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Saints Row 2 review

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Summary

Our Score:

7

Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC - Xbox 360 version reviewed

Really, it's like GTA4 never happened.

I don't think anyone expected Saints Row 2 to be a worthy rival to Rockstar's masterpiece, but at times it's shocking how dated this sequel seems. We had the original Saints Row down as a decent GTA rip-off; one that didn't score highly for graphics, technical polish or gritty atmosphere, but made up for it with some strong personalisation features and missions that majored on fun, fun, fun. Now GTA4 has come and gone, wowing us with its living, breathing city, layers of detail and rich narrative - and Saints Row 2 comes along with, erm, a decent GTA rip off that doesn't score highly for graphics, technical polish or gritty atmosphere, but makes up for it with some strong personalisation features and missions that major on fun, fun, fun. Anybody else feeling a little deja-vu?

OK, that's not quite fair. Just as Saints Row took the GTA III template and made a few wise improvements, so Saints Row takes the best bits from its predecessor and pushes them to the max. Sure, we get a slightly clich├ęd tale of the old gang leader returning to his city and working to get his gang back on top, but what made Saints Row so enjoyable wasn't the story but the missions - and particularly the missions that had less to do with furthering the plot and more to do with just messing around.

Variety is the key word here. Bone-snapping insurance scams, hooker recruitment, assassinations, bare-knuckle fighting, destruction derbies and riding a flaming quad-bike through the local uni campus are just some of the activities on offer. One minute you can be spraying excrement on city property from a stolen sanitation truck, the next you could be protecting celebrities while throwing crazed fans through the furniture or committing staged police brutalities for a dodgy reality show. All credit to developers Volition: this might be lowest common denominator stuff, but it all hits the right South Park/Jackass spots.

Meanwhile, the fundamental action seems a bit better staged this time around. Defeating rival gangs and acquiring territories is still the name of the game, but the central missions have a more logical sequence and there's less time spent just mopping up gang members or looking for something (or someone) to do (in). Some of the missions are just fantastic. Like motorcycles? Like machine-guns? How about a high-speed chase that combines the two?

ruthless

October 19, 2008, 4:10 am

"Defeating rival gangs and acquiring territories is still the name of the game, but the central missions have a more logical sequence and there's less time spent just mopping up gang members or looking for something (or someone) to do (in)."





Real positive role model stuff.





Burn the heretic!!

Matthew Bunton

October 19, 2008, 5:15 am

Different stokes for different folks I guess.





Whilst it is nowhere near as polished as GTA 4 it is in my opinion infinetly more fun to play.

Wilfried

October 19, 2008, 6:06 am

It might be just me, but I find Saint's Row 2 much more entertaining than GTA4. Ok, the graphics and the depth is not the same as GTA4 but the latter really bored me. I stopped playing GTA4 shortly after it started. Somewhere deep inside, I regret having bought GTA4, I should not have let the "over" hype get the best of me.

Ten Ninety

October 19, 2008, 6:26 pm

"Now GTA4 has come and gone, wowing us with its living, breathing city, layers of detail and rich narrative"





Come and gone indeed, with the emphasis on gone! Honestly, the sort of breathless hyperbole about GTA4 spouted above may have been forgiveable when it was released, as we were all taken in by its shiny new clothes. But to still be peddling such gross misrepresentation of what ultimately turned out to be a fundamentally flawed, cynically unfinished game is, frankly, a poor show now that we've all had long enough to realise just how little replay value there is in GTA4.





As a long-time GTA fanboy all the way from 1997 it's painful to say, but Rockstar so comprehensively missed the fun-factor with GTA4 that I'm now looking for an alternative source of morally-questionable but joyously-replayable open world entertainment. I know I'm not alone here. The question is, will we all find it in Saints Row 2? Unfortunately I'm really no wiser after this review, as I can't trust the judgment of anyone who, months after its release, is still writing about GTA4 using terms like "layers of detail" and "rich narrative".

prag fest

October 19, 2008, 10:47 pm

Sorry, but this game rules, to look at in direct comparsion to GTA4 is to completely miss the point.



StuAndrews

October 19, 2008, 10:51 pm

Glad you're enjoying Saints Row 2. I never said it wasn't a lot of fun, but equally I can't pretend that it hasn't got a lot of serious flaws. If these don't spoil your enjoyment and you can live with the game's more4 dubious elements, good for you.





As for GTA4, it gave me some of the most exhilarating, surprising and compulsive hours of gaming I've had this year or any other, and I'm not going to say otherwise now. That's not breathless hyperbole or a gross misrepresentation - just my honest opinion as a critic.

Wilfried

October 20, 2008, 1:43 am

Sorry StuAndrews, if gamers wanted realism, I'm sure they would purposely pick a simulation game to quench their thirst. GTA4 AND Saint's Row 2 are both fiction games. Whilst one may be more "realistic" than the other, I remain convince that gamers would favour the "fun" factor over the "real" factor. Isn't it what a game should be about, fun? From reading various comments on Gamespot, there are a lot of people that feel the same way as most of the commenters here.

Gordon394

October 20, 2008, 4:24 am

Sorry, siding with Stu here - GTA IV is on a completely different PLANET to SR2.

TheEvilGenius

October 20, 2008, 1:31 pm

I have to say that Saints 2 dosn't interest me that much. I played the demo of the first one which was enough to put me off.





If I want fun replayable sandbox goodness, I'll go back to San Andreas.

StuAndrews

October 20, 2008, 8:59 pm

Wilfried - As a reviewer I tend to put fun first, so no argument there. For me, though, the cardboard qualities of Saint's Row - including the underpopulated streets and the shockingly poor AI - stop me getting caught up in the game in the way that I got caught up in GTA4 or even Mercenaries 2. It is a fun game - 7/10 isn't actually a bad score, after all - but it could and should have been better had it had a little more love and polish.

Wilfried

October 26, 2008, 8:11 pm

Sorry StuAndrews, it is not what I felt when I read your review. I agree with you though, 7/10 is not a bad score at all, in fact it is better than some I've seen out there. I also agree that GTA4 is a living and breathing open world however, I personally have not found it so engrossing. Not compared to Saint's Row 2 anyway. Yes Saint's Row 2 is more static, much like Crackdown in fact, however it is a blast to play, much like Crackdown too. This is what I am trying to say, you'll have to excuse me though for not expressing myself as good as you are (english is not my first language, I know not an excuse). GTA4 is a good game, so is Saint's Row 2, however I preferred Saint's Row 2 and I still believe the two should not be compared, as Gordon said, they're on a completely different planet.

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