Saints Row 2
The expectations for Saints Row 2 were divided. Some were hoping for brainless fun while others were sceptical on what this game could still offer after the masterly Grand Theft Auto IV. Both sides can rest assured though that Saints Row 2 can stand its ground without feeling like a GTA IV copy, nor like a step back to the era of San Andreas.
Admitted, qua content and setup Saints Row 2 is little innovative but does offer quite a lot extra compared to the previous episode. Also the makers didn’t hold back and nicely succeeded to call out that feeling of endless crazy possibilities we know from the old GTAs and which we had lost with the fourth episode. Flying anyone?
Also you don’t only get the known missions but there are quite some new surprises. Some of these may not be very sophisticated or can even be called mature (put as much poo on houses in a nice neighborhood for instance) but they’ll put a smile on your face. Maybe it’s best to not take this title as an example that games can be mature, let alone art. This is Art with a A of ass and shit, slapstick comedy, racist clichés, bullying hookers, laughing at homeless people and politically incorrect violence without context. You can, and this is really something you were waiting for, finish every mission in co-op and share the fun with your equally immature friends.
As you don’t play alone anymore this time you get a lot more options to design your own character. Really everything is possible! Although the graphics will never blow you away you can choose to play as an old woman with tattoos, a blonde bimbo or a typical dude from the hood. You can even choose for a certain voice or accent so that you can really be as creative as an enfant with a box of crayons and a living room that was recently painted white.
Also a god gift is that there are many checkpoints, your health replenishes slowly as with the more recent FPS games and that the difficulty degree remains accessibly for everyone. Also the driving remains simple (you even have cruise control this time) and you’ll less often get stuck against an annoyingly parked car. After GTA IV which personally frustrated me with the constant replaying of hidiously long and difficult chases before starting a mission Saints Row 2 is a lot more friendly in that area. This makes the frustration levels a lot less high and it again impersonates the vision of the makers: pure fun above all.
The story isn’t a Sopranos, but it does work within the crazy context of the gameplay. Contrary to GTA IV it’s less of a driver to keep playing but by taking away so much frustration it’s more fun to be in the world of SR2. Unfortunately this is also where the weakest point of the game is located. It never becomes more than optional entertainment which will quickly deliver veterans of previous open world games a feeling of déjà-vu. No lead characters here like Niko Bellic that are memorable or who you’ll talk about with your friends. There’s simply a lack of class and originality to make this attempt a classic.
Online the game also has to face defeat against its most recent opponent but there’s still enough to be done to put it in your console more than once. There are the typical deathmatch modes, little interesting, but also the Strong Arm Mode where you and five other gamers have to collect as much money as possible by racing, committing insurance fraud (you’ll no doubt remember this one) and a handful of other activities. The variation in missions is fun but as always it mostly works when playing with people you know and who actually do their best to make something out of it.
Saints Row 2 can easily be summarized: the idea was to offer gamers fun without too much seriousness. This goal is certainly achieved thanks to the frustrationless gameplay and the pretentionless world. A result of this is that the game isn’t much more than a combination of generic models and assignments which are luckily flavored with a lot of nice extras, original missions and the necessary slapstick comedy. And sometimes that’s more than enough for a successful game! As it it here!