This year, tons of buzz was made about a few open world games. With great games like Fallout 3, GTA IV, Fable II and the like, it was hard to ignore the pull that these titles had, sucking gamers in and sinking their teeth in for the kill. However, there was one title that got ignored amidst all of the to-do about these other good games: Saint’s Row 2.
The THQ sequel puts you back in the shoes of Stillwater’s most wanted, the leader of the Saints, the city’s most notorious criminals. As the curtain opens, you are in a coma, having survived a horrific explosion that changed your appearance and left you comatose. And then the fun starts.
I’ll have to be honest, from the get-go, Saint’s Row 2 felt like everything that Grand Theft Auto IV was not. Whereas Niko Belic has a realistic, gritty world to do small time missions in, the leader of the Saints has a cartoony world with grandiose missions that make you feel like the badass that you’re supposed to be. The graphics admittedly aren’t nearly as good as GTA IV’s, but Stillwater feels alive in its own special way.
From the moment you break out of prison and get yourself a vehicle, it becomes apparent that driving around the city is going to be fun. Cars handle almost like an arcade game, with a feeling of Crazy Taxi, but with guns. One of the better features is the Cruise Control option, which allows you to set a constant speed, freeing you up to aim your pistols or uzis or whatever else you’re using all around you while you drive. It’s a fun system, and really opens up the options as you cruise through Stillwater.
The customization in Saint’s Row 2 is what really makes it shine. With a variety of clothing stores, vehicle shops, music stores and even plastic surgeons where you can change your appearance, Stillwater is a place where you can be whoever you want to be. Heck, you can even customize your own gang’s appearance, down to what cars they roll in to their dressing style.
In case you’re curious, my gang was a group of ninjas that drove around in mini-vans, for instance. On top of that, you get to buy a variety of cribs and customize them with stripper poles, pool tables, and big screen TVs. Who doesn’t want that option?
But is the actual game itself fun? While many of these open world games are pretty on the outside, when you boil it down and start playing the game proper, it just becomes a series of repetitive missions with no cohesive story. Well, Saint’s Row 2 is not that game.
Early on, I remember being terribly impressed with both the cut scenes and the variety of missions. Whether you’re kidnapping somebody, riding shotgun in a helicopter on a mounted turret, or blasting shop owners in China town, the missions very rarely make you feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over again. In addition, an excellent checkpoint system within the missions themselves (thank you THQ!) allow you to easily replay a mission that seems to be getting the better of you.
How are those, by the way? In a word, insane. The action is over the top, and you literally feel like a one man army when taking on waves of rival gangs and the boys in blue (you have a wanted level for each), wielding auto shotguns that blow up cars as well as chainsaws that cut them to pieces in a comical way that references Gears of War 2. Better yet, you can even have a friend jump in instantly for a round of co-op awesomeness.
So, how does the game hold up? All in all, I have to say that Saint’s Row 2 was an amazing surprise in a year that I was expecting to be blown away by GTA IV. While I enjoyed that game, there were things that I wanted from it like customization, improvements to the gameplay and just straight up fun that Saint’s Row 2 delivered in spades. It won’t be winning game of the year by any means, but there is so much to do in Stillwater that you will literally be entertained for hours.
If you liked Crackdown, Mercenaries, or any of the GTA games from the previous generation, I’m guessing that you’ll find Saint’s Row 2 a mindless good time like I did. It doesn’t sport the best graphics or the best story, but it’s worth the time spent playing it for the sheer fun and madness factor alone, not to mention it’s replayability. I’d definitely recommend it for anyone with some extra holiday cash that is unsure of what they’d like to play next.
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