Saint's Row 2 Review

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Saint's Row 2 Publisher: THQ
Developer: Volition

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC
Reviewed on PlayStation 3

It's been five years since the events of Saint's Row, when a prominent member of the Third-Street Saints was betrayed and nearly killed by an exploding boat. Freshly awoken from a long-term coma, that bomb-victim has to rebuild the gang and reconquer a city ruled by a new trio of gangs and over-developed by the Ultor Corporation.

Kyle Ackerman

Saint's Row 2Saint's Row 2 is exactly what an open-world, sandbox-style game should be. Frankly, the game captured my attention as soon as I'd been re-introduced to Stillwater, when I started one of the "Septic Avenger" missions. Cruising the city spraying raw sewage on buildings to bring down property values is juvenile and puerile humor. It's also a whole lot of fun. Shortly thereafter, I found myself masquerading as a bad cop on a reality show called "Fuzz," breaking up a brawl between pirates and ninjas using as much force as possible.

Saint's Row 2 is violent. It's crass. It should not be played by children. But it's constantly entertaining, and made me feel freer than other video games.

Saint's Row 2The feeling of freedom in Saint's Row 2 comes from its huge assortment of activities and incredible customizability. There's a tremendous variety of things to do, ranging from story missions to assassinations, insurance-fraud mini games, demolition derbies and barnstorming aerial races. Those are just the activities marked on the map. Other games include hidden activities such as finding stunt jumps or collectibles. Saint's Row 2 also lets you operate video poker machines, play vigilante in a police cruiser or play video games in your crib. Best of all, (except for the story missions that are necessary prerequisites for other story missions) everything is optional. You don't have to pimp yourself out in a gas station bathroom, run every race or take a chainsaw to suburban rioters, but you could if you wanted to. Yes, some of those activities sound horrific, but Volition has really created a free environment that will satisfy anyone who's picked up this already violent game.

Saint's Row 2The plot, too, is impressive. The writing is strong, even if some of the story elements verge on the horrific. It's easy to get attached to the characters in your gang, as you notice quirks like a penchant for classical music or love that blooms amid the dispassionate violence. At the same time, the gang executions are truly horrific. I found myself cringing at some of the executions my own character performed to rid the world of rival gang leaders. Actions like mixing radioactive waste into tattoo ink fit the stone-cold-killer image my avatar started with, but felt like a bridge-too-far when perpetrated by my own character, however well penned.

Saint's Row 2There's not only unbelievable freedom of choice when it comes to what you do in Stillwater, the game offers tremendous customizability for your character and gang. You can usurp Stillwater's ruling gangs as a muscle-bound thug in a wife-beater tank top... but you can also go base jumping as a clown, or run amok with a rocket launcher in a hot dog suit, driving a vehicle that looks like a fast food value meal. Your gang's clothes and cars are increasingly customizable as you progress through story missions. The gang's color is always purple, but I was able to dress my homies in purple preppie outfits. It's not surprising that the game caters to young male power fantasies, but it is a little disappointing that while players can choose a female avatar, the plot is the same, so she's a female avatar interested in filling her cribs with stripper poles. There is customization available for the various cribs that you can purchase around Stillwater, but this mostly comes down to spending more money for in-game bonuses, acquiring rotating beds and stripper poles along the way.

Simply put, you aren't going to get away from the extremely violent gang world in Saint's Row 2, complete with strippers and prostitutes, but within that framework, Saint's Row 2 offers an incredible degree of freedom. I enjoyed the huge variety of mini-games: flying a helicopter to cause some mayhem at the local nuclear power plant, or just driving an Italian sports car around the inside of the upscale mall to do some shopping. Saint's Row 2 offers a tremendous amount of play and is an easy recommendation for anyone with a taste for (or who can overlook) the brutal world of gang violence.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on November 11, 2008 9:02 AM.

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