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Saints Row 2 - Saints Row 2

By Stuart Andrews

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

But the thing that really holds back Saints Row 2 for me is that its city, Stillwater, never really feels like a real, coherent place. Instead, we get a bunch of generic neighbourhoods, sparsely populated with traffic, criminals, police and citizens, where hardly anything you do seems to have any real consequence. Remember the slightly guilty feeling you got when you ran someone over in GTA4's Liberty City? Well, in Stillwater you can run down, whack or shoot who you like. You won't care - it's all played for laughs - and neither, it seems, will the police unless you make a real ruckus doing it. Saints Row 2 has the eccentric characters, the crass humour and the radio stations of its inspiration, but the wit isn't witty and the characters lack real personality. The more you played GTA4 the more you connected with the city and its denizens. The more you play Saints Row 2 the more you wonder whether there's really anything worth connecting with.

And this leads me to my next point - taste. I moaned a bit in my review of the original Saint's Row that there was something adolescent and moronic in its humour, as if a whole game had been designed by Stifler from American Pie. Saints Row 2 takes things further by being downright nasty from time to time. I'm sure the early mission where you beat up vagrants is meant with a satirical tongue in cheek, but it still left me wondering whether this was all just harmless fun. Violence is treated with an incredibly casual attitude. Frankly, I'm not all that surprised that the NYPD has spoken out against the game.

Some of you will find this offensive, some of you will think it nothing to worry about. I'm not going to get too caught up in it or go on for too long about the game's technical shortcomings for one simple reason: whatever I think about these things, I have to admit that Saints Row 2 is pretty more-ish. While some of the ideas and execution are shockingly amateurish, there's still something about it that makes you say 'one more mission' or 'I wonder what happens if I do this.' And while I don't think it's as out and out enjoyable as Mercenaries 2, it still provides many hours of good (if morally dubious) entertainment.

The level of customisation also helps. From clothes to cribs to vehicles to your own face, hair and tattoos, there are so many ways to stamp your own gangsta identity that it's impossible not to get a little bit caught up. Finally, you should remember that all this fun is available multiplayer, with a two-player, drop-in, drop-out co-op mode that spans the whole single-player campaign. I've had limited experience of this, writing just one day before release, but from what I've seen it should be a hoot.

You'd have to be mad to buy Saint's Row if you haven't finished off GTA4, but if you have and you need another city to terrorise, then you will get your money's worth from this. Not a great open world game by any means, but a good one? Despite my misgivings, yes indeed.

Verdict

While no match for GTA4 on any level - and a mess in many technical terms - Saints Row 2 still knows how to party. Just be aware that there will be many better games in the next few months.

Overall Score

7

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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