Xbox 360 Review: Saints Row 2

Can the sequel to Saints Row topple GTA IV?

Saints Row 2 brings true freedom to open-world gaming. Players can play as who they want, how they want, and with whomever they want in this sequel to the much acclaimed and tremendously successful Saints Row. Set years after the original, the player finds himself in a Stilwater both familiar and strange and challenged with bringing the Saints back as the rightful kings of Stilwater and bringing vengeance to those who wronged him.

The original Saints Row was a fantastic, yet under-rated game. Sure it would appear to be nothing more than a GTA-Clone, but Saints Row had a great story, superb gameplay and memorable side missions. Now seeing as the whole GTA IV thing has died down until its release on PC, Saints Row 2 emerges with your main character surviving that boat explosion at the end of the first game, how did he survive? Well he wakes up in hospital years later, so he must have been in a coma for quite some time. During this you can customise him to whatever you like and then escape to reform the Row.

Customizing your character is pretty deep, about the same as the first…but you can be a woman in this too and even select a few different voices. I particularly like their take on the British accent, which I used for my guy as he brings Stilwater back under the Saints control. You can still go to the same stores, get clothes, jewellery and so on. During your coma, new gangs have emerged and taken over the city…so its upto you to reform the Saints and take it back.

The game plays out like the first, choosing missions by going to locations on the map and so forth. Side missions are similar but there are some great new ones like spraying crap all over the city in a septic tank, filming a mockumentary on the Stillwater Police Force in which you use excessive force on civilians by shooting them, running them over and even hacking them with swords and chainsaws. The usual Hitman, demolition derby and pimp missions are there and are as fun as they were in the original.

As you progress, you can take 3 other companions with you through the game, even missions. In the first game you’d need a 4-seat car to take them all, but if there isn’t room they will steal cars and drive with you. The AI has been much improved, although the enemy still likes to stand around for me to shoot them in the face. The game does feel much improved both visually and in terms of control, you can zoom in with all weapons and the missions are much better and less repetitive, they are fun and even if you fail them, checkpoints during them make it easier for you to get less frustrated. If that wasn’t enough, you can play the entire game through co-op and the 360 version has achievements for completing certain parts like that, so there’s extra replay value right there. There’s also the multiplayer that is just as good as the first was. Not forgetting to mention the spray tags and CDs to hunt down in the city which will take a good effort to find.

Now the visuals have been improved but the game does have some technical limitations and problems. For example, the draw-distance is pretty bad, enemies vanish and crap-stains on buildings disappear shortly. It can be a bit of a downer when compared to the superb GTA IV, but if you try and compare it in anyway, Saints Row 2 will look like the loser. The thing is that I found some missions and side missions much more fun than in GTA IV, maybe it was over-hyped to death and Saints Row 2 does a lot to impress, just not through its graphics.

The voice-acting is superb, full of great one-liners and very memorable. The soundtrack is also pretty good and you can choose radio stations that cannot be played, so if you don’t like rap then you can block it and keep the radio on classic or rock music instead. The plot is pretty good too and it does help making up for that ending in the first game, I felt cheated and betrayed before but now I’ve been given a chance for revenge and I’ll be damned if anyone’s going to stop me from succeeding.

The Verdict

Saints Row 2 is a fantastic game that surpasses the original by miles, while still keeping the formula similar. It has some great moments that I’ll always remember, it’s only let down by a few glitches and some bad technical problems, it hinders it slightly but not enough to make you hate it. It’s a great game from start to finish that I recommend to everyone.