Published on November 3rd, 2008 | by Deejay Knight, Editor/Founder
Saint’s Row 2 Review (Xbox 360)
Release Date: October 14, 2008
Platform: Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3 and PC
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Oh Stilwater, how I’ve missed you.
For the unaware, Saint’s Row was a title about the rise of a random guy to the upper ranks of an inner-city gang. It’s weird to sum it up in that short a sentence, considering the amount of content in the game. Those who have visited Stilwater will most certainly agree. It almost feels like I’m doing the game an injustice, and no matter how much I write about Saint’s Row 2 it’ll feel the same way. There’s just no way to write about every little detail, joke, or fun activity in the game – but here’s a try at it anyways.
Before I get too deep into this review, Saint’s Row 2 is a title that everyone should get their hands on. That’s the gist of what I’m trying to say, but the reasons why everyone should play it are much more time consuming. Why is that? It’s because this game has it all.
Those who have played the original Saint’s Row will remember that there was a massive explosion on a yacht at the end of the game, and that carries over to Saint’s Row 2. Your character somehow miraculously survived the explosion, but has been in a coma for five years. Starting off in the hospital, you get to customize your character’s appearance, but a big difference in the sequel is that you can now choose to be either a male, female, or a weird mixture in between.
And then, the fun begins.
If you’ve had your hands on Grand Theft Auto IV and have hopes of the same level of detail in Saint’s Row 2, you can kiss your hopes goodbye. The player models aren’t as detailed as Niko and Roman, and they weren’t meant to be. Luckily, the graphics are well within the realm of expectation for the hardware of both systems, so you won’t be too upset. Honestly, you’ll be too busy blowing things up to care, and what a sight that is!
There aren’t normally ‘Customization’ sections of reviews, but if ever there was a game that deserved such a section, this game is it. Within five minutes of picking up the controller to play, you’ll have a ridiculous level of customization available to you – and that’s just with your gangsta. There are sliders for just about everything. For instance, whether you wanted to make a man with boobs that’s as thin Paris Hilton after a ‘purge binge’, a musclebound Ronnie Coleman-esque bodybuilder, or a Sean Connery look-alike (with saggy pecs and abs just for kicks), you can do it.
Vehicles get the customization treatment as well, and there are plenty of them. With cars, trucks, big rigs, crotch rockets, harley look-alikes, weiner mobiles, dune buggies, ATVs, and many other vehicle types to choose from, pick any one and you’ve got yourself a party! Not only are there more vehicles than the first title, you can now take every vehicle you see into Rim Jobs and customize some aspect of it. Some vehicles have more options than others, of course, but you can take an APC and give it low profile rims that come up to your chest. If that doesn’t give you an idea of how customized things can be, nothing will.
Both cribs and gangs get the customization update as well. Each crib has multiple levels of style, entertainment center, and extras that you can purchase. Gangs get multiple styles, tags, and you can even choose what vehicles they drive around.
Yes. It’s that deep.
With phrases like “GTA Clone” thrown about like mad when the original released, it looks and feels like Volition’s goal with Saint’s Row 2 was to take all known conventions for sandbox games, set them on fire, and throw them from the top of the tallest building they could find. Don’t twist it for a second – that’s a good thing because while they’re the same genre, this game is very different from GTA.
This is a game that will have you chasing random citizens in a cop costume during the very COPS-like “Fuzz” activity or tossing raging fans into trampolines during the “Crowd Control” activity, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The amount of activities and diversions in this game is staggering, so please believe me when I say that this game is as over-the-top and as ludicrous as any game you’re likely ever to see. Because of this, controls are extremely important and Volition has done a fantastic job of making them work.
While the control scheme remains intact from the first installment, the new features in this sophomore effort are to be commended – both on foot and in vehicles. You can now hold the LB/L1 button to take a human shield of whatever Stilwater patron just happens to be within arms reach, which helps a lot when you have a full wanted level and the FBI hunting you down. If they’ve become a nuisance, you can tap the button again to toss them into your attackers.
As far as vehicles go, you now have the option to use cruise control. Tap LB/L1 at the speed you want to hold, and the vehicle will stay at that speed. It helps tons when you’re in chase missions or want to take out the guy chasing you without slowing down.
Another new feature in Saint’s Row 2 is the ability to fly planes and helicopters. Controlling them is fairly simple, as they have the same accelerate/brake controls as normal vehicles. The major difference is that the LB/L1 and RB/R1 buttons control the rudders.
Whether you’ve never played before or you’ve gotten comfortable with the first Saint’s Row title, controlling your gangsta will feel secondary in no time. These controls feel a bit tighter, and if you ever run out of things to do in the new Stilwater, you’re obviously not trying hard enough!
You may have noticed that this review hasn’t mentioned one of the crown jewels of Saint’s Row 2 yet: Co-op online play. You can play the entire campaign – story missions, activities, and diversions – online with a friend or complete stranger over Xbox Live. In addition to adding another person to the mix, the game automatically adjusts the difficulty level upward when you have a co-op partner, so finishing missions just got a bit harder.
Also in the online play is the addition of the “Strong Arm” gameplay type, if you want to take a break from the single-player story. Strong Arm is a gametype that uses activities from the campaign to decide the winners or losers in online bouts. Each game involves two gangs looking to take over a territory, and the first team to $100,000 wins. To earn money, you complete activities with your teammates and try to prevent the other team from progressing. Needless to say, both mayhem and hilarity ensue from the resulting carnage.
Surely, if you’ve read this far, you know that I really like Saint’s Row 2. Unfortunately though, everything isn’t all daisies with this one. Online play isn’t seamless all the time. There are many reports of freezing on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. You may hit the occasional glitch that freezes the game near the end of a hard mission. Overall, the game is fairly easy to go through alone and if you don’t grab a co-op partner, you could find yourself with unlimited respect and bucketloads of cash in no time.
Despite it’s negatives, Saint’s Row 2 is a game that every gamer should play at least once. It has an over-the-top demeanor that never seems to take itself seriously, and it’s been made that way on purpose. Saint’s Row succeeded at taking the most fun aspects of previous sandbox games and making them fun, but Saint’s Row 2 took the new features and made a completely different beast.
By not taking itself seriously, Volition has gone far beyond what many would expect and created a smorgasbord of fun and crazy activities that push the boundaries of what we expect from a sandbox game. No one is going to chase Saint’s Row 2 because of it’s storyline or character depth – the story is great, but not epic. Gamers won’t be hunting down copies because it won “Best Graphics of 2008”.
Want to know why people will be playing this game for years to come? They’ll be playing because it’s fun as hell. If you’re a fan of the sandbox genre, my suggestion is to pick up Saint’s Row 2 at your earliest convenience and don’t look back. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, it’s worth at least a rental.
As I said earlier, everyone should get the chance to experience Saint’s Row 2.
Our verdict: Must Buy