland to find that your old gang, the Third Street Saints, have been wiped out by rival gangs. Old characters soon return, and the player can proceed with the storyline(s) or play around with the diversions, new ones of which include Fuzz (dress up as a policeman and get medieval on crime for the cameras), and car surfing (literally, jump on a car and try to keep your balance).

A lot of people were put off by just how broken the original Saints Row was in places, not that it actually spoiled your enjoyment of the game, but gamers are demanding and spoiled on the whole, and if you release a buggy game you will suffer. Volition clearly learned this and the results are easy to see: after nearly ten hours of play I’ve only seen one civilian “pop” out of existence when I turned my back on him. Cars no longer stream out when you’re feet away from them and, while the AI still leads to some strange behaviours from the police especially, it on the whole manages its job well enough.

Thanks to an absent, RRODded XBox 360 I played this particular gem on my PlayStation 3, so I don’t know about the achievements. But it doesn’t matter, Saints Row 2 rocks on anything.

- John

john AT DOT uk

About John

INX's resident professional games designer!
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