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November 11, 2008
Saints Row 2 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
10/10/2008THQTHQVolition Inc.12-16
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Explosions in Saint's Row 2 are massive!
It is inevitable when writing a review for Saints Row 2 that comparisons to Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV are going to be made. Both are open world sandbox styled games, with plenty of gangs, drugs, violence, swearing, radios stations, shops and insane stunts to keep you occupied. Unlike so many other try-hard sandbox styled games though Saints Row 2 actually stands up very well, remarkably well in fact.

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.

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Tattoos in Saint's Row 2 look great.
Before you hit the streets in Saints Row 2 you will need to create and customise you character which, impressive, includes the first initial choice - to play as either a male or female character! Now that is impressive. Beyond that you can change your appearance including your age and weight, your voice, fighting style and weapon holding, clothing and expressions. You can then change the look of your gang, and the cribs you hang out in. This is certainly an impressive feature of this game - something which few other sandbox titles allow including Grand Theft Auto IV.

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.

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Heading for some Off-road action.
Always present above all else is the need to build your respect, and empire, within the world. Respect is built in a variety of ways including completing missions and activities, as well as taking on other gangs, decking out your character and hideouts with the latest 'bling' items, or even driving recklessly on the streets. In your quest to take back the streets you will also need to take on rival gangs including Ronin (a Japanese gang), Sons of Samedi (from the Caribbean underworld), Brotherhood of Stilwater (outcasts from society) and Ultor Corporation (a mega-corporation cleaning up Stilwater's streets).

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.

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Brawling in the bar!
There are plenty of weapons to help you in your quest to take back the streets of Stilwater, and they can all be quickly accessed by holding down the circle button and pressing the left analogue stick to the desired weapon, while food (used to regain health) can be accessed by pressing the desired D-Pad direction.

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.

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Someone is either hurt, or asleep!
One area where Saint's Row isn't quite up to the standards set by Rockstar's title is the graphics. Running on Volition Inc.'s custom engine this game includes a great range of customization on the characters, vehicles and gangs. The actually city design, and the buildings located within the city also manages to impress, as does the wide range of people walking around and vehicles on the streets. The game does include a day/night cycle as well as variable weather effects which manages to affect the gameplay as well; cars are harder to drive, and many missions are a bit harder to complete in the darkness of night.

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.

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More destruction, and death!
Sonically Saints Row 2 really hits the money. Effects aren't often given enough credit in games, but this game really sounds like a living breathing city with everyone on the street having something to say, weapons sounding meaty and explosions to rock your room. Music in the game is provided through radio stations with each having a different style. Some of the bands in this game include Duran Duran, Europe, A-Ha, Kelis, Europe, LCD Soundsystem, Tears for Fears, Chaka Demus and Pliers, Masteodon, Ne-Yo, Run DMC and the one Australian band that seems to be in every second game, Wolfmother.

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.

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Check out the wall posters!
Taken for each part individually Saint's Row 2 is not the greatest game. The graphics aren't the best, the missions seems a little disjoined with items coming and going depending on need, and the 'humorous' missions like spraying sewerage over neighborhood tires after a while. When you combine everything together though, including the great online multi-player or co-op mode, then Saints Row 2 becomes a great experience. Is it as brilliant as Grand Theft Auto IV you ask? Technically no, but this game does push the boundaries in many other areas. If you have a low brow sense of humour, then this game will certainly give you plenty of enjoyment. Personally, we love it.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSNot quite up to Rockstar's title, but more customisation, and still impressive overall.
SOUNDBrilliant voiceovers, music and effects. Few games sound this good.
GAMEPLAYSo much fun, so much variety. This is a fun game no doubt about it.
VALUEA tonne to see and do, and you'll likely return. Great multi-player too.
OVERALLMuch less serious then Grand Theft Auto IV this game offers more variety and customisation. If you liked Rockstars efforts this should also keep you entertained.

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