When Grand Theft Auto 3 came out with such amazing success on the Playstation 2, there was no doubt in anyones minds that other companies would start to follow suit with games of a similar nature. Thus spawned Saints Row from THQ, by far the best game created under that sort of sandbox gameplay mentality outside of the Grand Theft Auto but Saints Row had one thing very different it was extremely over the top. Now it has been a few years and obviously GTA IV was just released earlier this year and now THQ and Volition have teamed up to bring the second installment of the Saints Row franchise in Saints Row 2 for the Xbox 360. Does this game pack enough ammunition to stand up to its strong competition? Read our full review to find out!
Let me start by getting out of the way all of the Grand Theft Auto IV comparisons because they really won’t be all that useful for much of the rest of the review. Yes obviously Saints Row 2 does take a lot after GTA in stature but when you get down to playing Saints Row 2 there is no doubt that these are two very different, very unique products that both stand up on their own two feet without the help of the other. With that being said let’s move onto the review.
So Saints Row 2 packs a lot of content in one package. Not only does the game have a very deep single player experience but online and cooperative play is packed in for good measure as well. Let’s start off with the single player experience which takes up right where the last game left off. Did anyone finish the original, I know I didn’t, I loved the game but I never did finish it. With that being said the game does a great job of getting you caught up and allows you to recreate your character to whatever size and stature you may want. The create a player sequence is rather deep and offers up plenty of options including several different voices that lend their voice throughout all of the dialogue in the game. To have a number of choices with that much dialogue in the game was a fantastic addition and really does add a lot to the experience.
Once you get your character squared away it is time to enter the large world of Saints Row 2. The main premise happens when you escape jail and find out that the old gang is not even really existent any more, and it is your job to bring back up the gang and take over the city. There are a good mix of story based missions and side missions and the story missions are by far the more interesting/entertaining. Did I mention that Saints Row 2 is over the top? This game is more “M” (Mature) rated then GTA IV that is for sure. The over the top humor and cut scenes can be hilarious at times and often times take things maybe five steps to far. For the most part the humor is done in a pretty amusing way and that is what really separates Saints Row 2 from any other sandbox style game.
What is I think the strongest feature in Saints Row 2 has to be the cooperative gameplay that you have in the game. At anytime you can have a friend jump in your game and battle it out with rival gangs. The cooperative play which is obviously a new staple for many new video games lately makes a strong showing here. Just exploring the city with a friend and causing mayhem is nicely executed and works extremely well.
Lets talk a bit more on the gameplay side of things where I did have a few issues. First off the new aiming system chooses to go with a free aim rather then a lock on. That can be fine and dandy if you have a really solid control scheme, but for me Saints Row 2 felt a bit to loose for my taste. Shooting at times can be extremely difficult especially when there is a swarm of rival gang members letting you have it. The controls do become more intuitive with time
Saints Row 2 if its lacking in any area it is in the polish, boy does this game lack a fine coat of paint. There is no glaring issue that stops from enjoyment, but there are clipping issues, weird glitches, and all sorts of times where the camera doesn’t act appropriately. These issues aren’t over bearing but they do in my opinion hold the game back.
Much of the polish issue comes back to the visuals in Saints Row 2 which really are the biggest let down the game has to offer. Sure the city is beautiful, there are some truly unreal sights to be had, but the polish is still a major issue. There are a lot of things to marvel at in Saints Row 2 and I think a lot of it we take for granted on how great it is because we have seen such amazing work in other games, that it does kind of take something away from the Saints Row 2 experience.
There are some real positives in Saints Row 2 which include a solid frame rate that only on very seldom occasions does it dip down. The action is portrayed beautifully, and explosions are nicely done. The many weird mishaps in the visual department do unfortunately get in the way of what is otherwise a beautiful game.
There is not one time in the many hours I put into Saints Row 2 that I ever thought the game took itself seriously. That is by far the biggest difference between this game and any Grand Theft Auto title. The story was over the top and outrageous and for the most pretty funny, but at times it does take a few things a bit to far in my book. With that mindset in mind however, I really did enjoy my time with Saints Row 2, there was a ton of content packed into the disc and I have a feeling any fan of sandbox style gameplay like myself will really enjoy this game.
Saints Row 2 is not without its flaws, but the game is so deep, and has so much content that any fan of the previous game or GTA games will have a lot to look forward to in Saints Row 2. I have to say although not a perfect outing I still recommend picking this game up, it is a complete game with all of the makings that will keep you coming back for a long time.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.