When I found out the sequel to the awesome but Xbox 360-exclusive Saints Row would be multiformat, including a release on the PlayStation 3, I was happy. Sure, I’d lose out on some of the back references, but I’d at last have a silly alternative to GTA. That was pretty much the main reason I bought Saints Row 2 – to play about. What I wasn’t expecting was a game with both the gormless fun of playing about the city, and also a surprisingly clever, engaging plot.
For the plot, there are three storylines you can follow. Once these are all complete, there is a final fourth one. Each of the three initial storylines focuses on one of three opposing gangs (you being the member of the fourth gang, the Saints), the Brotherhood, the Ronin, and the Sons of Samedi. The Brotherhood are a tattooed, thuggish lot, the Ronin are oriental sorts with katanas and… motorbikes, and the Sons of Samedi are hippies. Finishing a storyline results in the eradication of that gang from the city, with each mission resulting in one piece of their “turf” being handed over to you, and the climactic missions all involving killing the gang leaders in a platformer-boss-style fashion. The final storyline then sees you fending off an evil corporate giant looking to clean the city of gangsters.
So, what sort of stuff is covered in the mission spectrum? There’s all sorts – burning drug crops, making someone accidentally kill their girlfriend with a monster truck, burying someone alive (then, at any point after in the game, returning to the grave and hearing his screaming), and even a thrilling mission in which you tow a car to a garage. Yay!
That’s the bit of the game I wasn’t expecting to be awesome out of the way. Here’s the bit I bought the game for: messing about. There’s a lot you can do – full car customisation, plane piloting, fight club participation, insurance fraud (jump infront of fast cars and sue them), spliff smoking, making your own radio station out of tracks in-game, etc. There are a ton of cheats which can aid messing about, too, including some to make it rain pedestrians, lower the gravity, set all cars to attack you… whatever suits your fancy.
The music in-game is probably the strongest part of Saints Row 2. Despite the seemingly constant gangster theme of the game (which includes unchangable, expletive-filled rap forced through your ears on the main menus), the radio stations cover a wide range of genres – rap, classical, easy listening, electronica, and even ’80s pop. And, in a move Grand Theft Auto games should really have had, you can switch off certain radio stations so you never need listen to them. Add to that the fact you can buy (with in-game money) tracks and remix them into your own radio station, and you won’t be forced to listen to anything you’d rather not again.
Then, of course, in a second move GTA should’ve done before – complete online two player co-op. That means you can both be doing missions together, or even playing in the city independently (no San Andreas-style limits, you can be on opposite ends of the city, in two different cars, in buildings together or separately, anything). There are also several games to play together, including the incredibly fun Death Tag. In this, there’s a time limit, you both have randomised weapons with infinite ammo, and most deaths loses.
So, my opinion of Saints Row 2? If you’re over 18, get it. If you’re under 18, wait until you’re 18 then get it. If you have it, play it. It’s an absolute blast whichever way you’d rather play it.
(Note: Content Warning: strong language and depictions of virtual violence)