This is probably the most action-oriented open-world crime game we’ve seen – a fact the ridiculous prison-break opener makes clear. There’s no cover system or any hint of realism, but the third-person controls work well and a recharging health system means you always have a fighting chance of overcoming the odds (and often then some). The missions go large on gunfights and car chases, and the skilful use of the Havok physics engine means that things collapse, crash and go bang in exuberant style. If you’re the sort of guy who loves a game where you’re actually rewarded for shooting someone in the more painful dangly bits of their anatomy, then this is the sort of game you’ll love. A lot.
The rest of us might not always feel the same. The fact is that Saints Row 2 comes packed with flaws and shortcomings, some technical, some a matter of taste. On the first front, it still has to be said that the visuals are nothing to write home about, unless your mum wants to hear that ‘it doesn’t look all that great.’ With its flat architecture, dull lighting and limited character detail, Saints Row 2 could easily fit in with the first wave of 360 titles. The images on this page make it look better than it actually is. Even Mercenaries 2 – itself not a blinder – makes it seem sub-par.
Sadly, much the same is true of the AI. We don’t expect the kind of enemy intelligence from an open-world game that we expect from, say, your average FPS, but the gangsters of Saints Row 2 are spectacularly thick. We’re talking ‘not moving when your buddy two feet away is shot dead’ thick. We’re talking ‘unable to follow you on a motorbike without crashing’ thick. We’re even talking ‘I can’t follow you because I’m stuck behind this parked car’ thick. At one point I was able to wipe out around thirty enemy gangsters single-handed through the well-known military strategy of running around like a nutter blasting then skulking around a corner to recuperate. I’m not sure they teach that one to the US Navy Seals.