With sales of 2 million units the XBox 360 exclusive Saints Row sold well enough to warrant this sequel from developers Volition, but this time it has appeared on PS3 as well. Don't worry if you never played the original. While the story is a continuation of sorts, it's not hard to pick up what is happening in this game from the outside. As with newcomers to this series, the games hero is starting afresh after losing everything.
Five years have passed since your former Saints crew betrayed you. As you awake from a coma for the first time since that fateful day, you find the Stilwater you once ruled is in disarray. Unfamiliar gangs have laid claim to your territory, rival factions have taken over your rackets, and cash-hungry corporations have laid waste to your once proud 3rd Street home. Abandoned and left scarred with an unrecognizable face, you seek out a plastic surgeon to begin your new life on the streets. Respect can only be earned in Stilwater, and that requires a lifestyle that reflects your unique personality. Your crib, your crew, and your character define who you are on the streets and how you are perceived. The image you portray is as important as the decisions you make in a city ruled by false bravado and impulsive behavior.
When you get into the game you will discover a open city in which you can explore and do as you like. Of course the main 'story' part of the game contains some 40-odd missions, however you can easily double the game length by playing the activities and other diversions. The activities really are superb and include Fight Club (where you enter a series of fights), Fuzz (where you dress up as a cop and beat up innocent people to become famous on a cop based TV show), Septic Avenger (where you have to spray sewerage over buildings), Trail Blazing (where you have to tear through the streets blowing up and setting people and items on fire within a limited time), or our personal favourite Mayhem where you have to cause a specific amount of damage within a time limit. There are more, and each could easily keep you occupied for a few hours.
Other diversions to the main agem include shopping in the dozens of shops (which really puts the paltry numbers in Grand Theft Auto IV to shame), discovering new areas, competing in around 30 different races around the city, or finding and then using the 80 jumps around the city.
Even the vehicles you drive earns you more respect around town, and much like the main character you can customise your ride to suit your tastes perfectly. Vehicles in the game include cars and motorbikes, but also more obscure vehicles including monster trucks, Quad bikes, private jets, speedboats, and helicopters. It is possible to shoot at enemies from inside vehicles, but this is a little awkward - although some missions require this to be done.
Multi-player is almost a requirement in any big game these days, and Saints Row 2 delivers the goods - even more so then Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV. The highlight is the wonderful 2-player co-op mode which allows two people, online, to complete the game together. You don't though have to be working on the same mission, nor even in the same area of the city, but if you desire you can work together at any time. Besides the friendly co-op mode there are a variety of other game modes for up to 12 players which offer a more 'traditional' deathmatch or team based games. There was a bit of a wait for the games to load (probably due to our location here in Australia), but the online multiplayer was very entertaining, and quite lag free.
Sadly there are some minor issues. The texturing and effects aren't as good as Rockstar's game and there are some occasional clipping issues. Saints Row 2 also contains some screen tearing which is disappointing, but never enough to cause issues with gameplay however the frame rate is fairly solid.
We must, though, end on a positive. As we have already mentioned the characters can be customised with new clothing, bling, and tattoos. Due to the real-time nature of the cut-scenes, the characters look identical in these story telling elements to the real game. Editing and direction of the cut-scenes really does impress and the sense of humour in them is impressive.
While not the first genre that comes to mind I really love the inclusion of classical music including Mozart, Bach, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Vivaldi. Classical music really doesn't fit into the 'gangster' genre of game, but boy does it work well.
The biggest sonic draw card is the brilliant dialogue. Over 60,000 lines have been recorded, and their delivery is superb. Voice actors in the game include Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) as Johnny Gar, Michael Dorn (Star Trek) as Maero, Jaime Pressly (My Name Is Earl) as Jessica, Neal Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, M.D.) as DJ Veteran Child, Michael Rappaport (Boston Public) reprising his role from the first game as Troy, and finally Eliza Dushku (True Lies) as Shaundi.
Review By: Dave Warner