Saints Row 2 Review
On March 15th 2013, Saints Row IV was officially announced. Rewind to 2006, a little known game called Saints Row was hitting the shelves for the very first time. Since the game was released solely on the Xbox, I sadly couldn’t buy it; as I only had a PlayStation 2. So imagine my joy when it was announced that the sequel was to be released on both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Many assumed that the original Saints Row would be another wannabe Grand Theft Auto, much like other sandbox games such as True Crime Streets of L.A. and The Getaway; all vying for a share of Rockstar’s success. But Saints Row is one of very few which have stood the test of time, whilst others have fallen by the wayside.
Of course there were similarities between Grand Theft Auto and the young pretender, Saints Row; but there is also one big difference. Saints Row cranked up the fun element of sandbox game play, while retaining some seriousness in the storyline. Some have theorised that Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V character Trevor has been created in order to satisfy the average Saints Row fan’s need for chaos, and win a few fans back. But let’s put the latest releases to one side for now, as I’d like to take you on a journey through Saints Row 2; my personal favourite game of the series.
The storyline starts you off in prison, which is unfortunate for your character, previously the leader of the biggest gang in Stilwater, the Third Street Saints. But in next to no time, you and Johnny Gat are back on your feet and recruiting new members in order resurrect your gang. But in the void left by the downfall of the original Third Street Saints, the other gangs in Stilwater have been running amok; and it’s up to you to regain a foothold in Stilwater’s underworld. It’s the old rags to riches story, or Sloppy Seconds to Impressions in the Saints Row universe. But it doesn’t just stop there. The Ultor Corporation also have an interest in the gang wars that are currently taking place in the city, and it’s only a matter of time before you and chairman Dane Vogel come face to face… or bullet to bullet.
The weapon inventory is what you’d expect; pistols, RPGs, rocket launchers and melee weapons. There’s also the Pimp Slap, which is a huge foam middle finger and will send pedestrians and cars alike flying into the air when attacked. I have to admit; the Pimp Slap is hours of fun. What about the vehicles? Well there’s an assortment of muscle cars, super cars, sedans, pick-ups and gang cars. Not to mention a flying saucer and a mini moto. Similar to Grand Theft Auto, there are also some special vehicles to obtain from missions such as Jessica’s Phoenix and the WWII Wolverine; which is a big thumbs-up for the game as it adds hours of replay value.
There are also lots of side missions to have a go at when you want a break from the storyline; such as car, bike, helicopter and aeroplane races which earn you special Saints vehicles for completing each lot. But if you’re looking for something slightly more humourous, try spraying buildings with sewage or committing insurance fraud by throwing yourself in front of speeding traffic. Oh, and if you mug fifty people; you’ll get news anchor Jane Valderrama to take up arms and call her to help you out with a mission. Jane’s not the only help you can gain either; as other members of the Third Street Saints such as Shaundi can be called from your phone, and you’re even able to recruit members of your gang that will walk the streets in every area that’s under your control. If you’re the adventurous type, there are also fifty CDs hidden throughout the city, and every ten found will result in the unlocking of a music track.
Speaking of the soundtrack, it’s very much ‘something for everyone’. Indie, rock and rap are all there; along with some classical music that wouldn’t sound out of place in one of Liberty City’s Mafia Sentinels. One big advantage is that the player can create their own playlist of songs to be played over the radio, so you can choose to hear nothing but your favourites.
Downloadable content is available, including two new missions packs; Ultor Exposed and Corporate Warfare which extend the Saints Row 2 storyline, as well as continuing with the events from the original Saints Row. There’s also the Unkut Pack which gives you the choice of 60 new customisation items and 16 new tattoos. This pack is free, whilst the others will set you back just a few pounds each.
Even though Saints Row IV will undoubtedly have an ’18’ badge on the front cover, the game will continue to have not just a strong older fan base, but a strong young fan base too. There are those who will dress their character in a suit, with no tattoos and the ‘Salute’ compliment rather than the ‘Dog Piss’ taunt, and there are those who will dress their male protagonist in a purple bikini, with a green skin tone and breasts.
Saints Row IV is set to be a much more surreal game than ever before, as you’ll be fighting aliens with the Dubstep Gun as the president of the United States. If you’re more of a fan ow down to earth game play, then I recommend going back to Saints Row 2, or even picking it up for the first time. Saints Row 2 had the balance of seriousness and outrageousness just right, and hopefully we’ll one day have another game that’s set in Stilwater, rather than the now alien-infested Steelport.